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Cologne, Germany — The Cathedral

The Cologne Cathedral is the landmark of the city (photo: KölnTourismus)
The Cologne Cathedral is the landmark of the city (photo: KölnTourismus)

Geographic Location: Western Germany.

Cologne‘s best-loved landmark, it rises high above the heart of the city like a gargantuan watchtower.
Open daily from 6am to 7.30pm, the cathedral still serves as a working Catholic church.


Cologne Cathedral, a UNESCO World Heritage Site

  • Germany’s largest cathedral, the world’s third tallest and over 765 years old
  • A World Heritage Site since 1996; the Cologne Cathedral is the world’s purest and most complete example of a High Gothic cathedral, according to UNESCO
  • Home to the renowned Shrine of the Three Magi
  • Since 2007: The south transept window, which consists over 11,000 colorful squares of glass, was designed by the Cologne-based artist Gerhard Richter
  • Germany’s most visited tourist attraction with 6.5 million visitors a year

Cologne Cathedral is, and will continue to be, the No. 1 tourist destination, not just of Cologne, but of Germany as a whole. Over six million people visit the UNESCO world heritage site every year. The imposing gothic cathedral houses the Shrine of the Three Kings, which makes it one of the most important pilgrimage destinations in Europe.

Since August 2007, the window designed by the Cologne artist Gerhard Richter – a shimmering play of hues and tones with squares of every color – has added to the cathedral’s attractions. Together with the cathedral, a “crown” of twelve Romanic churches represents “Holy Cologne”.

The place in which the cathedral is situated today has been since late roman times the place where the first Christians assembled in Cologne. Several churches- each one in turn larger than its predecessors- have been built on this site near the city walls. The first of these churches of which we know what it looked like was the Carolingian cathedral finished in 870. It had on each end of the nave a transept as well as a choir.The altar to the east was consecrated to Maria and the western altar was consecrated to St. Peter. Under the archbishop Bruno a northern and a southern side aisle were added to the nave. This cathedral stood until the 13th century and underwent only small changes during this time. The picture shows the cathedral as well as the St.Maria ad gradus church situated towards the east of the cathedral.

Cologne Cathedral

Built between 1248 and 1880, Cologne Cathedral is regarded as a masterpiece of Gothic architecture. This superlative building is the second-tallest church (157.38 metres) in Germany and Europe, and the third tallest in the world.
The main nave is 144 metres long, the longest in Germany.
It was originally built due to a lack of space: on 23 July 1164, the Archbishop of Cologne Rainald von Dassel brought the relics of the Three Kings to Cologne from Milan. This resulted in 1225 in a plan to build a new cathedral – the old cathedral had simply become too small to cope with the large numbers of pilgrims.
However, this all came to an abrupt end on 19 October 1820, when someone broke into the cathedral and stole valuable pieces from the shrine housing the relics of the Three Kings. In 1880 the cathedral was finally completed after more than 600 years, a faithful reproduction of the plans produced by the medieval Cologne cathedral architect and the preserved façade plan from the period around 1280.
Many art historians consider it to be a unique orchestration of all architectural elements and a jewel of medieval Gothic architecture. It is also Germany‘s most-visited place of interest: more than six million people from around the world come to visit it every year. It was even visited by Pope Benedict XVI on World Youth Day in 2005.


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