Little Bits of History

Cologne Cathedral

Posted in History by patriciahysell on August 14, 2015
Cologne Cathedral in 1911

Cologne Cathedral in 1911

August 14, 1880: Cologne Cathedral is built. It was a long term project with the cornerstone laid on August 14, 1248 by Archbiship Konrad von Hochstaden 632 years before. The site had been used for quite a while. It was probably used for grain storage before a Roman temple was built there by Mercurius Augustus. Starting in the fourth century, it was used as a site for Christian buildings. The first bishop of Cologne built what was known as the “oldest cathedral” there. Next to the original cathedral, a free-standing bapistery was built in the sixth century but it was demolished in the ninth century to build the second cathedral. That was finished in 818 but was destroyed by fire on April 30, 1248 during demolition work while preparing for the new cathedral.

Relics of the Three Kings were acquired in Milan, Italy and present to the Archbishop of Cologne in 1164 (part of the relics have since been returned to Milan). In medieval times, relics were important to traveling pilgrims who would come to pray and it was deemed that a more appropriate house was needed. A new building was designed in the Gothic style and construction began. The eastern arm was finished in 1322. It was consecrated and sealed off so that it might be used as construction on the rest of the building continued. Work continued until 1473 when it abruptly stopped. The south tower was finished up to the belfry level and a huge crane was atop it and remained in place for 400 years, acting as a Cologne landmark.

Some work on the nave between the west front and the eastern arm was sporadically undertaken but all work stopped in the 16th century. In the 1800s, there was a renewed interest in the Middle Ages and the original plan for the façade was found. The Protestant Prussian Court sponsored a drive to complete construction of the cathedral. To that end, the civic concern, the Central-Dombauverein, was founded in 1842 and raised two-thirds of the funds needed and the Prussian state supplied the other third. It was hoped this would endear the state to the many Catholic subjects which came under its dominion in 1815. The work used the ancient plans but more modern building techniques – including iron roof girders. The nave was completed and the towers added with the bells installed in the 1870s. Emperor Wilhelm I attended the celebration on this day.

The cathedral was damaged by 14 strikes of aerial bombs during World War II and repairs were completed in 1956. An upgrade was made in 2005 which corrected a 1944 sloppy repair job. Repairs and maintenance are a constant part of keeping this UNESCO World Heritage Site beautiful. It is one of Germany’s most visited landmarks with about 20,000 people a day visiting. The towers are about 515 feet tall and made it the tallest structure in the world for four years. It is the largest Gothic church in Northern Europe and with the massive towers, it presents the largest façade of any church in the world.

The reason it remains standing even when so much of Cologne was destroyed in World War II is strategic. The massive structure was easily seen from the air and as the bomber squads few over the city, they used it as a marker to tell where to drop their bombs.

The windows are done in glorious, luminescent colors which actually glowed even though the weather outside was overcast.

I was so busy looking at the beautiful windows that I almost missed the floor. The entire area surrounding the altar and the golden shrine to the Three Kings is done in circular patterns of tiles with some being pictures and others being designs.

In the niches were fabulous pieces of artwork. There were many paintings, but there were also three dimensional carved pieces with several layers of detailed work. – Patricia Hysell (when I was lucky enough to visit)

Also on this day: Literally – In 1457, the first exactly dated book was published.
Burn, Baby, Burn – In 1933, Oregon was plagued by wild fires.
Insecure – In 1935, the Social Security Act was signed into law.
Oregon, More than a Trail – In 1848, the Territory of Oregon was established.
License, Please – In 1893, France started to issue license tags for cars.


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