Saturday, February 20, 2016

2014 Germany Trip - Cologne Cathedral (Kölner Dom) (UNESCO World Heritage)

Location: Cologne, Germany

Itinerary and full experience of my visit to Germany can be accessed through the link below:

To say that Cologne Cathedral is one of the most recognizable churches in the world is an understatement; it is a symbol of Cologne itself. It impresses onto visitors even before they stepped out of Cologne’s main train station, the structure dominating the view when one looks out of the glass wall. Check out the top sights of Germany on the Internet and it is not difficult to find it within any top 10 list of sights in Germany.

Exterior view of Cologne Cathedral

This is the view when approaching from Cologne Main Terminal. Notice the scaffolding. The cathedral is in a constant state of repair.


Despite its long history – construction began in 1248 – it was an interestingly recent building as work was halted in 1473 and only restarted in 1842, then completed in 1880. The Holy Roman Emperor, Frederick Barbarossa, had acquired the relics of The Three Kings, one of the holiest relics in Christianity and subsequently passed them to Archbishop of Cologne, Rainald of Dassel in 1164. It was imperative that they were properly housed and the archbishop planned for the Cologne Cathedral. 

The foundation stone was laid in 1248 and work progressed slowly for over a century before it was halted in 1473. Most of the structures were left in the state of work in progress, including the sight of a large crane on the south tower that became a landmark of Cologne for the next 400 years. Construction only restarted in the 19th century with the onset of enthusiasm for Middle Ages and the discovery of the original plan for the façade. Two-thirds of the budget was raised among the population and the rest was covered by the Prussian state. Work proceeded in 1842 and finally the church was completed in 1880, celebrated as a national event.

With most of Cologne was bombarded to rubbles during World War II, it was miraculous that the cathedral remained standing after suffering 14 direct hits. Ironically its easily recognizable twin spires were used as a landmark by Allied planes for bombing runs. As age and war wore the structure down consistently, constant maintenance is required to keep the cathedral in good shape. One would always see the ungainly sight of palisades on the exterior in any one corner whenever they visit.

View from the museum's direction

The exterior of Cologne Cathedral is filled with details. Each arch boasts sculptures that tells a story.

Close up of a section of an arch

Another sculpture - the difference in color is perhaps because the sculptures are reconstructed?

The sign and the cathedral

Why does the door handle looks sad?

Another angle of the entry arch

The detailed architecture extends to the top

The crowd in front of the cathedral

The interior of the cathedral was swarming with people in each of my visit, rightfully earning itself as one of the most visited landmark in Germany. Even so, the number was dwarfed by the sheer size of the building, its tall ceiling and multifaceted stained glass windows looming over mortal men as a humbling reminder. 

Having visited a few Germany churches, Cologne Cathedral strike me as relatively unadorned on the inside, its complicated architectures on the exterior drawing more attention. That is not to say it was without attractive elements within – its stained glass windows were mesmerizing, adding vibrancy to the dim interior – however the lack of a ceiling mural did reduce the impact one received upon stepping into the church.

The crowd within the church usually gathered around a few areas, notably in the Treasury where the treasures of the church were stored. There was the Shrine of Three Kings in its Treasury, a golden church like edifice believed to house the remains of the Three Wise Men, which was the original reason for the construction of this church. Going towards the High Altar, one would witness the altar with a single marble altar top. Beyond these, some people (like me) would just wander around to enjoy the atmosphere of being surrounded by a building that survived uncountable destructive forces.


Way of the Cross, 14th station, Christ laid on a tomb - there are a few artwork throughout the church related to Way of the Cross, and this is the one close to the main entrance.

Stained glass windows

The long nave

And the long aisle

Jesus Christ (and it is not an exclamation)

Altar of the Poor Clares is actually a spectacular artwork, one which I did not realize at first. This piece of altarpiece is actually a winged piece, which means that it can be folded and unfolded (currently fully unfolded). It has 3 different transformations, showing the high level of craftsmanship and attention to detail by medieval artisans.

Overall I spent relatively more time examining the exterior of the church than its interior, those sculptures that seemed to follow me with their gazes when I was walking outside mesmerizing me more than the colorful windows within. Nevertheless it has to be said that whether inside or outside, there was not a moment when I was not impressed. If I were to return to Cologne in the future, I would definitely visit Cologne Cathedral again.

Environment:         A UNESCO Heritage List building in the old town area
Suitable for:            History buffs, UNESCO hunters and art appreciators
Visit worthiness:     10/10 
Historical value:        5.0/5.0 
Architectural value:  5.0/5.0
Photographic value: 5.0/5.0
Landmark value:       5.0/5.0

Entrance Fee:                 free
Opening Hours:            (May - Oct) 6.00 a.m. - 9.00 p.m.
                                              (Nov - Apr) 6.00 a.m. - 7.30 p.m.
Best Moment to Visit: Early in the day when there are less people
Length of Visit:              1 - 2 hours (not inclusive of tower climb)


Contact:                    -
E-mail:                      -
Address:                   Domkloster 4, 50667 Köln, Germany.

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