AmaWaterways: Exploring the Cologne Cathedral
Exploring the Cologne Cathedral with AmaWaterways River Cruises
Note: click all photos for larger views. © 2017, David A. Porter
We left Amsterdam at 9:00 in the morning on April 2nd and I snagged this photograph with my iPhone a full 24 hours later as we pulled into Cologne, Germany. As you can see, it was a foggy morning, and the Cologne Cathedral eerily dominated the city as we moored at the dock.
While some of my fellow passengers commented, “great, another cathedral,” I was excited to explore this most visited landmark in all of Germany. While I felt conflicted knowing that these great edifices were largely built on the back of peasants’ indulgences to get their family members out of purgatory, I nonetheless marveled at the fact that this architectural masterpiece began construction in 1258 and wasn’t completed until 1880.
The Cologne Cathedral is a masterpiece of Gothic architecture and was added as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996. The medieval designers of this grand structure created this cathedral to house the Reliquary of the Three Kings, which I talk about in this article.
Here is a brief synopsis of the Cologne Cathedral from the folks at UNESCO:
“Begun in 1248, the building of this Gothic masterpiece took place in several stages and was not completed until 1880. Over seven centuries, its successive builders were inspired by the same faith and by a spirit of absolute fidelity to the original plans. Apart from its exceptional intrinsic value and the artistic masterpieces it contains, Cologne Cathedral bears witness to the strength and endurance of European Christianity. No other Cathedral is so perfectly conceived, so uniformly and uncompromisingly executed in all its parts.
Cologne Cathedral is a High Gothic five-aisled basilica (144.5 m long), with a projecting transept (86.25 m wide) and a tower façade (157.22 m high). The nave is 43.58 m high and the side-aisles 19.80 m. The western section, nave, and transept were begun in 1330, changes in style, but this is not perceptible in the overall building. The 19th-century work follows the medieval forms and techniques faithfully, as can be seen by comparing it with the original medieval plan on parchment.
The original liturgical appointments of the choir are still extant to a considerable degree. These include the high altar with an enormous monolithic slab of black limestone, believed to be the largest in any Christian church, the carved oak choir stalls (1308-11), the painted choir screens (1332-40), the fourteen statues on the pillars in the choir (c. 1300), and the great cycle of stained-glass windows, the largest existent cycle of early 14th century windows in Europe. There is also an outstanding series of tombs of twelve archbishops between 976 and 1612.
Of the many works of art in the Cathedral, special mention should be made to the Gero Crucifix of the late 10th century, in the Chapel of the Holy Cross, which was transferred from the pre-Romanesque predecessor of the present Cathedral, and the Shrine of the Magi (1180-1225), in the choir, which is the largest reliquary shrine in Europe. Other artistic masterpieces are the altarpiece of St. Clare (c. 1350-1400) in the north aisle, brought here in 1811 from the destroyed cloister church of the Franciscan nuns, the altarpiece of the City Patrons by Stephan Lochner (c. 1445) in the Chapel of Our Lady, and the altarpiece of St. Agilolphus (c. 1520) in the south transept.”
After strolling the streets of Cologne with our AmaWaterways guide for roughly 30 minutes, we approached the cathedral, and I was able to snag another photograph with my iPhone. While my iPhone can’t compete with my Sony A7 mirrorless camera, I still stand amazed at the photographs I am now able to produce with my phone.
And here is another photograph I captured inside the cathedral with my iPhone.
If you’d like to learn more about the Cologne Cathedral, click here to visit its Wikipedia page. There, you will learn that after this cathedral was finished, it became the world’s tallest building and structure. But enough from me, go read about it. 🙂
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