Kölner Dom

( Cologne Cathedral )

Cologne Cathedral (German: Kölner Dom, pronounced [ˌkœlnɐ ˈdoːm] , officially Hohe Domkirche Sankt Petrus, English: Cathedral Church of Saint Peter) is a cathedral in Cologne, North Rhine-Westphalia belonging to the Catholic Church. It is the seat of the Archbishop of Cologne and of the administration of the Archdiocese of Cologne. It is a renowned monument of German Catholicism and Gothic architecture and was declared a World Heritage Site in 1996. It is Germany's most visited landmark, attracting an average of 6 million people a year. At 157 m (515 ft), the cathedral is the tallest twin-spired church in the world, the second tallest church in Europe after Ulm Minster, and the third tallest church of any kind in the world.

The towers for its two huge spires give the cathedral the larg...Read more

Cologne Cathedral (German: Kölner Dom, pronounced [ˌkœlnɐ ˈdoːm] , officially Hohe Domkirche Sankt Petrus, English: Cathedral Church of Saint Peter) is a cathedral in Cologne, North Rhine-Westphalia belonging to the Catholic Church. It is the seat of the Archbishop of Cologne and of the administration of the Archdiocese of Cologne. It is a renowned monument of German Catholicism and Gothic architecture and was declared a World Heritage Site in 1996. It is Germany's most visited landmark, attracting an average of 6 million people a year. At 157 m (515 ft), the cathedral is the tallest twin-spired church in the world, the second tallest church in Europe after Ulm Minster, and the third tallest church of any kind in the world.

The towers for its two huge spires give the cathedral the largest façade of any church in the world. The choir has the largest height-to-width ratio, 3.6:1, of any medieval church.

Construction of Cologne Cathedral began in 1248 but was halted in the years around 1560, unfinished. Attempts to complete the construction began around 1814 but the project was not properly funded until the 1840s. The edifice was completed to its original medieval plan in 1880.

Cologne's medieval builders had planned a grand structure to house the reliquary of the Three Kings and fit for its role as a place of worship for the Holy Roman Emperor. Despite having been left incomplete during the medieval period, Cologne Cathedral eventually became unified as "a masterpiece of exceptional intrinsic value" and "a powerful testimony to the strength and persistence of Christian belief in medieval and modern Europe". In Cologne, only the telecommunications tower is higher than the cathedral.

Ancient site

When construction began on the present Cologne Cathedral in 1248 with the laying of a foundation stone, the site had already been occupied by several previous structures. The earliest may have been for grain storage and possibly was succeeded by a Roman temple of Mercurius Augustus.[1] From the 4th century on, however, the site was occupied by Christian buildings, including a square edifice known as the "oldest cathedral" that was commissioned by Maternus, the first bishop of Cologne. A free-standing baptistery dating back to the 7th century was located at the east end of the present cathedral but was demolished in the 9th century to build the second cathedral. During excavations of the present cathedral, graves were discovered in the location of the oldest portion of the building; including that of a boy that was richly adorned with grave goods and another of a woman, popularly thought to be Wisigard. Both graves are thought to be from the 6th century. Only ruins of the baptistery and the octagonal baptismal font remain today.[citation needed]

The second church, called the "Old Cathedral", was completed in 818. It was destroyed by fire on 30 April 1248, during demolition work to prepare for a new cathedral.[2]

Medieval beginning

In 1164, the Archbishop of Cologne, Rainald of Dassel, acquired the relics of the Three Kings which the Holy Roman Emperor, Frederick Barbarossa, had taken from the Basilica of Sant'Eustorgio, Milan, Italy.[note 1] The relics have great religious significance and drew pilgrims from all over Christendom. It was important to church officials that they be properly housed, and thus began a building program in the new style of Gothic architecture, based in particular on the French cathedral of Amiens.[citation needed]

The foundation stone was laid on Saturday, 15 August 1248, by Archbishop Konrad von Hochstaden.[3] The eastern arm was completed under the direction of Master Gerhard, was consecrated in 1322 and sealed off by a temporary wall so it could be used as the work continued. Eighty-four misericords in the choir date from this building phase.[citation needed]. This work ceased in 1473, leaving the south tower complete to the belfry level and crowned with a huge crane that remained in place as a landmark of the Cologne skyline for 400 years.[4][page needed] Some work proceeded intermittently on the structure of the nave between the west front and the eastern arm, but during the 16th century this also stopped.[5][page needed]

The unfinished cathedral in 1820, engraved by Henry Winkles. The huge crane on the tower of the cathedral is visible in the picture. 
The unfinished cathedral in 1820, engraved by Henry Winkles. The huge crane on the tower of the cathedral is visible in the picture.
The unfinished cathedral in 1855. The medieval crane was still in place, while constructions for the nave had been resumed earlier in 1814. 
The unfinished cathedral in 1855. The medieval crane was still in place, while constructions for the nave had been resumed earlier in 1814.
The unfinished cathedral in 1856. The east end had been finished and roofed, while other parts of the building are in various stages of construction. 
The unfinished cathedral in 1856. The east end had been finished and roofed, while other parts of the building are in various stages of construction.
19th-century completion  The cathedral in 1880, nearing the end of its construction.

With the 19th-century Romantic enthusiasm for the Middle Ages, and spurred by the discovery of the original plan for the façade, the Protestant Prussian Court working with the church, committed to complete the cathedral. It was achieved by civic effort; the Central-Dombauverein, founded in 1842, raised two-thirds of the enormous costs, while the Prussian state supplied the remaining third.[citation needed] The state saw this as a way to improve its relations with the large number of Catholic subjects it had gained in 1815, but especially after 1871, it was regarded as a project to symbolize German nationhood.[6]

Work resumed in 1842 to the original design of the surviving medieval plans and drawings, but using more modern construction techniques, including iron roof girders. The nave was completed and the towers were added. The bells were installed in the 1870s. The largest bell is St. Petersglocke.[citation needed]

The completion of Germany's largest cathedral was celebrated as a national event on 15 October 1880, 632 years after construction had begun.[7] The celebration was attended by Emperor Wilhelm I. With a height of 157.38 m (516.3 ft), it was the tallest building in the world for four years until the completion of the Washington Monument.[8]

World War II and post-war history

The cathedral suffered fourteen hits by aerial bombs during World War II. Badly damaged, it nevertheless remained standing in an otherwise completely flattened city. The twin spires were an easily recognizable navigational landmark for Allied aircraft bombing.[9]

On 6 March 1945, an area west of the cathedral (Marzellenstrasse/Trankgasse) was the site of intense combat between American tanks of the 3rd Armored Division and a Panther Ausf. A of Panzer brigade 106 Feldherrnhalle. A nearby Panther, a German medium tank, was sitting by a pile of rubble near a train station right by the twin spires of the Cologne Cathedral. The Panther successfully knocked out two Sherman tanks, killing three men, before it was destroyed by a T26E3 Pershing, nicknamed Eagle 7, minutes later. Film footage of that battle survives. The destroyed Panther was later put on display at the base of the cathedral for the remainder of the war in Europe.[citation needed]

Repairs of the war damage were completed in 1956. A repair to part of the northwest tower, carried out in 1944 using poor-quality brick taken from a nearby ruined building, remained visible as a reminder of the war until 2005, when it was restored to its original appearance.

To investigate whether the bombings had damaged the foundations of the Dom, archaeological excavations began in 1946 under the leadership of Otto Doppelfeld and were concluded in 1997. One of the most meaningful excavations of churches, they revealed previously unknown details of earlier buildings on the site.[10]

Repair and maintenance work is constantly being carried out in the building, which is rarely free of scaffolding, as wind, rain, and pollution slowly eat away at the stones. The Dombauhütte, established to build the cathedral and keep it in repair, employs skilled stonemasons for the purpose. Half the costs of repair and maintenance are still borne by the Dombauverein.[citation needed]

The west front of the completed cathedral in 1911 
The west front of the completed cathedral in 1911
US soldier and destroyed Panther tank, 4 April 1945 
US soldier and destroyed Panther tank, 4 April 1945
21st century

On 18 August 2005, Pope Benedict XVI visited the cathedral during his apostolic visit to Germany, as part of World Youth Day 2005 festivities. An estimated one million pilgrims visited the cathedral during this time. Also as part of the events of World Youth Day, Cologne Cathedral hosted a televised gala performance of Beethoven's Missa Solemnis, performed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and the London Philharmonic Choir conducted by Sir Gilbert Levine.[11]

On 25 August 2007, the cathedral received a new stained glass window in the south transept. The 113 m2 (1,220 sq ft) glass work was created by the German artist Gerhard Richter with the €400,000 cost paid by donations. It is composed of 11,500 identically sized pieces of coloured glass resembling pixels, randomly arranged by computer, which create a colourful "carpet". Since the loss of the original window in World War II, the space had been temporarily filled with plain glass.[12] The then archbishop of the cathedral, Cardinal Joachim Meisner, who had preferred a figurative depiction of 20th-century Catholic martyrs for the window, did not attend the unveiling.[13] Holder of the office since 2014 is Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki. On 5 January 2015, the cathedral remained dark as floodlights were switched off to protest a demonstration by PEGIDA.[14]

World Heritage Site  Cologne Cathedral on the banks of Rhine

In 1996, the cathedral was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List of culturally important sites.[15] In 2004, it was placed on the "World Heritage in Danger" list, as the only Western site in danger, due to plans to construct several high-rise buildings nearby, which would have visually impacted the site.[16][17] The cathedral was removed from the "in danger" list in 2006, following the authorities' decision to limit the heights of buildings constructed near and around the cathedral.[18]

As a World Heritage Site and host to the Shrine of the Three Kings, Cologne Cathedral is a major attraction for tourists and pilgrims, and is one of the oldest and most important pilgrimage sites of Northern Europe.[19] Visitors can climb 533 stone steps of the spiral staircase to a viewing platform about 100 m (330 ft) above the ground.[20] The platform gives a scenic view over the Rhine.

Ongoing conservation at the cathedral is addressing the black discolouration caused by the sandstone reacting with sulfuric acid during rainfall. The acidic rain is a consequence of air pollution.[21]

St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Washington, D.C. was modeled after the cathedral.[22]

^ Pray Bober, Phyllis (1948). "Mercurius Arvernus". Marsyas – Studies in the History of Art. New York. IV: 29–32. ^ yitsadmin (19 June 2023). "Cologne Cathedral, Cologne, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany". Catholic Shrine Basilica. Retrieved 25 September 2023. ^ "The Cologne Cathedral". Cologne.de. Archived from the original on 1 May 2018. Retrieved 1 May 2018. ^ Wim Swaan ^ Wim Swaan gives the latest date as 1560, but a date of 1520 is considered more probable by other scholars. ^ Gilley, Sheridan; Stanley, Brian (2006). The Cambridge History of Christianity. Vol. 8, World Christianities c. 1815–c. 1914. Cambridge University Press. p. 114. ISBN 978-0-521-81456-0. ^ Godwin, George, ed. (1881). The Builder. [s.n.] p. 419. Retrieved 18 January 2024. ^ Lewis, Robert (13 September 2017). "Cologne Cathedral". Encyclopedia Britannica. Archived from the original on 16 August 2019. Retrieved 20 September 2021. ^ "In the Ruins of Cologne". The National WWII Museum | New Orleans. 5 March 2020. Retrieved 28 December 2023. ^ Klaus Gereon Beuckers: Der Kölner Dom, Darmstadt 2004, S. 113. ^ "Apostolic Journey to Cologne: Visit to the Cathedral of Cologne". 18 August 2005. Archived from the original on 26 February 2021. Retrieved 15 January 2021. ^ "Gerhard Richter digitalisiert Kölner Dom" [Gerhard Richter digitizes Cologne Cathedral]. Der Spiegel (in German). Deutsche Presse-Agentur. 25 August 2007. Archived from the original on 5 April 2022. Retrieved 17 February 2019. ^ Fortini, Amanda (9 December 2007). "Pixelated Stained Glass". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Archived from the original on 13 June 2016. Retrieved 12 January 2008. ^ "Germany Pegida protests: Rallies over 'Islamisation'". BBC News. 6 January 2015. Archived from the original on 6 January 2015. Retrieved 7 January 2015. In Cologne, the authorities switched off the lights of the city's cathedral as a way of warning Pegida supporters they were supporting 'extremists'. 'We don't think of it as a protest, but we would like to make the many conservative Christians [who support Pegida] think about what they are doing,' the dean of the cathedral, Norbert Feldhoff, told the BBC. ^ Cite error: The named reference :0 was invoked but never defined (see the help page). ^ "World Heritage Committee sounds the alarm for Cologne Cathedral". UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Archived from the original on 22 June 2020. Retrieved 7 April 2020. ^ "Cologne Cathedral on UNESCO Danger List". Deutsche Welle. 6 July 2004. Archived from the original on 7 April 2020. Retrieved 7 April 2020. ^ "UNESCO Removes Cologne Cathedral From Endangered List". Deutsche Welle. 11 July 2006. Archived from the original on 7 April 2020. Retrieved 7 April 2020. ^ "Cologne Cathedral". The Complete Pilgrim – Religious Travel Sites. 1 June 2014. Archived from the original on 7 April 2020. Retrieved 7 April 2020. ^ "Cathedral South Tower". www.cologne-tourism.com. Archived from the original on 7 March 2017. Retrieved 7 March 2017. ^ Schwedt, Georg (2001) [1996]. The essential guide to environmental chemistry. Chichester, UK: John Wiley & Sons. p. 158. ISBN 978-0-471-89954-9. ^ Sankowski, Kelly (14 February 2019). "For 150 years, St. Joseph's Catholic Church has served as a place of refuge and unity on Capitol Hill". Catholic Standard. Archived from the original on 15 February 2019. Retrieved 15 February 2019.


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