On the Bucket List: Cologne Cathedral, Germany

Cologne Cathedral
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Visiting Cologne Cathedral in Germany

Was there a time you decided to build a bucket list and promised yourself to accomplish it? Well, me? I was able to do so, at one point, and then it went missing. But there was one item in the list that I will never forget: Cologne Cathedral.

Cathedral in Cologne at Night
Cathedral in Cologne at Night

Cologne Cathedral, for me, is the stuff of encyclopedias. I grew up reading encyclopedias and I always read about European history and architecture, most notably something about churches and cathedrals. And Cologne Cathedral always comes up as it used to be one of the tallest buildings in the world. Now, this cathedral is hailed as one of the tallest churches in the world.

Inside Cologne Cathedral
Inside Cologne Cathedral

History of the Cathedral

Cologne Cathedral, or the Kölner Dom, was built in the year 1248. But, there are sources that point to the year 313 when a bishop of Cologne was mentioned for the first time. Around the year 800, an ‘old cathedral’ was erected on the current spot of the present-day building. The baptistery and the baptismal font are the only surviving remnants of the old cathedral. In 1164, the so-called relics of the Magi were received by the archbishop of Cologne from Milan through Holy Roman Emperor Frederick Barbarossa. Quickly, due to the archbishop’s idea, the relics became the talk of the empire. It was then decided to renovate the cathedral into its current High Gothic form. Construction began in 1248 but was interrupted in 1520. Some say construction stopped either due to finances or interest.

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The baptistery and the baptismal font are the only surviving remnants of the old cathedral. In 1164, the so-called relics of the Magi were received by the archbishop of Cologne from Milan through Holy Roman Emperor Frederick Barbarossa. Quickly, due to the archbishop’s idea, the relics became the talk of the empire. It was then decided to renovate the cathedral into its current High Gothic form. Construction began in 1248 but was interrupted in 1520. Some say construction stopped either due to finances or interest.

Basically, the cathedral was left unfinished for some 300 years. Since then, the cathedral served a variety of purposes, including as a stable and magazine house during the French Revolution. The year 1842 was when construction continued, owing to the renewed interest in medieval architecture, and finishing in 1880. Years later, World War II would lay siege onto the city, damaging the cathedral with firebombs and other forms of artillery. Luckily though, all medieval art and stained-glass windows were spared. The interior of the cathedral saw a major reconstruction after that, just in time for the 700th anniversary of laying the first-ever foundation stone in 1948, and continued until 1956. Its exterior was renovated in 1952. Today, the cathedral is part of the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Cologne Cathedral Today

The cathedral is way easy to spot, especially if you’re coming to the city by train — because it is right next to the central station, only separated by a huge square. When I arrived in the city, I was greeted by its towering spires. And, yep, it is true — Kölner Dom is very large.

The Cologne Central Station on the square. I was standing here on the cathedral steps when I took this.
The Cologne Central Station on the square. I was standing here on the cathedral steps when I took this.
This is the side facing north.
This is the side facing north.

 Facing south.
Facing south.

When you get to the façade, you’ll notice that everything is intricately done, down to the last facial detail of the sculpted figures. Very masterfully done.

The tympanum above the main entrance of the cathedral, facing west
The tympanum above the main entrance of the cathedral, facing west
A closer look at the details of the tympanum
A closer look at the details of the tympanum

Once you step in front of the Dom, start taking pictures, especially when the sun hits the façade.

My favourite shot amongst all the pictures with me in it.
My favourite shot amongst all the pictures with me in it.
Trying to fit the cathedral in my camera.
Trying to fit the cathedral in my camera.

I took several photos of the cathedral, using my mobile phone and my DSLR. Lesson learned: taking photos of the Dom is pretty difficult because it is a huge cathedral. A camera with a wide-angle lens would suffice. Throw in a zoom lens to capture the beautiful handiwork on the cathedral portals.

This belongs to a conceptual art project by a man named Braco Dimitrijevic
This belongs to a conceptual art project by a man named Braco Dimitrijevic

There is an interesting plaque near the main portal of the Dom. It reads, ‘This could be a place of historical importance’. You can read more about of the art project by Braco Dimitrijevic here and here.

Other Things You Can Do

I was not able to enter the cathedral at the time because the guards advised that no big, heavy bags are allowed inside for security reasons. No bag drop-offs are found near the cathedral premises. It’s best to bring a bag small enough to fit your necessary belongings.

Cologne Cathedral
Cologne Cathedral

If you aren’t able to go inside, you can check out the Romano-Germanic Museum a few meters away from the Dom. Entrance fee to the museum is 9€ per head. Or, better yet, stroll around the old town for some cool views.

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