From the World Heritage inscription:
Cologne Cathedral, constructed over more than six centuries, has an exceptional intrinsic value and contains artistic masterpieces. It is a powerful testimony to the strength and persistence of Christian belief in medieval and modern Europe.
Christians met for worship in a private house in Roman Cologne near the city wall. Following the Edict of Milan in 313, when Constantine proclaimed religious freedom, this building was enlarged as a church. Alongside it were an atrium, a baptistry and a dwelling-house, possibly for the bishop. This modest ensemble was extended and enlarged in the following centuries. This immense building, known by the 13th century as ‘the mother and master of all churches in Germany’, was consecrated in September 70.
Post-Second World War excavations, as well as contemporary documents, provide evidence of its form and decoration – a basilica, with a central nave flanked by two aisles and a large atrium in front of its western facade. A two-storeyed Chapel of the Palatinate, in the style of Charlemagne’s chapel in Aachen, was added to the south transept at the beginning of the 11th century, and later that century it was connected by two lofty arcades at the east end with the Collegiate Church of St Mary ad Gradus.
The Cologne Cathedral is one of the most iconic symbols in all of Germany and certainly the most well known important religious building in the country. It towers above the city of Cologne as one of the largest and most important gothic cathedrals ever built.
The moment you walk out of the Cologne Central Train Station you are immediately struck by the enormity of the cathedral staring at you. The fact that it is on a hill and the train station is situated below it only adds to the effect.
Thankfully, the cathedral escaped any serious damage in WWII. It has been in a state of almost constant renovation ever since.
The cathedral was originally built as a resting place for the remains of the three wise men who were stolen from the cathedral in Milan. Today, the city flag of Cologne has three crowns on it, representing the three wise men. The reliquary of their bones in the the back of the church behind the altar.
This was the fourth stop in my November 2011 Eurail trip of UNESCO sites in Europe.
View my complete list of UNESCO World Heritage sites.