Cologne Cathedral

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Cologne Cathedral


Cologne Cathedral is one of the best-known architectural monuments in Germany and Cologne’s most famous landmark. The Cathedral has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1996 and an “exceptional work of human creative genius”, as described by UNESCO.

Cologne Cathedral’s construction began in the year 1248 and wasn’t complete until 1880. It took almost six and half centuries for its completion. Cologne’s medieval builders had planned a grand structure to house the reliquary of the Three Kings and fit its role as a place of worship of the Holy Roman Emperor. The Cathedral is one of the largest churches and the largest Gothic church in Northern Europe and was also the tallest building in the world from 1880-1884. It is 144.5 metres long, 86.5 m wide and its two towers are 157 m tall.

During World War II the cathedral was hit by bombs 14 times, and sadly, used as a rifle range by American troops. The Cathedral was the only building that survived. It underwent extensive repairs that were completed in 1956. Other renovations continue to present day. The Cologne Cathedral is a major pilgrimage site for people coming to see its famous treasure - Sarcophagus of the Magi . The sarcophagus is thought to hold the remains of the three wise men from the biblical story of the birth of Jesus. The Three Magi do not play a large role in the life of Jesus, but they are honored for being the first pilgrims. This great sarcophagus is from the 13th century and is the largest reliquary in the western world, the exterior is seven feet of glided silver and jewels.

Also of note in the church is an altar painting of the city's patron saints as well as Gero Cross -the oldest crucifix in Northern Europe. The Gero Cross depicts Jesus neither suffering nor triumphant, but with his eyes closed, dead. The Gero Cross is a wonderful piece of art carved in 976 and also a powerful religious image.

In the Sacrament Chapel is the Madonna of Milan (Mailänder Madonna), an elegant wooden sculpture depicting Mary and the child Jesus. The sculpture was designed in 1290 and is associated with miracles and has attracted pilgrims for centuries. The Madonna of Milan is a replacement of an older statue which was destroyed in the fire of 1248.

The Chapel of the Virgin (Marienkapelle) contains The Patron Saints of Köln, painted in 1442 by Stefan Lochner. The painting is notable for its photographic realism (note the varieties of herbs in the foreground) and believable depth.

Jeweled Madonna is another important statue of the Virgin Mary in the north transept which attracts pilgrims and worshippers even today. The sculpture is Baroque and was last renewed in 1991. The statue is dressed in a grown of white silk with only the heads of Virgin Mary and Jesus visible, pinned with jewels and accessories.

The choir is surrounded by 13th and 14th century art: carved oak stalls, frescoed walls, painted statues and stained glass. The Treasury , outside the cathedral's left transept, is housed in the cathedral's 13th-century stone-cellar vaults. The six dim rooms contain a variety of glittering chalices, crosses, and reliquaries, plus fine examples of bishops' garb.

With the Magi reliquary and the Madonna of Milan, the Gero Cross is one of the three major pilgrim stops in the Cathedral.

Best time to visit

The best time to visit Cologne would be in summer, between the months of June and September. Another good time take a trip to Cologne would be during Christmas.


Climb 509 steps of the spiral staircase of the Cathedral tower to have a breathtaking panoramic view of the platform about 98 metres above the ground. It is worth climbing those many stairs!


The Cathedral is open every day from 6.00am to 7.30pm while the treasury chamber is open daily from 10.00am to 6.00pm. The timings for the tower are November - February, 9.00am - 4.00pm; March - April, October, 9.00 am -May - September, 9.00am - 6.00pm.

Admission is free except for tower ascent and the treasury.

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