Shrine of the Three Kings in Cologne, Germany
Visiting the Shrine of the Three Kings in the Cologne Cathedral in Germany with AmaWaterways
Note: click photographs for much larger views. ©2017, David A. Porter
While sailing the River Rhine with AmaWaterways, our first stop after departing Amsterdam was Cologne, Germany. And the highlight of any Cologne city tour is the famous Cologne Cathedral which draws more visitors each year than anywhere in all of Germany.
I’ll swing back around in a future article to talk about the Cologne Cathedral, but it’s interesting to know that the entire cathedral was built to house the Shrine of the Three Kings (pictured right) which is found at the altar at the end of this long nave.
If you spend any time visiting Europe’s Roman Catholic cathedrals, you’re going to find that a great many of them contain relics.
According to the Reliquarian website, “Almost since the dawn of Christianity, the physical remains of holy places, holy persons, and objects with which holy persons came into contact were believed to possess divine power. Known as relics, these objects were trusted to protect, heal, and perform all manner of miracles on behalf of those who believed in them.”
While I’m not persuaded, like some of my Roman Catholic friends and family, that these objects possess special powers, I do find it interesting that every major cathedral in Europe found it important to be in possession of an important relic. Here’s more from the folks at Reliquarian on the Shrine of the Three Kings:
“… Many years later, “a little before the feast of Christmas, there appeared a wonderful Star above the cities where these three kings dwelt, and they knew thereby that their time was come when they should pass from earth.” Together, they agreed to build “a fair and large tomb” at the Hill of Vaws, “and there the three Holy Kings, Melchior, Balthazar, and Jasper died, and were buried in the same tomb by their sorrowing people.” As Mark Rose observed in an article for Archeology, “If we were to assume that this actually happened, that all three died at the same place at the same time, it might have been in the mid-first century (since the kings were adults already in Bethlehem).”
Two centuries later, the Historia explains that Saint Helena, the mother of the Emperor Constantine, journeyed to Ind and recovered the bodies of the three kings from their tomb on the Hill of Vaws. She put them into a single chest ornamented with great riches and brought the relics to Constantinople and the church of Saint Sophia, also known as the Hagia Sophia. In the late sixth century, under the Emperor Mauricius, the relics were translated to Italy, where “they were laid in a fair church in the city of Milan.”
The relics of the three kings remained in Milan until the twelfth century when the city of Milan rebelled against the Holy Roman Emperor, Frederick I, also known as Frederick Barbarossa. In need of assistance against the Milanese, the emperor appealed to Rainald von Dassel, Archbishop of Cologne, who recaptured Milan and delivered the city to the emperor. In gratitude, and “at the Archbishop’s great entreaty,” the emperor transferred the relics to the Archbishop in 1164. The Archbishop, “with great solemnity and in procession,” carried the bodies of the three kings from Milan to Cologne, where they were placed in the church of Saint Peter. “And all the people of the country roundabout, with all the reverence they might, received these relics, and there in the city of Cologne they are kept and beholden of all manner of nations unto this day.” The Historia concludes, “Thus endeth the legend of these three blessed kings—Melchior, Balthazar, and Jasper.”
To see many more images of the Shrine of Three Kings on Google, click here.
Construction began on the Cologne Cathedral in 1248 and it would take over 7 centuries before the structure was completed in 1880.
As I mentioned above, I’ll circle back around to talk about the Cologne Cathedral in another post, but I thought you might be interested to know why this very famous Gothic cathedral was built in the first place. You may also be interested to know that the Cologne Cathedral is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is an absolute must when visiting Cologne, Germany.
To learn more about visiting Cologne, Germany with AmaWaterways, CLICK HERE.
And of course, to learn more about our personal experience sailing with AmaWaterways, or for booking information, please call Roaming Boomers Travel Services at (480) 550-1235, or use our convenient online information request (click here) and we’ll reach out to you.
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Excellent! However, I cannot find the answer to one question: Was the shrine damaged in World
War II? Was it hidden in a safe place throughout the war? If so, where?
I’m afraid you got me on that one. Maybe hop over to the cathedral’s Facebook page and post the question to them. I bet you’ll get your answer. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by.