A Most Popular Pilgrimage Destination
The largest Gothic church in Northern Europe, Cologne Cathedral features twin towers that stand 157 m tall. Construction started in 1248, and in 1322 the choir was consecrated. Works came to a halt around 1520 because of a lack of funds, and then stalled for three centuries, with a large wooden crane left standing at the belfry level of the south tower. Between 1842 & 1880, the cathedral was completed according to its original plan, thanks to the Gothic Revival of the 19th century. At the time of its completion, it was believed to be the world’s tallest building, a distinction it held until 1890, when the Ulm Minster was finished. Allied air raids caused serious damage to the cathedral in 1944, but its medieval windows survived the war because they had been removed beforehand. By 1956 the church was restored and in regular use again. A wildly popular pilgrimage destination since the Middle Ages, the cathedral receives some six million visitors a year.
The most celebrated work of art in the cathedral is the Shrine of the Magi, a masterpiece of medieval goldwork, begun in 1182 by the famous goldsmith Nicholas of Verdun, and completed around 1220. Other notable objects are the large Gero Crucifix (c. 970) and the Milan Madonna (c. 1290). The cathedral houses a number of splendid altarpieces; the most significant is a triptych depicting Cologne’s patron saints (c. 1445) by Stefan Lochner, one of the outstanding painters of the Cologne school. Of the neo-Gothic additions I like the 1,350 m² mosaic floor (1887) in the choir best, designed by August von Essenwein & executed in ceramic tiles made by Villeroy & Boch. The latest embellishment is a modern window (2007) by Gerhard Richter, consisting of 11,263 square glass panels in 72 colours, too abstract for the city’s archbishop at the time, who felt that it insufficiently reflected the Catholic faith. But when you believe in l’art pour l’art, it’s really good.koelner-dom.de