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Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Cologne Cathedral

Cologne Cathedral is a Roman Catholic Church in Cologne, Germany the world famous tourist attraction site. It is visited by 20 thousand people every day. It is the seat of the Archbishop of Cologne, and is under the administration of the archdiocese of Cologne. It is renowned as a monument of Christianity, of German Catholicism in particular, of Gothic architecture and of the continuing faith and perseverance of the people of the city in which it stands. It is dedicated to Saint Peter and the Blessed Virgin Mary. The cathedral is a World Heritage Site, one of the best-known architectural monuments in Germany, and Cologne's most famous landmark, described by UNESCO as an exceptional work of human creative genius. The details of Cologne Cathedral are described in world tour guides.

The Construction of Cologne Cathedral began in 1248 and took, with interruptions, until 1880 to complete a period of over 600 years. It is 144.5 metres long, 86.5 m wide and its two towers are 157 m tall. The cathedral is one of the world's largest churches and the largest Gothic church in Northern Europe. For four years, 1880-84, it was the tallest structure in the world, until the completion of the Washington Monument. It has the second-tallest church spires, only surpassed by the single spire of Ulm Minster, completed 10 years later in 1890. Because of its enormous twin spires, it also presents the largest fa├žade of any church in the world. The choir of the cathedral, measured between the piers, also holds the distinction of having the largest height to width ratio of any medieval church, 3.6:1, exceeding even Beauvais Cathedral which has a slightly higher vault.

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 of the Holy Roman Emperor. The design of Cologne Cathedral was based quite closely on that of Amiens Cathedral in terms of ground plan, style and the width to height proportion of the central nave. The plan is in the shape of a Latin Cross, as is usual with Gothic cathedrals. It has two aisles on either side, which help to support one of the very highest Gothic vaults in the world, being nearly as tall as that of the ill-fated Beauvais Cathedral, much of which collapsed. Externally the outward thrust of the vault is taken up by flying buttresses in the French manner. The eastern end has a single ambulatory, the second aisle resolving into a chevet of seven radiating chapels.

The medieval choir is more varied and less mechanical in its details than the 19th century building. It presents a French style arrangement of very tall arcade, a delicate narrow triforium gallery lit by windows and with detailed tracery merging with that of the windows above. The clerestory windows are tall and retain some old figurative glass in the lower sections. The whole is united by the tall shafts which sweep unbroken from the floor to their capitals at the spring of the vault. The vault is of plain quadripartite arrangement. The choir retains a great many of its original fittings, including the carved stalls, which is made the more surprising by the fact that French Revolutionary troops had desecrated the building. A large stone statue of St Christopher looks down towards the place where the earlier entrance to the cathedral was, before its completion in the late 19th century.

Cologne Cathedral Shrine of MagiThe nave is enhanced by a good many 19th century stained glass windows including a set of five on the south side called the "Bayernfenster" which were a gift from Ludwig I of Bavaria, a set highly representative of the painterly German style of that date. Externally, particularly from a distance, the building is dominated by its huge spires which are entirely Germanic in character, being openwork like those of Ulm, Vienna and Regensburg Cathedrals. One of the Treasures of the cathedral is the High Altar which was installed in 1322. It is constructed of black marble, ith a solid slab 15 feet long forming the top. The front and sides are overlaid with white marble niches into which are set figures, with the Coronation of the Virgin at the centre.

The most celebrated work of art in the cathedral is the Shrine of the Three Kings, a large gilded sarcophagus dating from the 13th century, and the largest reliquary in the Western world. It is traditionally believed to hold the remains of the Three Wise Men, whose bones and 2,000-year-old clothes were discovered at the opening of the shrine in 1864. In the Sacrament Chapel is the Mailander Madonna, dating from around 1290, a wooden sculpture depicting the Blessed Virgin Mary and the infant Jesus. The altar of the patron saints of Cologne with an altar piece by the International Gothic painter, Stephan Lochner is in the Marienkapelle. Other works of art are to be found in the Cathedral Treasury. Embedded in the interior wall are a pair of tablets on which are carved the provisions worked out by Archbishop Englebert II (1262-67) under which Jews were permitted to reside in Cologne.

The cathedral has eleven church bells, four of which are medieval. The first was the 3.8-ton Dreikonigenglocke Bell of the Three Kings, cast in 1418, installed in 1437, and recast in 1880. Two of the other bells, the Pretiosa 10.5 tons at that time the largest bell in the Occident and the Speciosa which is 5.6 tons were installed in 1448 and remain in place today. During the 19th century, as the building neared completion, there was a desire to extend the number of bells. This was facilitated by Kaiser Wilhelm I who gave French bronze cannon, captured in 1870-71, for this purpose. The 22 pieces of artillery were displayed outside the Cathedral on the 11th of May 1872. The Central Cathedral Association agreed to take over the costs, did not want this bell either. Another attempt took place on the 3rd of October 1874. The colossal bell was shipped to Cologne and on the 13th of May 1875, installed in the Cathedral. This Kaiserglocke was eventually dismantled in 1918 to support the German war effort. The 24-ton St. Petersglocke Bell of St. Peter, Dicke Pitter in the Kolsch dialect, was cast in 1922 and is the largest free-swinging bell in the world.

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