Cologne Cathedral is a Roman Catholic Cathedral in Cologne, Germany, it's one of the tallest church buildings in the world, and the world's tallest twin-spired church. The cathedral is the seat of the Archbishop of Cologne, and it has been the most popular tourist attraction in Germany.
Below are facts about the Cologne Cathedral in terms of design, interior details, history and tourism.
Cologne Cathedral was designed by the architect Gerhard von Rile, it's designed in the new style of Gothic architecture.
The design of the cathedral is based on Amiens Cathedral in France, many features of Cologne Cathedral closely resembles that of Amiens Cathedral, such as style, ground-plan, width to height proportion of the nave, and more.
Like other Gothic cathedrals, the footprint of Cologne Cathedral is a Latin Cross, the length and width of which are 144.6 meters(474.3 feet) and 86.3 meters(283 feet).
The southern tower of the church is 157.31 meters(516.1 feet) high, the northern tower is slightly higher than it, at 157.38 meters(516.3 feet), the twin towers make the Cologne Cathedral the third tallest church in the world, and the tallest twin-spired church. When the cathedral was completed in 1880, it was tallest man-made structure in the world, and held that title for 4 years until in 1884 when Washington Monument was built.
Today Cologne Cathedral is the second tallest structure in Cologne, after Colonius Tower, a 266 meters tall telecommunication tower in the city.
The stairway connecting the ground to the top has a total of 533 steps. As the church's west front is composed of two towers of such heights, the church's western facade is the world's largest facade of a church.
To the east of the twin towers is the nave, the inner height of nave is 43.35 m, it's one of the highest naves in the world, only about 4 meters lower than the world's highest nave, the nave of Beauvais Cathedral.
Cologne Cathedral has the world's third largest church interior, covering nearly 8,000 square meters(86,111 square feet) of floor area, and can hold more than 20,000 people.
The choir of the cathedral is largest in Germany, a special feature of the choir is that it has two seats reserved for pope and king, the total number of seats is 104.
The upper portion of the cathedral is installed with 11 church bells, 8 in bell cage in the south spire, 3 in ridge turret. 4 of these bells are medieval, the bell installed earliest is Bell of the Three Kings, it weighs 3.4 tons, cast in 1418, installed in 1437, and recast in 1880, the next installed bells are 10-ton Pretiosa, the largest bell in Europe of that time, and 4.3-ton Speciosa, these two church bells were installed in 1448 and 1449 respectively.
Now the largest bell in the cathedral is St Peter's Bell, it is 3.22 meters in diameter and weighs 24 tons, the bell was installed in 1922, today it's still the largest free-swinging bell in the world.
Treasures in Church
The most notable treasure stored in Cologne Cathedral is the Shrine of the Three Kings, it is a casket that traditionally believed to contain the relics of Biblical Magi, also known as the Three Kings or the Three Wise Men. The shrine was once opened in 1864 and found to contain bones and garments.
The relics in the shrine were brought to Cologne from the Basilica of Sant'Eustorgio in Milan in 1164 when Milan was seriously destroyed, and the shrine was created in 1190s. The relics of Magi have great religious significance, Cologne Cathedral was built specifically for housing the shrine of the Three Kings and for large amount of pilgrims.
The shrine is shaped like a basilica church, it's approximately 87 inches long, 43 inches wide, and 60 inches high, made of wood, bronze, silver, and is gilded and ornamented with jewels, enamels and sculptures.
The chapel near sacristy houses the Gero Crucifix, it's a large sculpture of crucified Christ. Created before 970, it's the oldest large sculpture of crucified Christ north of the Alps. The sculpture is carved in oak and partially gilded, the figure is 6 ft 2 in high.
There's a wooden sculpture called Milan Madonna in the Sacrament Chapel, it depicts the Blessed Virgin Mary and the infant Jesus. The sculpture was made around 1290 and has attracted pilgrims for centuries.
The construction of Cologne Cathedral began on August 15, 1248, when the foundation stone was laid by Konrad von Hochstaden, the Archbishop of Cologne of that time. The base shape of the church is simply a Latin Cross, first phase focused on the construction of eastern arm of the church, where the choir located, it was completed and consecrated in 1322, the choir was then put in use after being sealed off by the temporary wall, which separates the structure from the part that under construction.
In about 1355, construction on west front of the cathedral began, west front situated the twin towers of the church, the construction for the towers halted in 1473, when the south tower was built to the belfry level, construction continued intermittently on the structure of the nave between the eastern arm and the twin towers, the construction of the church completely halted in 1560 due to financial problems. The unfinished Cologne Cathedral reign the skyline of Cologne for nearly 400 years, with a huge crane crowning on the incomplete south tower.
With the 19th century romantic enthusiasm for the Middle Ages, and spurred on by the discovery of the original plan for the façade, Prussian state decided to complete the cathedral, on September 2, 1842, construction work resumed on Cologne cathedral. On August 14, 1880, after more than 632 years from the beginning of the construction, the cathedral finally completed. The completion of Cologne Cathedral was celebrated as a national event, the King of Prussia Emperor Wilhelm I attended the celebration.
Cologne Cathedral was hit by 14 bombs during World War II, but the building did not fall.
During World War II, almost all the other buildings in Cologne were destroyed by bombs, Cologne Cathedral it did not fall even it was hit by 14 bombs.
However many parts of the building were badly damaged, especially the base of the north tower, emergency repair was done by filling some bricks taken from a nearby ruined building to protect the tower from falling. As a reminder of the war, the poor quality bricks remained there for tens of years until in 2005, when the section was restored to its original appearance.
In 1996, Cologne Cathedral was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
After that UNESCO once listed Cologne Cathedral as a World Heritage in Danger in 2004, because high-rise buildings were planned to be built in the area around the Cologne Cathedral, that would ruin the overall appearance of the cathedral. The cathedral was removed from the List of World Heritage in Danger in 2006, as no high-rise buildings got actually built near the cathedral.
Cologne cathedral is the most visited tourist attraction in Germany, attracting more than 6 millions of visitors every year, numerous travelers, architecture lovers, and pilgrims from all around the world have visited the church.
Aside from visiting the church's ground floor, visitors can climb 522 stone steps of the spiral staircase to a viewing platform about 98 meters (322 feet) high from the ground. The platform offers the aerial view of the cityscape of Cologne and a scenic view of the Rhine.