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Cologne Cathedral (Koelner Dom)

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Cologne Cathedral (Koelner Dom)

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Date Posted:August 7th, 2005
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Description: From Wikipedia: Cologne Cathedral (German: Kölner Dom) is one of the most well-known architectural monuments in Germany and has been Cologne's most famous landmark for centuries. The cathedral is under the administration of the Roman Catholic Church and is the seat of the Archbishop of Cologne. From 1880, when its spires were completed, until 1884 it was the World's tallest structure, losing its title at the completion of the Washington Monument in Washington DC. Cologne Cathedral remains the tallest Gothic structure in the world.

Construction of the gothic church began in the 13th century and took, with interruptions, more than 600 years to complete. The two towers are 157m tall, the cathedral is 144m long and 86m wide. The cathedral is dedicated to Saints Peter and Mary.

It was built on the site of a 4th century Roman temple, a square edifice known as the 'oldest cathedral' and commissioned by Maternus, the first Christian bishop of Cologne. A second church built on the site, the so-called "Old Cathedral", was completed in 818. This burned down on April 30, 1248.

The present cathedral was built to house the relics of the Magi, taken from Milan (Italy) by Holy Roman Emperor Fredrick Barbarossa and given to the Archbishop of Cologne, Rainald of Dassel in 1164. The foundation stone was laid on August 15, 1248, by Archbishop Konrad von Hochstaden. The choir was consecrated in 1322. After this initial rapid progress, construction work gradually came to a standstill, and by the year 1560, only a torso had been built. It was only with 19th century romantic enthusiasm for the Middle Ages and the commitment of the Prussian Court that construction work resumed in 1824 with the addition of the towers and other substantial parts of the cathedral, mostly according to surviving medieval plans and drawings. The completion of Germany's largest cathedral was celebrated as a national event in 1880, 632 years after construction had began. The celebration was attended by Emperor Wilhelm I.
In the end, the outer appearance remained faithful to the original medieval plans; however, the roof was a modern steel construction. At its completion, the Cologne cathedral was the World's Tallest Building, having taken over from the minster of Strasbourg. In 1884, it lost the title to the Washington Monument. It features the largest church facade in the world.

Some repair and maintainance work is almost constantly being carried out in some section of the building, which is almost never completely free of scaffolding, since wind, rain, and pollution slowly eat away at the stones. The Dombauhütte, which does the repairs, is said to employ the best stonemasons of the Rhineland.

The most celebrated work of art in the cathedral is the Sarcophagus of the Magi, a large gilded sarcophagus dating from the 13th century, and the largest reliquary in the western world. It is thought to hold the remains of the Three Wise Men, which bones and 2000 years old clothes were discovered at the opening of the shrine in 1864.

The Gero Cross (Gero-Kreuz) (around 970), near the sacristy, is the oldest large cross north of the Alps. In the Sacrament Chapel, the "Milan Madonna" (Mailänder Madonna), dating from around 1290, is a wooden sculpture depicting Mary and the child Jesus. In St. Mary's Chapel (Marienkapelle) is the altar of the patron saints of Cologne with an altar piece by Stephan Lochner. Other outstanding works of art are to be found in the cathedral treasure chamber.

The cathedral suffered 14 hits by World War II aerial bombs but luckily didn't collapse; reconstruction was completed in 1956. In the northwest tower's base, an emergency repair carried out with bad-quality brickstones taken from a nearby war ruin remained visible until the late 1990s as a reminder of the War, but then it was decided to reconstruct this section according to the original appearance. It is possible to climb a spiral staircase to a viewing platform about 98 metres above the ground.

In 1996, the cathedral was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List of culturally important sites. However, in 2004 it was placed on the "World Heritage in Danger" list.

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