Cologne Cathedral (Kölner Dom, officially Hohe Domkirche St. Peter und Maria) is the seat of the Archbishop of Cologne, under the administration of the Roman Catholic Church and is renowned as a monument of Christianity, of Gothic architecture and of the faith and perseverance of the people of the city in which it stands. It is dedicated to Saint Peter and the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The cathedral is a World Heritage Site, being one of the best-known architectural monuments in Germany, and Cologne's most famous landmark, described by UNESCO as an "exceptional work of human creative genius". Cologne Cathedral is one of the world's largest churches, being the largest Gothic church in Northern Europe. For four years, 1880-84, it was the tallest structure in the world, until the completion of the Washington Monument followed by the Eiffel Tower. It has the second-tallest church spires, only surpassed by the single spire of Ulm Cathedral, completed ten years later in 1890. Because of its enormous twin spires, it also presents the largest façade of any church in the world.
The choir of Cologne Cathedral, measured between the piers, also holds the distinction of having the largest height to width ratio of any Medieval church, 3.6:1, exceeding even Beauvais Cathedral which has a slightly higher vault.
Construction of the Gothic church began in 1248 and took, with interruptions, until 1880 to complete a period of over six hundred years. It is 144.5 metres long, 86.5 m wide and its two towers are 157 m tall.
Cologne Cathedral, despite having been left incomplete during the medieval period, 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", as was befitting a worship-place of the Holy Roman Emperor and the traditional shrine of the Three Kings.
The foundation stone was laid on August 15, 1248, by Archbishop Konrad von Hochstaden. 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 in use as the work proceeded.
In the mid 14th century work on the west front commenced under Master Michael. This work halted in 1473 leaving the south tower complete up to the belfry level and crowned with a huge crane which was destined to remain in place, and the landmark of Cologne for 400 years.
Some work proceeded intermittently on the structure of the nave between the west front and the eastern arm but during the 16th century, this ceased.
Work resumed in 1842 to the original design of the surviving medieval plans and drawings, but utilising 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 completion of Germany's largest cathedral was celebrated as a national event in 1880, 632 years after construction had begun. The celebration was attended by Emperor Wilhelm I.
Some repair and maintenance work is almost constantly being carried out in some section of the building, which is almost never completely free of scaffolding, since wind, rain, and pollution slowly eat away at the stones. The Dombauhütte, which was established to build the cathedral and repair the cathedral, is said to employ the best stonemasons of the Rhineland. There is a common joke in Cologne that the leader of the Dombauhütte, the Dombaumeister (master builder of the cathedral), has to be Catholic and free from giddiness. The current Dombaumeisterin is Barbara Schock-Werner. Half of the costs of repair and maintenance are still borne by the Dombauverein.
On August 25 2007, the cathedral received a new stained glass in the south transept window. With 113 square metres of glass, the window was created by the German artist Gerhard Richter. It is composed of 11,500 identically sized pieces of coloured glass resembling pixels, randomly arranged by computer, which create a colorful "carpet". Since the loss of the original window in World War II, the space had been temporarily filled with plain glass. The archbishop of the cathedral, Joachim Cardinal Meissner, who had preferred a figurative depiction of 20th-century Catholic martyrs for the window, did not attend the unveiling.
As a World Heritage Site, and with its convenient position on tourist routes, Cologne Cathedral is a major tourist attraction, the visitors including many who travel there as a Christian pilgrimage. The cathedral is open every day from 6.00am to 7.30pm; admission is free except for tower ascent and the treasury. Visitors can climb 509 steps of the spiral staircase to a viewing platform about 98 metres above the ground.
On May 12 2001, the American rock band R.E.M. performed a free concert in Roncalliplatz, the square to the south side of Cologne Cathedral. The concert was organised to promote the eradication of violence in schools, and was in part broadcast live on MTV Europe.
On August 18 2005, Pope Benedict XVI visited the cathedral as part of his apostolic visit to Germany as part of World Youth Day 2005 festivities. An estimated 1 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.
Internally, the medieval choir is more varied and less mechanical in its details than the 19th century building. It presents a French style arrangement of very tall arcade, a delicate narrow triforium gallery lit by windows and with detailed tracery merging with that of the windows above. The clerestory windows are tall and retain some old figurative glass in the lower sections. The whole is united by the tall shafts which sweep unbroken from floor to their capitals at the spring of the vault. The vault is of plain quadripartite arrangement.
The choir retains a great many of its original fittings, including the carved stalls, which is made the more surprising by the fact that French Revolutionary troops had desecrated the building. A large stone statue of St Christopher looks down towards the place where the earlier entrance to the cathedral was, before its completion in the late 19th century.
The nave is enhanced by a good many 19th century stained-glass windows including a set of five on the south side called the "Bayernfenster" which were a gift from Ludwig I of Bavaria, a set highly representative of the painterly German style of that date.
The most celebrated work of art in the cathedral is the Shrine of the Three Kings, a large gilded sarcophagus dating from the 13th century, and the largest reliquary in the Western world. It is traditionally believed to hold the remains of the Three Wise Men, whose bones and 2,000-year-old clothes were discovered at the opening of the shrine in 1864.
Near the sacristy is the Gero-Kreuz, a large crucifix carved in oak and with traces of paint and gilding. Believed to have been commissioned around 960 for Archbishop Gero, it is the oldest large crucifix north of the Alps and the earliest-known large free-standing Northern sculpture of the medieval period.
In the Sacrament Chapel, is the Mailänder Madonna ("Milan Madonna"), dating from around 1290, a wooden sculpture depicting the Blessed Virgin Mary and the infant Jesus. The altar of the patron saints of Cologne with an altar piece by the International Gothic painter, Stephan Lochner is in the Marienkapelle ("St. Mary's Chapel"). Other outstanding works of art are to be found in the Cathedral Treasury.
During the 19th century, as the building neared completion, there was a desire to extend the number of bells. This was facilitated by Kaiser Wilhelm I who gave French bronze canon, captured in 1870-71, for this purpose. The 22 pieces of artillery were displayed outside the Cathedral on the 11th of May 1872. Andreas Hamm in Frankenthal used them to cast a bell of over 27,000 kilos on the 19th of August 1873. The tone was not harmonious and another attempt was made on the 13th of November 1873. The Central Cathedral Association, which had agreed to take over the costs, did not want this bell either. Another attempt took place on the 3rd of October 1874. The colossal bell was shipped to Cologne and on the 13th of May 1875, installed in the Cathedral.
The 24-ton St. Petersglocke ("Bell of St. Peter", "Dicke Pitter" in the Kölsch dialect), was cast in 1922 and is the largest free-swinging bell in the world. (See below: Gallery, Petersglocke)
|External length||144.58 m||External width||86.25 m||Width of west façade||61.54 m||Width of transept façade||39.95 m||Width of nave (with aisles, interior)||45.19 m||Height of southern tower||157.31 m||Height of northern tower||157.38 m||Height of ridge turret||109.00 m||Height of transept façades||69.95 m||Height of roof ridge||61.10 m||Inner height of nave||43.35 m||Building area||7,914 m²||Window surface area||10,000 m²||Roof surface area||12,000 m²||Interior volume||407,000 m³|