The Cologne Cathedral is a renowned monument of Christianity and Gothic architecture located in Cologne, Germany. Construction began in the 11th century, but due to numerous socio and political interruptions it took over 600 years to finish. It was given only a short 4 year reign as the tallest structure in the world until the completion of the Washington Monument. This majestic cathedral is one of the world’s largest churches and thanks to its enormous twin spires it bears the largest church façade on the planet. In 1996, the cathedral was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List of culturally important sites and in 2004 was placed on the World Heritage in Danger list due to plans for a high-rise building nearby that would have impacted the site. Thankfully it was removed from the In Danger Sites in 2006 when authorities decided to limit the heights of buildings in the cathedral’s area. Thanks to its convenient location and inclusion on the UNESCO list, Cologne Cathedral is a major tourist attraction, bringing sightseers from all over the world as well as many Christian pilgrims.
There is a great deal for visitors to take in at Cologne Cathedral. Probably the most famous piece of art in the cathedral is the Shrine of the Three Kings, a large gilded sarcophagus dating to the 1200s that is believed to hold the remains of the Three Wise Men. There is also the Gero-Kreuz, the oldest large crucifix north of the Alps and the earliest known large, free standing sculpture of the medieval period. The Sacrament Chapel is home to the Mailänder Madonna (Madonna of Milan) which is a wooden sculpture dating from around 1290 that depicts the Virgin Mary and an infant Jesus. Another statue of importance for visitors is the Jeweled Madonna. This Baroque 17th century piece of art is dressed in a gown of white silk pinned with jewels and other offerings and is said to work miracles. The cathedral contains eleven church bells, including four that date back to the medieval time period. You can also, if you’re feeling in particularly good shape, climb the 509 steps up the tower to and get a birds-eye view of the surrounding area.
Cologne Cathedral hours of operation from November to April are 6am to 7:30pm, from May to October 6am to 10pm except during services. Visiting the cathedral is free although there are fees for access to the tower and the treasury. English language tours are available and photographs are permitted everywhere except in the treasury. Cologne Cathedral averages over 10,000 visitors a day, slightly more in the summer, so give yourself enough time to see everything during your visit. A beautiful piece of religious history and a fantastic example of Gothic art and architecture, a trip to Cologne Cathedral is like ripping a page out of a story book. The image of this grand and wonderful building will be burned into your fondest memories.
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