Cologne & its Cathedral

June 17, 2012 at 12:33 pm 1 comment

Cologne – an out of Rotary District Visit…and what a visit it was! Whoever planned this visit (and the one to Aachen, and the Rhine tour, and…) surely had me in mind! It was as if these excursions had been planned for me and my interests alone (thanks!! and sorry Team! but I, once again, was in my element!)

Cologne Cathedral is built upon a area sacred to Christians since Roman times.  The Cathedral, is imposing in size and significance for the region now and in by-gone times.  Charles the Great was primarily responsible for ensuring that Cologne and its cathedral established. He negotiated (I am using that term loosely) with leaders in Jeruselem to obtain important relics for the cathedral so that it would be a draw for pilgrims—with pilgrims comes trade and commerce, all necessary for a township to thrive. The relics of the 3 Magi were brought into Cologne Cathedral and it promptly became one of the top four most important pilgrimage sites of its time. So many pilgrims arrived that the Archbishop decided a bigger more spectacular cathedral was necessary to venerate God and the relics.

At this time, Hugo St. Victor was developing a spiritual theoretical construct needed to help the people believe in things they cannot see or experience and many were having difficulty accepting the concept of God. God as light emerged as a metaphor that would help bridge between what could not be seen but was real. As with light, that can only be seen through reflection, God too could only be seen through reflection through the good works of others and through smiles offered to strangers. Religious leaders of the time needed a way to link between the earthly reality and the heavenly world of God—a church that would present God as light in a very concrete way for the believers. The Gothic style emerged. Cologne Cathedral, like other cathedrals built in this style, were magnificently huge with its arches overhead supported by massive columns that rose so high as if to link earth with the heaven above. There are no interior walls to block the light, the Light of God, and the external walls did not exceed 4 meters in height and were crowned with splendid stained glass works of art depicting biblical stories and religious symbolism, alive with vivid colour that seems to shimmer with light.

The outside façade contains a myriad of intricately sculpted statues and decorative structures reaching heavenward.  The interior is adorned with statues, paintings, mosaics lining the floor, an imposing, intricately decorated pulpit, and the amazing shrine of the 3 Magi in a place of prominence behind the alter. The shrine, with its golden cover, is a work of art. Scenes, all hammered and shaped out of very thin gold sheeting, depict scenes relating to the 3 Magi, Christ, and all those who view can only be awed by its splendor. I can understand why pilgrims came away from Cologne renewed in their faith as surely anything as beautiful as the cathedral and its golden treasures had to come from God! The cathedral is also home to a large crucifix that was created in 970—this is a very unique depiction as it shows Christ as he would have looked like upon being crucified—no crown of thorns, no signs of torture, his stomach distended, lifeless, and very dead looking. Later crucifixes, ones we see in many churches, show a Christ who has suffered—he has wounds, he

The size and scope of the cathedral is beyond imagination especially when considering when it was first conceptualized and built—construction began in 1248 and it was completed 632 years later! If not for the Reformation, which interfered with the number of faithful who went on pilgrimage, the cathedral would have been completed much earlier. With the advent of the 18th century and the resurgence of all things old, the cathedral was completed utilizing the original gothic plan and just like that, the neogothic era was born! Thank goodness, otherwise we would have this fantastic structure to behold!

Cologne is more than its cathedral. There are dozens of other churches, many Romanesque, and I did my best to photograph and enter as many as I could find while traipsing around the city with Thomas Berger acting as my shadow and interpreter (the rest of the GSE team decided to climb the 533 steps to the top of the cathedral—I declined that opportunity in favour of walking the city, using a few hundred more steps to be sure!)

When the team re-united, we took a jaunt down to the Rhine where we saw a replica arch and were tempted to explore the chocolate museum, but we opted instead to locate a local pub reputed to house hundreds of political photographs of events and peoples representative of modern German history (post WWII). The Staendige Vertretung, located in the Hotel St. Martins, right on the Rhine, was a shrine to modern German history—and it had great food, Koelsch beer (not to be confused with alt beer served in Duesseldorf!), and history lining its walls.

It was a great day (thanks Thomas!) I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Cologne (unfortunately it was too short!) and I can hardly wait to return!


Once I caught a glimpse of the cathedral, it was picture time!

Me again–at the side of the Cathedral!

Just one example of the medieval stained glass gracing Cologne Cathedral.

Making new friends at Cologne Cathedral.


Entry filed under: Team Blog.

Dusseldorf and final thoughts Dusseldorf Experiences!

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. billrobson1  |  June 17, 2012 at 12:50 pm

    Not excited at all were you Marie! It is simply wonderful that this TRF program enables such amazing visits. I am still a little jealous that I wasn’t with you but your adventure makes mine to New Zealand next year all that much more tantalizing. Thank you all for such wonderful blogs.


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