Cologne Cathedral is a masterpiece of Gothic architecture. The Roman Catholic cathedral, built between 1248 and 1880, stands 515 feet tall and has two massive spires on the western façade.
It’s one of Germany’s most popular tourist attractions and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Inside are dazzling stained-glass windows and numerous sculptures and paintings from centuries ago.
Cologne Cathedral Facts for kids
- The Cologne Cathedral is in Germany.
- It is a World Heritage Site.
- It is the tallest Cathedral in Europe.
- It took over 600 years to build.
- It is a Catholic cathedral.
- It is dedicated to St. Peter and St. Mary.
- It is the seat of the Archbishop of Cologne.
The Tallest Cathedral in Europe
Cologne Cathedral is a renowned example of Gothic architecture and German Catholicism in Cologne, Germany.
It has been a religious site since the 4th century when its first church was built. The present-day Cathedral was built after an earlier structure burned down in 1248 and completed in 1560.
The remarkable façade stands at a massive 515ft tall and is one of the most impressive in any church building worldwide. This is thanks to its two enormous spires supported by towers on either side.
Additionally, it’s the tallest twin-spired church with the highest height-to-width ratio for a medieval building at 3.6:1, making it truly awe-inspiring from every angle.
Within the Cathedral lies an extensive series of stained glass windows that make up the largest cycle of 14th-century windows in Europe today.
Other examples of artistry can be seen through its oak choir stalls, painted choir screens, fourteen pillars on the choir’s pillars, and enormous monolithic black stone high altars.
Today it holds major cultural significance, being listed as a World Heritage Site since 1996 and receiving over 20,000 tourists daily who revere its grandeur and beauty.
Cologne Cathedral, therefore, stands as an unmistakable symbol of the Christian faith across Western Europe.
Steeped in History
Cologne Cathedral is an ancient site steeped in history. Its construction began in 1248, built to enshrine the relics of the Three Kings, which were brought to Cologne by Rainald of Dassel, the archbishop at the time.
The Old Cathedral, a square church structure from the fourth century, was destroyed by fire and replaced with a new Gothic structure heavily influenced by the French Cathedral of Amiens.
Construction on the new Cathedral under Master Gerhard lasted 632 years until it was eventually completed in 1880 with great communal effort and support from Prussian Court.
During World War II, despite suffering 14 aerial bombings attacks, Cologne Cathedral miraculously remained intact while surrounded by destruction. Repairs were made in 1956 to restore it to its original state.
Further restorations have been done, such as emergency repairs on the northwest tower’s base with subpar bricks and installing 11,500 colored glass pixels in 2007, crafted by German artist Gerhard Richter.
The ancient site has received millions of visitors throughout its history, including Pope Benedict XVI, who visited during World War Youth Day celebrations in 2005.
Today, repairs and maintenance are constantly being performed at this iconic structure to preserve its legacy for generations.
The Architecture of the Cologne Cathedral is spectacular.
This monumental building has an astounding interior size along with the world’s most extraordinary western facade.
It follows a traditional Gothic cathedral plan with a Latin cross ground-plan and two aisles, supported by French-style flying buttresses that help support the outward thrusts of the vaulted ceiling.
The interior of the medieval choir is diversified and decidedly less symmetrical than its 19th-century counterpart, with tall arches electrified by windows, intricate tracery, and plain quadripartite vault designs.
The choir also still features its original wood carvings, statues, and historic fixtures, such as a 12.5-foot stone monument dedicated to Saint Christopher.
The nave boasts numerous stained glass windows ranging from 19th-century pieces such as the Bayernfenster inlaid with German painting style motifs to other grandiose works dating back centuries.
Thus, contributing to the impressive visual impact of this awe-inspiring Cathedral’s architecture.
Discover the Treasures of Cologne Cathedral
Treasures of Cologne Cathedral, including the Shrine of the Three Kings, the Gero Crucifix, the Milan Madonna, and the Treasury Chamber, are major works of art synonymous with the Cathedral.
The Shrine of the Three Kings is an enormous gold sarcophagus containing relics believed to have been collected by Emperor Frederick I Barbarossa and transported from Milan by Archbishop Rainald of Dassel in 1164.
The symbolism implied by these artifacts – that those who hold them possess a kind of “kingdom” – has long held great importance in Western European history.
The Gero Crucifix is a giant wooden crucifix dating to around 960 C.E., located near the sacristy and bearing traces of paint and gilding.
The Milan Madonna is a wooden sculpture depicting Mary and Jesus in the Sunday Chapel, crafted circa 1290.
The Treasure Chamber, which opened in 2000, contains tremendous antique vestments, insignia from ancient times to more contemporary eras, and sculptures dating back centuries.
Inside Cathedral, there is also features Agilolphus altar from 1520 Antwerp showcasing life & passion scenarios related to Jesus & 104 choir benches alongside big screens featuring painting collections for visitors’ eyesight pleasure.
Music in the Cathedral
Three ancient bells adorn the Cathedral today. The 3.8-ton Dreikönigenglocke from 1418, the 10.5-ton Pretiosa, and the 5.6-ton Speciosa from 1448 continue to be used until this day. The world’s largest free-swinging bell, the 24-ton St. Petersglocke, was erected in 1922.
The innovative organ was inaugurated for its 700th anniversary in 1948 with 68 registers and three manuals. By 1984 it had added a fourth manual, and further alterations were done in the decades after that, culminating with the installation of a swallow’s nest organ for its 750th-anniversary celebration.
World Heritage Site
In 1996, Cologne Cathedral was inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List of significant cultural buildings and gained international recognition as a premier landmark.
In 2004 it was added to the ‘World Heritage in Danger list due to proposed nearby buildings, which would have jeopardized its standing, but thankfully these plans were laid aside in 2006, and it was removed from that listing the same year.
This world heritage site is notable for being one of Northern Europe’s oldest pilgrimage sites, housing the Shrine of Three Kings, and also offers an awe-inspiring 100-meter view from a spiral staircase platform.
Recent conservation works have seen attention given to preserving sandstone’s reaction with sulfuric acid during rainfall, while St. Joseph Catholic Church in Washington D.C draws inspiration from its design.
Many tourists (including Christians) visit this shrine daily, making this historical site even more popular.