Cologne Cathedral - most visited Monument in Germany

Categories: Sightseeing, Cultural and History

Cologne Cathedral
Cologne Cathedral

[ source: Wikipedia]

Towering far above the surrounding cityscape, the Cologne (Cologne vacation rentals | Cologne travel guide) Cathedral is impossible to miss, even by the most architecturally uninterested visitor. The cathedral, located conveniently close to Cologne's train station, is Germany's most visited monument with an average of 20,000 visitors a day. Remarkably the builders who worked on the cathedral over the seven centuries remained true to the original plan of the building. Listed on UNESCO's World Heritage List in 1996, the Cologne Cathedral is considered a landmark "of outstanding universal value being an exceptional work of human creative genius" and "a powerful testimony to the strength and persistence of Christian belief in medieval and modern Europe." The cathedral is the largest Gothic church in Northern Europe, and has the second tallest spires and the largest facade of any church in the world.

Work on the cathedral began in 1248 under the master-builder Gerhard, but it was not completed until 1880. Intended to house the valuable reliquary of the Three Kings, the cathedral, inspired by Amiens Cathedral, was intended to replace a much smaller, earlier church that could not accommodate the anticipated number of pilgrims that would be attracted to Cologne because of the recently acquired reliquary. Construction on the cathedral stopped in 1473 and was not resumed until the 1800s. The building stood empty for many years, but during the French Revolutionary Wars, the structure was used to store grain and fodder for the French troops after they captured Cologne in 1794. Interest in completing the church was renewed when Cologne passed to Prussia in 1815. During the 19th century, the equivalent of over $1 billion was spent to complete the Cologne Cathedral according to its original plan. Over the 632 years of its construction, the most amazing part of the story is that the the final structure is a unified whole; it does not reflect changing aesthetic tastes, as many cathedrals do.

During World War II, the Cologne Cathedral was heavily damaged by 70 aerial hits that occurred over the years. Restoration of the cathedral commenced immediately after the war, but it was not completed until 1956. Despite this damage, the cathedral contains the largest extant cycle of 14th century windows in Europe. Also, the Cologne Cathedral has an outstanding assembly of tombs of 12 archbishops, dating from 976 to 1612.

Visitors to the Cologne Cathedral have the opportunity to climb partway up the dizzying spires and to take in the stunning view of the Rhine River and the city that they command. The treasure chamber can also be visited. Of particular interest to American visitors, guided tours in English are offered twice a day. There are also tours for children. Lastly, for those who have the time, the Cologne Cathedral offers an active music program. Organ concerts are given every Tuesday during the summer season.

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About this Article

Rachel Hildebrandt

This travel guide has been written by Rachel Hildebrandt.

Starting with her first trip to Germany at the age of 16, Rachel has traveled, worked, and studied in Germany extensively. Although her first encounter with German culture was in Lower Saxony, since that time the focus of her subsequent work as a freelance historian and translator has shifted eastward. Building on her graduate studies in Dresden, Rachel has worked for a variety of German foundations as a historian and translator, and is currently pursuing research pertaining to the Sorbs in Lusatia (eastern Saxony).

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Location, Map, and Driving Directions

Location: Domkloster 4, 50667 Köln, Germany

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