By Kelly Wise Valdes
The Cologne Cathedral soars above the skyline of Cologne, Germany. One of Germany’s most famous landmarks, this gothic-style cathedral was a 600-year work in progress, beginning in 1248 and completed in 1880.
The final result is a glorious structure whose arches reach more than 140 ft. high and whose dramatic pointed towers rise more than 50 stories, and remains the city’s most notable symbol. Many sojourners climb all 533 steps to reach the platform overlooking the distant mountains.
The Cologne is also one of the most beautiful examples of Gothic and Neo-Gothic architecture. At its completion, the cathedral was the world’s tallest building. In 1884, it lost the title to the Washington Monument, but it still holds claim to the largest church façade in the world.
The cathedral’s main treasure is a golden shrine containing three golden-crowned skulls believed to belong to the Three Magi, of Christmas story fame. Visitors are also drawn to the cathedral’s statue of the Virgin Mary, a miracle-working Jeweled Madonna. Only the heads of the Virgin and Child can be seen while the remainder of the statue is dressed in a gown of white silk pinned with jewels. These relics and other treasures have made Cologne Cathedral a major pilgrimage destination for centuries.
The Cologne Cathedral can be viewed from anywhere in the city and the cathedral’s famous twin towers stand out boldly as the symbol of Cologne’s proud history. The outside of the cathedral is dark while the inside is breathtaking.
The Cathedral draws about six million visitors annually and is open all year round. Guided tours in English cost $7.65 for adults and $5.50 for children and students. For more information about the Cologne Cathedral, visit www.cologne-tourism.com.