By Aarushi Ganguli – Travel
Few buildings in the world take your breath away when first looking at it more than the Cologne Cathedral. If nothing else impresses you in this charming German student city, the sheer size of this architectural masterpiece will leave you wanting to see all of the inside.
Overlooking the Rhine River, it is Germany’s most visited attraction, (which is a feat in itself). An impressive Gothic-styled architectural marvel, the cathedral was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996. It is the tallest twin-spired church in the world and the third tallest church of any kind. If you have ever been to Europe, this fact is almost impossible to comprehend! With these qualities, one would expect the inside to be as impressive as the outside and I am glad to confirm that this is indeed the case.
The cathedral is structured internally in the French style of tall arcades with stained-glass windows peering in from all sides. The detailing merges with the shafts that reach all the way into its tall spires. The inside really is a marvel. However, the most impressive part of this structure must be the treasures stored inside. Alongside the Crucifix of Bishop Gero, which is said to be the largest crucifix on the planet, and the relics and burial place of Saint Irma Gardis, is the Shrine of the Three Kings. Made of solid gold and silver, it is covered in precious gemstones and biblical scenes. Most remarkable is the fact that the Shrine is thought to hold the remains of the Three Wise Men from the Biblical tale. The remains were said to have been collected by Frederick Barbarossa at the conquest of Milan in 1164 and have resided at the altar of this cathedral ever since. I was amazed when I first saw it, and it is incredible that it remains intact to this day.
It is impressive that a cathedral that has seen so much history still stands today – the original structure, that is. The construction of the original cathedral began in 1248 and finished in 1560 and further work and restoration has been ongoing since the early 1840’s, as well as the use of modern construction models. What I believe to be most striking, is the fact that the cathedral never toppled during World War II, despite suffering 14 hits by aerial bombs, dents from which were burnt into the façade. It remained one of the only standing structures in an otherwise flattened Cologne, with the twin spires oftentimes a way for Allies to navigate their aircraft. It truly is extraordinary that not even bombs were destructive enough to collapse this giant structure.
I urge anyone, if they have the opportunity, to visit Cologne; it is a beautiful city and remnants of its history, both good and bad, should be experienced in all their glory. Although it is a bigger student city than most found in Europe, the cathedral is impossible to miss, being the largest structure for miles around. So, I bid you to go see this kathedrale and experience all it has to offer, including its awe-inspiring organ music. Alles Gute!