The Cologne Cathedral is an exceptional demonstration of human creative genius. Built over 6 Centuries (1248-1880), it marks the zenith of cathedral architecture.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1996, and for good reasons!
The Cologne Cathedral Architecture
The Cologne Cathedral is in the shape of a Latin Cross, the usual shape for Gothic Churches. It has one of the highest vaulted nave in the World with 2 side aisles. Although it took Centuries to complete, the original medieval plans were respected and very few Cathedrals display such a uniformity in style.
If you want to know more, you really should visit the Cathedral official website: http://www.koelner-dom.de/ I have never seen a Cathedral with so much information available online. Do visit the Virtual Tour section to learn everything possible on this incredible place, including its architecture, legend and the crane that was used to build the tours.
The Cologne Cathedral Treasures
The Cologne Cathedral is also a Basilica as it holds one of the most precious reliquary in the World: the Shrine of the Three Kings.
The reliquary, which was created in the early 12th century, is in the shape of a basilican church, and is made of bronze and silver richly gilded and ornamented. The reliquary is traditionally believed to hold the relics of Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar although it seems they were returned to Milan, where they were bought in the 12th century. The reliquary is heavily protected which makes it difficult to photography.
The Chapel of the Three Kings is also of true beauty.
Another priced piece of the Cathedral is the Gero Cross or Gero Crucifix dating around 965. It is the oldest large sculpture of the crucified Christ. It measures 1.87m, around 6 feet high and was carved in oak and partially guilted.
The giant statue of Saint Cristopher, patrons of the Travelers dates from circa 1470. He is caring the Christ and the World while crossing a raging river.
The Jewellery Madonna is an interesting piece as the robe covering the statue is covered with jewelry of all sorts.
The Saint Mary’s Chapel Altarpiece is a triptych painted by Stefan Lochner in the 15th century and is the most significant example of the Late Gothic Cologne school of painting.
Talking about painting, there are also some modern ones in the North Transept….
When the South Transept displays The Saint Agilulfus altar piece from circa 1510.
There are numerous Gisants in the Cologne Cathedral. The most unusual one is probably the tomb to Archbishop Philipp I von Heinsberg representing the fortified wall of Cologne.
The Gisant of the Count Gottfried of Arnsberg which is covered by an arched iron grid is quite different too.
Just a detail view of another Gisant because I like it!
The Floor of the Cologne Cathedral
The entire floor of the Cologne Cathedral is covered by mosaic dating from the 19th Century. Very unusual I must say.
The outside of the Cologne Cathedral
Spot the lucky guy on this picture!
The Cologne Cathedral is a truly Gothic masterpiece. A grandiose magnificent edifice demonstrating the genius of Men.
You can climb in the Tour (only 500 steps) and also visit the Treasure Chamber to see more reliquaries.
Reminder of the official website: http://www.koelner-dom.de/
Rules of Etiquette when visiting a Church
In this article, as you may have noticed I didn’t go into details on its architecture because as I said, the official website can give you much more information than I ever could. Instead, I want to talk to you about Etiquette! I realize this might be misplaced considering that if you are still reading this piece, you probably don’t need to be reminded of the “dos and don’ts” when visiting a church.
Unfortunately, it seems that a lot of people don’t have any clues how to behave but that might a general issue, not just a ‘church’ issue. I told you in this article that I really like churches and if you’ve been reading this site, you already knew this! One of the reasons is that churches are peaceful and that people seems to respect this naturally and effortlessly.
Unfortunately, when visiting the Cologne Cathedral, I had an opposite experience. It might be the size of it, it might be the incredible attraction the Cathedral has, it might be because it was summer and hoards of tourists took over the place… I’m not sure. But the general behavior of visitors was quite appalling and generally disrespectful and it really bothered me.
Whatever we are doing during your vacation, wherever we are going, we are amongst the luckiest people on Earth, just because we are on vacation and are able to travel. I thing we should all remember this and show respect to the places we are fortunate to visit. We should do this for the people who are there at the same time, for the ones who will come after you and, most importantly, for the preservation of the sites, let it be a thousand years old Cathedral, the ruins of an antique Roman temple, a museum or a natural site.
So here are a few words on Etiquette applicable when visiting a Church:
A Church is a place of prayer and reflection. Be quiet!!! No running around, no screaming, no phone… and when you speak, if you really have to, please whisper.
Please cover up. Remember that in Rome, you would be kick out of the Saint Peter’s Basilica, for not covering up your shoulders, or wearing shorts, even if you have queued for hours.
Food & drinks are not allowed inside. Spilling your Coca-Cola on the 19th Century mosaic floor like the one in the Cologne Cathedral would damage it permanently. And even if the floor isn’t covered by mosaic, it probably is made of stone that wouldn’t like the greasy stain, your ketchup would live for centuries onward.
No flash. Your flash isn’t going to do you any good anyway, in such a vast space. Go up in the ISO if you must. And if you have a quiet mode on your camera, now is the right time to use it.
No climbing on the pulpit, on the columns, on the altars, on the iron gates, on the Gisants… even if you think you need it, to have a better view or to take a better picture.
Don’t touch! A lot of the antique and most precious pieces are protected from people behind gates or glass walls but a lot of the incredible art isn’t. It doesn’t mean you can touch. Those pieces are most likely hundreds of years old, they can not cope with millions of visitors running their dirty fingers on them. Even if you think your fingers are clean, the bacteria you carry around, can damage stones that look indestructible. So just don’t touch anything, not the walls, not the paintings, not the statues… Yes you can touch the door to enter and exit!
Don’t spit, don’t pee… no need to explain I hope…
Don’t steal anything! I want to say: Obviously!!! But it seems to not be obvious to some people. The votive candles are not there for you to take home as a souvenir. They are for prayers! and you are supposed to pay the indicated price. The candelabras might not be chained to the floor, the statues might not be anchored to their stands but they still belong to the church, not to you. And in small churches, postcard, small medals and rosaries might be on display in an unattended area. This is actually a shop. They are most likely not free and if you want one of those things, you need to pay the indicated price by putting the money in the available safe box. Don’t steal the safe box… obviously…
And yes, keep your mini-you in control. The above rules apply to them as well.
Don’t forget to print your Church Vocabulary Mini Guide before your next visit!