The city of Cologne, Germany, holds one of the most magnificent cathedrals in all of Europe. Approaching the city, the spires of the church are visible for miles.
My daughter and I boarded a train from northern Germany – just across the border from our friends’ home in the Netherlands. The cathedral came into view long before we were to arrive at the train station. We watched as it slowly grew larger, expecting to follow it the entire trip.
As we got closer, though, the building was hidden from us – the angle of the train making it impossible to see. Finally, we arrived at the station, exited the platform, and walked down the stairs and back up to the modern commercial station.
Instead of leaving out the back of the station toward our hotel, we walked out the front, luggage in tow, for our first view of the cathedral. We had seen this view before, but again we stood amazed at the structure in front of us. I pulled out my camera to snap a couple of pictures, even though I knew I only had a few minutes. We needed to get to the hotel, check in, and drop off our luggage so that we could explore the church more fully.
By the time we returned, it was getting dark, but we walked all the way around the church, taking pictures from every angle. We had seen pictures of the cathedral bathed in red, blue or green lights, but tonight the lights were the standard white ones. My daughter and I had fun experimenting with night photography; she with her tripod, and me, wishing I had one.
The quick walk we started out to do, turned into an hour and a half. We finally returned back to the hotel, hoping to get up on time in the morning. After a good night’s sleep and a German breakfast, we were walking back through the train station.
In 1164, the relics of the Three Kings were acquired by the Archbishop of Cologne. The current building at the time was deemed not worthy to house these remains, so plans were developed to build a new cathedral. The cornerstone of the new cathedral was laid in 1248. Building continued for the next 75 years but then slowed down and by 1473, construction had stopped completely. In 1842, the original plans were found and money was raised to complete the building. A dedication was held in 1880.
The majestic building is the largest cathedral in northern Europe. At 516 feet, it’s spires are the second tallest in the continent. The church is over 450 feet long with an area of over 85,000 square feet. Inside, the ceiling of the nave is 142 feet high.
In addition to the Shrine of the Three Kings, other treasures are located in the church. The oldest large crucifix, the Gero Crucifix is near the sacristy. The Milan Madonna, a wooden sculpture from 1290, adorns the Sacrament Chapel. A Medieval St. Christopher welcomes travelers.
The cathedral is fitted with a variety of stained glass windows. A set of five windows from the 19th century that were given by Ludwig I of Bavaria, depict Biblical scenes in a painterly style. In 2007, a large window was designed by Gerhard Richter to replace one that had been damaged in WWII. 11,500 small squares of glass are fitted together to resemble the pixels in modern digital photography.
If you visit, you can take a guided tour (Adults 7€) or follow a self-guided walking tour. Figure 30-60 minutes. Roman ruins are visible in the lower level.
Additionally, you can climb the tower and visit the belfry. The climb of 507 steps leads to a fenced-in platform where you can gaze out over the city. Looking up, you can see the lacy top sections of the spires.
About halfway through the climb, there is a small door that leads to the belfry. Several of the eleven bells are visible here – the largest of which is the St. Petersglocke, weighing in at 24 tons, which was cast in 1922. This is a great place to take a break while listening to the audio descriptions of the bells.
The Cologne Cathedral is well worth a stop – I’d even say it is worth going out of your way to see it. I hope you enjoy it!
*Thanks to Allie Design for some of the pictures on this page!