Cologne Cathedral

Source: Wilkommen in Germany

Der Kölner Dom is a Roman Catholic cathedral in Köln (Cologne), Nordrhein-Westfalen in Northwestern Germany. It is the seat of the Archbishop, the administration of the Archdiocese, and a renowned monument of German Catholicism and Gothic architecture. It’s also a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Germany’s most visited landmark, attracting an average of 20,000 people a day. Construction commenced in 1248 and was halted in 1473, leaving it unfinished. Work restarted in the 1800’s and was completed to original plan in 1880. The cathedral is the largest Gothic church in Northern Europe and has the 2nd-tallest spires (after the Ulm Minster, also in Germany). Its two huge spires give it the largest façade of any church in the world. The choir has the largest height to width ratio, 3.6:1, of any medieval church. 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 for the Holy Roman Emperor. The completion of Germany’s largest cathedral was celebrated as a national event in August 1880, 632 years after construction had begun. The celebration was attended by Emperor Wilhelm I. 

The cathedral, being very near to the central railway station, suffered 14 hits by aerial bombs during WW2. It didn’t collapse, but remained standing in an otherwise flattened city. The great twin spires are said to have been used as an easily recognizable navigational landmark by Allied aircraft raiding deeper into Germany in the later years of the war, which may be a reason that the cathedral was not destroyed. Repairs were completed in 1956. In the northwest tower’s base, an emergency repair carried out in 1944 with poor-quality brick taken from a nearby war ruin remained visible until 2005 as a reminder of the war, but then it was decided to reconstruct this section according to its original appearance. Visitors can climb 509 stone steps of the spiral staircase to a viewing platform about 100 m above ground. The platform gives a scenic view over the Rhein.