The Cologne Cathedral was the fourth cathedral we visited on our seven-day trip down the Rhine River. It was for a time the tallest building in the world and still is the largest Gothic church in northern Europe. It also can still boast of possessing the largest facade of all the churches in the world. It is now only the second tallest church in Germany — The Ulm Munster built in 1888 is a few feet higher.
The building of the cathedral began in 1248 but all work came to a halt by 1534. For three hundred years a monstrous crane sat atop the unfinished south tower. Then work began again in 1848 according to the original medieval plans and the cathedral was finally completed in 1880.
Most of central Cologne was destroyed by Allied bombers during World War II and the cathedral was hit seventy times and severely damaged. But it never collapsed and a complete reconstruction took place after the war, finishing in 1956. In 1996 the cathedral was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site and today it is the most popular tourist attraction in Germany with an average of 20,000 visitors a day. I’m glad I was one of those visitors on May 18, 2012.
Tomorrow I will post some photos of the cathedral’s exterior.