After a day of relative relaxation in Dortmund, we used up one of our EuroRail days to visit Köln (Cologne) on our way to Bacharach.
Köln hosts one of the most remarkable cathedrals in all of Europe, one I read about frequently in high school in AP Art History. One of most amazing things about the cathedral is that it always seems to be a work in progress. I started in 1248 and was “finished” in 1322, with it only partially built after funds dried up (inland ports like Koln saw a reduced amount of trade with the discovery of the Americas). The finished portion was walled up and Koln Cathedral functioned as a church for three hundred years.
It wasn’t until the 1800s that the rest of the church was completed, a task that took only 38 years. I won’t much more into the history of the church, as its well documented elsewhere, so here is what’s inside.
Köln Cathedral is free to the public.
This is located in the oldest part of the church and has the oldest monumental crucifix north of the Alps. It was carved in 976 and the most notable feature is that it was 300 years ahead of its time in the treatment of the crucifixion. Jesus’ eyes are closed. Rick Steves’ considers this one of the three big pilgrim stops in the cathedral (the Shrine and Madonna of Milan are the other two, to be described momentarily).
Shrine of the Magi
The Shrine of the Magi, pictured above, is a seven foot long relic of gilded silver, jewels, and enamel. The bottom row shows prophets from the Old Testament. The top row shows the twelve apostles of the New Testament.
What’s inside? The three skulls of the Magi, adorned with golden crowns. The three magi were the first to recognize Jesus as the savior and visit as pilgrims to worship him.
Madonna of Milan
The final big pilgrim stop in Koln Cathedral is the Madonna of Milan. Unfortunately for us, we saw The Patron Saints of Koln, by Stefan Lochner in 1442, in the Chapel of the Virgin and mistakenly believed we were looking at the “Madonna of Milan,” not realizing it was a sculpture.
Regardless, the painting is magnificent. It’s said that it is so detailed that you can identify the herbs in the foreground… something we didn’t try to do, but believe would be possible. 🙂
Church Spire Climb
The only part of Koln Cathedral that you need to pay for is the climb up the Church Spire. For a euro a piece (student prices), we had the opportunity to climb up 509 steps to the very tip top of on eof the church spires.
Four fifths of the way up is the Glockenstube (400 steps), you can see the church’s nine huge bells, one of which is pictured above.
Just as you entire what you think is the church spire, you’ll see some scaffolding you can climb to get even higher. We thought we reached the top when we learned we had about 60-70 steps to go! Isn’t that cruel? (check out these pigeons taking a break to the left)
At the very top, the view is pretty amazing. I wouldn’t say its breathtaking but you certainly learn to appreciate the hard work it must have taken to build this cathedral so many years ago. Even now, seeing some parts having been powerwashed, it’s harrowing to think what it’s like to work up htere.
Check out this ladder that takes you all the way to the tippy-top!
If you’re in the area, Koln Catherdral, in its Gothic “grandeur,” is worth stopping at.