The Cologne Cathedral embodies the type of the High Gothic cathedral like hardly any other church building. The church was built from 1248 over a period of 600 years and completed in 1880. The landmark of Cologne with its two 157 m high towers has the largest church facade in the world with its west facade. Inside there is, among other things, the golden shrine with the bones of the Three Kings. The new glass window in the south transept by Gerhard Richter from 2007 sets modern accents.
Cologne Cathedral: facts
|Official title:||Cologne cathedral|
|Cultural monument:||High Cathedral of St. Peter and Santa Maria, five-aisled basilica and landmark of Cologne with an area of 28 266 m²|
|Country:||Germany, North Rhine-Westphalia|
|Location:||Cologne on the Rhine|
|Appointment:||1996; Because of high-rise planning on the opposite side of the Rhine from 2004 to 2006 on the Red List of World Heritage in Danger|
|Meaning:||Masterpiece of Gothic and Neo-Gothic (historicism) and example of 19th century nationalism|
Cologne Cathedral: history
|08/15/1248||Laying of the foundation stone|
|1164||Transfer of the bones of the three kings|
|1180-1230||Three Kings Shrine, the largest reliquary shrine in the West, with the bones of the Three Kings|
|around 1311||Choir stalls with 104 seats, the largest of its kind in Germany|
|1322||Consecration of the high choir|
|around 1355||Start of construction of the 157 m high towers|
|1774||first visit to the cathedral by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe|
|1814||Finding part of the medieval plan of the west facade|
|1816||Finding the second half of the medieval plan of the west facade|
|1842||Start of construction work|
|October 15, 1880||final completion after a construction period of 632 years and 2 months|
|in World War 2||Significantly damaged by 14 aerial bombs|
|1948||Celebrations for the 700th anniversary|
|1998||Celebrations for the 750th anniversary|
|2005||Pope Benedict XVI visits the cathedral on the occasion of World Youth Day.|
|2007||new south transept window by Gerhard Richter|
|2008||computer-controlled interior lighting|
Rhenish Tower of Babel
The old Carolingian cathedral, consecrated in the 9th century, was already dubbed the “mother and master of all churches in Germany” according to internetsailors. The claim to be the first church in the German Empire was also transferred to the subsequent Gothic building. It was supposed to be reflected in an architecture that surpassed all church buildings created up to that point in size. The client for the ambitious project was the Cologne Cathedral Chapter, which appointed Master Gerhard, one of the most capable contemporary architects. Not only he, but also his successors Arnold and Johannes, father and son, created the ideal image of Gothic architecture with the choir. They primarily used the Amiens Cathedral as a model, the structural forms of which they further developed to classical maturity. Since the first half of the 14th Century like a monumental stone reliquary the famous Shrine of the Three Kings, the largest goldsmith’s work of the Middle Ages. Last but not least, the bones of the Holy Three Kings, who were considered to be the first Christians, secured the ideal rank and claim of the cathedral church, as they were the first to visit Aachen from the German kings crowned by the Archbishop of Cologne.
After the completion of the choir, the work progressed only slowly. It soon turned out that the gigantic dimensions of the cathedral exceeded the possibilities of the Middle Ages. The merchants and craftsmen of the Free Imperial City of Cologne, on whose financial support the cathedral chapter was dependent, preferred to invest in projects that served their bourgeois self-image since the 15th century: the town hall tower and the Gürzenich dance and festival hall.
In the first half of the 16th century, construction work was finally stopped, leaving a torso. For three centuries, the symbol of the interruption in construction was the medieval construction crane on the south tower, which had reached the point of the third floor at a height of 60 meters. All other components, which barely extended beyond a ground floor zone – especially the side aisles and the south transept – were secured with emergency roofs. When he visited the cathedral for the first time, Goethe complained that there was no one who could “have helped him out of the labyrinth of what was achieved and what was intended, of deed and intention, of what was built and suggested”. In the cathedral he saw a world structure “already frozen in the middle of his creation, far from completion” and mused.
An intellectual climate in which the idea of resuming construction was only created when the romanticism of the early 19th century was the transfiguration of the Middle Ages. The proponents of the completion of the cathedral received a powerful boost from the discovery of the second half of the lost medieval parchment plan on the west facade of the cathedral. Master Johannes probably made the four-meter-high elevation of the facade of the north and south towers in the early 14th century. Now the authentic continuation of the building according to the specifications of the Middle Ages was guaranteed.
With Friedrich Wilhelm IV., A Prussian monarch came to power in 1840 who, as a “romantic on the throne”, decisively promoted the cathedral project. The realization could now finally be tackled, a cathedral building association founded and the financing arranged. She charged the association and the king with a building grant of 50,000 thalers each year. Heinrich Heine mocked in his “Winter Tale” of 1844: “It will not be completed, the Cologne Cathedral”, but he should be wrong: within 38 years the vacant lots were closed and the monument, now known as a “German national monument”, was completed. An interim financing crisis was mastered with the help of the cathedral building lottery, whose income resolved the financial bottlenecks.
6 628 035 thalers were built: according to today’s purchasing power 1.25 billion euros. When the keystone of the north tower was set, the cathedral, with a height of 157.38 meters, was the tallest structure in the world for nine years. With the cathedral building festival on October 15, 1880, during which Kaiser Wilhelm I, as the organizer, skillfully focused on his Hohenzollern dynasty, the construction work came to an official, solemn end after 632 years.