Take a trip to Cologne Cathedral, Germany's most visited landmark. Over six million people flock to this magnificent place of worship every year. Be amazed by the immense size of what was once the tallest building in the world. The total area of the Cathedral measures almost 8000 square metres and has room for more than 20,000 people. Boasting the world's largest church facade, the building can be seen from nearly everywhere in the city center and from many places surrounding it, dominating the skyline and making it a symbol for Cologne.
A long history
The first foundation stone for the Gothic cathedral we see today was laid in August 1248. But a lack of money and interest in the project meant that construction would not be completed until 1880, a full 632 years later. From 1880 to 1884, the Cathedral was the tallest building in the world, until it was beaten by the Washington Monument and then the Eiffel Tower. The Cathedral was hit by 14 aerial bombs and more than 70 firebombs hit over the course of World War II, yet miraculously remained standing in an otherwise flattened city. Repairs were completed in 1956. Over 80 stonemasons, glaziers, roofers and other specialists are at work on the maintenance and restoration of the Cathedral building at all times.
Take your time to explore the intricate features of this cathedral's interiors. Admire the modern bronze altar by Elmar Hillebrand, constructed in 1960, behind which lies the high chancel with the largest choir stalls in Germany. The chancel paintings were added in around 1340. Don't miss the incredible craftsmanship of the golden Shrine of the Three Kings, the relics of Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar - the city patrons of Cologne - rest here. The oldest window in the Cathedral, dating back to around 1260, can still be found in its original position in the Axis Chapel. It shows related scenes from the New and Old Testaments in two parallel rows.
The jewel of Cologne
The Cathedral treasury, housed in the Medieval sacristan crypt, has a collection of church treasures dating as far back as the 4th century. The treasury works of art are made of gold, silver, bronze and ivory, and include holy relics, liturgical items, textiles, insignias of Archbishops, sculptures from the Middle Ages and Franconian grave finds. Climb the 533 steps up to the platform of the South Tower that offers an impressive view from a height of 100m. On the way up you'll see St. Peter's Bell, the largest freely swinging church bell in the world. Seeing Cologne from this high vantage point is the perfect place to end your tour of this spectacular construction.