Cologne Cathedral is a Catholic cathedral in Cologne, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. It is the seat of the Archbishop of Cologne and of the administration of the Archdiocese of Cologne. It is a renowned monument of German Catholicism and Gothic architecture and was declared a World Heritage Site in 1996. It is Germany’s most visited landmark, attracting an average of 20,000 people a day. At 157 m (515 ft), the cathedral is currently the tallest twin-spired church in the world, the second tallest church in Europe after Ulm Minster, and the third tallest church in the world. It is the largest Gothic church in Northern Europe and has the second-tallest spires. The towers for its two huge spires give the cathedral the largest façade of any church in the world. The choir has the largest height to width ratio, 3.6:1, of any medieval church.
The Cologne Cathedral is a Roman Catholic church in Cologne under the patronage of the Apostle Peter. It is the cathedral of the Archdiocese of Cologne and Metropolitan ‘s Church of the Church Province of Cologne. The Cologne Cathedral is one of the largest cathedrals in the Gothic style. Its construction began in 1248 and was not completed until 1880. Some art historians have called the cathedral the “perfect cathedral” because of its uniform and balanced design.
Originally planned as a representative cathedral of the Archbishops of Cologne and a monumental reliquary for the bones of the Three Kings, the cathedral was a national symbol for Germany when it was completed in the 19th century. After the end of the Second World War, the apparently intact cathedral in the middle of the bombed-out city was understood as a “miracle” and an emotional symbol for the will to live.
The design of Cologne Cathedral was based quite closely on that of Amiens Cathedral in terms of ground plan, style and the width to height proportion of the central nave. The plan is in the shape of a Latin Cross, as is usual with Gothic cathedrals. It has two aisles on either side, which help to support one of the very highest Gothic vaults in the world, being nearly as tall as that of the Beauvais Cathedral, much of which collapsed. Externally the outward thrust of the vault is taken by flying buttresses in the French manner. The eastern end has a single ambulatory, the second aisle resolving into a chevet of seven radiating chapels.
Internally, the medieval choir is more varied and less mechanical in its details than the 19th-century building. It presents a French style arrangement of very tall arcade, a delicate narrow triforium gallery lit by windows and with detailed tracery merging with that of the windows above. The clerestory windows are tall and retain some old figurative glass in the lower sections. The whole is united by the tall shafts that sweep unbroken from the floor to their capitals at the spring of the vault. The vault is of plain quadripartite arrangement.
The choir retains a great many of its original fittings, including the carved stalls, which is made the more surprising by the fact that French Revolutionary troops had desecrated the building. A large stone statue of St Christopher looks down towards the place where the earlier entrance to the cathedral was, before its completion in the late 19th century.
The nave has many 19th century stained glass windows. A set of five on the south side, called the Bayernfenster, were a gift from Ludwig I of Bavaria, and strongly represent the painterly German style of that date.
Externally, particularly from a distance, the building is dominated by its huge spires, which are entirely Germanic in character, being openwork like those of Ulm, Vienna, Strasbourg and Regensburg Cathedrals.
Choice of Gothic form
Cologne Cathedral is a Gothic building. The choice of the Gothic architectural style in 1248 was a radical break with the late Romanesque building tradition that had been common in the Rhineland until then. It was also unprecedented that the planners in Cologne oriented themselves both in terms of the construction system and in individual forms to a specific building – namely the Amiens Cathedral. Finally, the Gothic cathedral also radically departed from the liturgical orientation of the old cathedral. This was built with two choirs and had the high altar with the Petrus patronium in the west choir and a liturgically subordinate Marian altar in the east choir.
The Gothic new building, on the other hand, is in the tradition of the form common in France with only one choir in the east, in which the new main altar with Marian patronage has now been built in Cologne, which in 1322 also received functions that were previously reserved for the Petrus altar. The Shrine of the Three Kings was to be set up in the crossing so that the cathedral chapter could sit in the inner choir between the shrine and Mary’s altar. With this concept, the canons could symbolically be part of the epiphanicHappened between the three wise men present as relics and the Mother of God represented in the high altar.
The new design was probably chosen because the Gothic architecture allowed a leap in scale that raised the cathedral significantly above all existing Romanesque churches in Cologne. The crossing tower of Groß St. Martin dominated the cityscape at the end of the “great century of Cologne church architecture” together with other Romanesque churches and was also a symbol of the patrician self-government of the trading city. In contrast, the height development of the Gothic architecture enabled a new urban dominance of the cathedral, whereby both the cathedral chapter and above all the power-conscious Archbishop Konrad von Hochstadenwanted to reinforce their primacy. Due to its size and shape, the cathedral found itself in a position that degraded all other saints and institutes in the city.
Building trade and planning
In terms of building craftsmanship, the choir building in Cologne differs significantly from the French cathedrals. Their construction huts tried to assemble the rising walls and pillars from the largest possible blocks and to chisel the shapes into the block. They did that even when horizontal profiles met vertical profiles. In France they were made from one stone. It was customary there for the slim servicesto work together with the pillar behind it from a stone. The Cologne Bauhütte, on the other hand, continued its late Romanesque building practice.
For walls and pillars, wall shells were made of stone and filled with fragments. Profiles were manufactured individually so that they abut with a narrow joint. The slim services were chiseled in Cologne as individual workpieces and placed in front of the pillar. From this it was deduced that the Cologne cathedral builder Gerhard had visited the cathedrals in France, but never worked in a French building works himself, or even entered them. It is possible that Gerhard belonged to a new generation of builders who worked purely intellectually and only drew plans.
Cathedral plans of the Middle Ages
The Cologne Cathedral shows a very high degree of uniformity in the architectural style of all components. In this it differs very clearly from almost all other major projects in medieval church building. For a long time it was deduced from this fact that the cathedral builder Gerhard must have submitted a binding overall plan for the cathedral that had been followed for generations. This “Gothic master plan” contained both the five-nave nave and the two large towers on the west facade. This view has been rejected in recent research as hypothetical and on the whole unlikely.
All large churches in the Middle Ages were planned and built in individual construction phases. When construction began in the east, only the choir was planned and completed; New series of plans were then created for the nave and west facades. The first Cologne plan therefore probably only included the choir, which was built until 1322. Presumably, the first further planning ideas only provided for a three-aisled nave with comparatively slender towers over the aisle yokes, like those in French cathedrals. The five-aisled nave was probably planned around 1320 by the brothers Johannes and Rutger.
This new spatial concept was then used by more recent church buildings (such as the 1352 newly projected Antwerp Cathedral). The first plans for the west facade (with five portals) of the cathedral master builder Bartholomäus von Hamm matured around 1350 when the foundations of the south tower were laid. 1370 Drew Michael of Savoy, the west facade, as it stands today, the traditional facade crack F. Because of this extensive facade construction, the already completed foundations had to be padded again in order to establish the new dimension of the buttresses. The facade plan itself is now considered “undisputedly the largest, most beautiful and most important architectural drawing of the Middle Ages.”
The perfect Cathedral
The architecture of Cologne Cathedral follows the tradition of the Gothic cathedrals of France, which leads from Chartres via Reims and Amiens to Beauvais and Cologne. However, the Cologne Cathedral Choir shows an “unmistakable, almost classical purity”, which clearly sets it apart from the models. The builder achieved this impression by consistently striving for a uniform formal order, which was based on a detailed, obviously geometrically and mathematically calculated planning.
As in Amiens, the Cologne builder decided on a construction plan with seven wreath chapelsdecided. In France, however, the floor plan is designed in seven segments of an approximate 13-corner. In Cologne, on the other hand, the master builder used a regular 12-sided plan as a basis. To do this, he created two triangular grids that are rotated 30 degrees against each other. With such a grid, all harmoniously related lines in the choir can be defined. The chapels are also created from a uniform system based on equilateral triangles. As a result, the builder succeeded in creating a visually harmonious design of all other components, pillars and arches. Nevertheless, he did not act dogmatically: for example, he indented the polygon pillars and also gave them an egg-shaped instead of a round profile in order to achieve a uniform impression for the viewer.
In Cologne, the master builder succeeded for the first time in using only one type of pillar for the entire church. The pillars in the central nave, the pillars between the side aisles and the wall pillars are all designed as round pillars with services in front of them (cantonal pillars). Also the bundle pillarsthe crossing hardly differ from the normal pillars. The services should optically guide the lines of force from the ribbed vaults down to the floor. In Cologne it was possible for the first time, uniformly for the central nave and the side aisles, to plan suitable services for all girders and ribs, which stand around the pillars of eight or twelve (and in the crossing of 16). The services in the central nave are led more than 40 meters to the base plate without any visual interruption. The capitals have a uniform height on all pillars. This created a uniform spatial impression that strived upwards in Cologne. “In none of the other great cathedrals had this succeeded before and it remained unmatched in later buildings.”
In Cologne, a wall and glass surface spanned between the pillars, the uniform design of which also emphasizes the vertical. All Gothic cathedrals divide the side surface into two levels: the lower, the so-called triforium, is a walkway that is separated from the church interior by tracery. Above are the high windows of the upper storey. The Cologne builder found a uniform structure for both elements in four lanes, with the four windows in the upper aisle standing vertically above the four tracery windows of the triforium and thus visually becoming a single, rising surface. The window bars are elegantly guided over both elements, so that they emphasize the full height of the triforium and upper aisle.
The middle rods are led continuously from the upper aisle to the base of the triforium. The two sides seem to disappear into the windowsill of the upper aisle and reappear below in the triforium. In addition, the reliefs of the tracery are kept particularly flat. Overall, this creates the impression that “the window and triforium are stretched tightly like a membrane” between the pillars. Due to the height of the windows, Cologne also has the largest window area in relation to the length of the church compared to all the large Gothic cathedrals.
All Gothic builders strove to build a choir closure that was as gentle as possible. The transition from the long choir to the round choir should not disturb the uniform room structure. However, this meant a major challenge because the vault sections (yokes) in the long choir are almost twice as long as those in the rounded choir. The Cologne builder found a design for this, the floor plan of which apparently takes the form of a parabola. The first yoke of the round choir tilts only a little. The upper facade windows and the tracery of the triforium are so cleverly designed that the boundaries between the parts of the room are obscured and one can no longer optically decide where the long choir ends and where the round choir begins.
Cathedral builder Arnold Wolff judged that the medieval builders tried to achieve a perfect ideal when building Cologne Cathedral. Therefore, the cathedral is the absolute highlight of the cathedral construction and at the same time its end point, because the cathedral has no longer found an adequate successor. “An attempt to increase what had been achieved in Cologne was never dared again.”
Today the cathedral is considered to be a statically solid building. When the high choir was being built, the builders had to fully trust their experience, because there were no static calculations. The basic concept of the Cologne high choir with largely dissolved wall surfaces and a windowed triforium largely followed the static concept of the Amiens cathedral.
The diameter of the chapel wreath, the proportion of the central nave cross-section, the yoke widths and the proportion of the arcade openings are approximately the same. The changes in detail show the Cologne claim to surpass the French model. The central nave in Cologne is around one meter higher. More important, however, are the changes in the wall design, which further enlarge the upper aisle in relation to the triforium. The master builders in Cologne halved the wall tape between the triforium and the upper thread window to 120 centimeters. The ratio of the window areas to the length of the church is 43.8 in Cologne and only 39.0 in the Amiens choir. At the same time, the pillars in Cologne are getting leaner.
The high-rise Cologne glass house receives stability from the buttress, which, following Gothic building practice, is supposed to absorb the thrust of the vault from the outside. The architecture “only appears as a filigree stone framework.”
For the Bauhütte, which was based on empirical experience, it was a bad omen when the vaults of the cathedral of Beauvais collapsed on November 28, 1284. The construction work on the two cathedrals in Cologne and Beauvais took place at around the same time – with significantly greater static ambition in northern France. The French builders had not only planned a higher central nave (48.50 compared to 43.35 meters), but also a significantly larger yoke width.
After November 28, 1284, cathedral master builder Arnold had to answer the question of whether – in his experience – he had built solid enough to prevent a similar catastrophe for Cologne. It was a particular challenge to manage the considerable to absorb wind pressure to which the tall structures were exposed; of the accident in Beauvais it was reported that the stormy winds contributed to the collapse on the evening of the disaster. The buttress in Cologne is particularly large and the analysis of the construction progress shows that it was reinforced again in the course of the construction work – apparently in response to the news from northern France.
The Cologne buttress consists of double buttresses and two buttresses. The outer buttress rises between the radial chapels, the inner one is built with a cross-shaped plan between the two aisles. The upper of the two elegant buttress arches supports the upper aisle just below the top of the windows, the lower one at the height of the warriors. Overall, the construction is particularly massive. Cologne did not follow Bourges, Reims or Pariswhere the construction huts had tried to slim down and thin out the buttresses, but rather acted cautiously in view of the significant increase in height.
Master Arnold made an effort to loosen up the building volume by making extensive use of masonry. For the sake of stability, however, the outer pillars are constructed as longitudinally rectangular wall sections, which are also weighted down by loads, which are designed as massive pinnacles. The static significance of this load is now being called into question. The close succession of buttresses, buttresses and pinnacles, however, was undoubtedly an effective wind brake and contributed to significantly reducing the wind pressure on the upper cladding.
The construction effort for the buttress was considerable. In the 19th century it was calculated that the construction of the buttress was about as expensive as that of the nave itself. The aesthetics of the closely staggered buttresses clad with tracery were assessed very differently. Critics complained that the actual nave disappears behind the massive buttress series “as an indefinite something”. On the other hand, poetically influenced observers praised the buttress as “a sacred forest in whose shade the house of God rests”.
The post-classical high Gothic west facade
Around 1350, the cathedral master builders began planning the west facade, which Michael of Savoy finally gave the monumental shape we know today in 1370. To do this, they had to find a new layout. Because in the 14th century there was no suitable model for the facade design of a five-aisled high Gothic cathedral with two towers. The northern French cathedrals – such as the one in Reims – had a double tower facade with ideally Gothic proportions, but had three aisles. The five-aisled cathedral of Bourges(1209–1324), on the other hand, had a jagged facade because its towers only rose above the outer aisles.
When planning the cathedral, the cathedral builders therefore opted for the concept of the five-aisled Notre-Dame de Paris cathedral(Facade 1220–1250) to follow. They planned to erect the towers above both side aisles and four vaulted squares each, while also aiming for the typically Gothic, towering silhouette of the northern French cathedral. Therefore, the Cologne towers were not only about twice as wide as those in Reims, but also had to be about twice as high. In Cologne, however, this required eight times the building mass. “The funds that would have been enough for a whole cathedral of French proportions were devoured by the south tower alone, without anyone really being aware of it.”
The medieval part of the south tower was also used as a torso to become one of the largest Gothic buildings. Its enclosed space was around 40,000 cubic meters. That corresponds roughly to the size of the entire Altenberg Cathedral or the Church of Our Lady in Trier. Because of the massive columns and thick walls, a lot more rock was built into Cologne Cathedral. The façade, which is deeply staggered with tracery, was significantly larger on the torso of the south tower than the entire façade of Notre-Dame or Amiens and even than the high-rise façade of Strasbourg. This construction effort, which was necessary for the torso alone, which makes up only a fifth of the entire west facade, “is the real reason why Cologne Cathedral was not completed.”
Despite the design planning in 1370, Michael of Savoy chose high-Gothic architectural forms that were common at least 100 years earlier in the late 13th century. In the middle of the 14th century, Peter Parler had already developed the late Gothic system of forms for St. Vitus Cathedral in Prague. With his conscious recourse to a formal language that was already classical at the time, the cathedral master builder tried to give the cathedral a special historicity and thus seriousness. In doing so, he probably reacted less to the architectural practice that had prevailed in Cologne up to that point than to the highly topical architectural development during his lifetime, which followed a pronounced Gothic historicism after 1350. At the same time, his client, Archbishop Friedrich von Saar Werden, maintained a decidedly conservative conception of art and preferred – also when designing his grave monument – the then already historical formal language of classical high Gothic.
Nevertheless, the cathedral master builder succeeded in making the west facade appear as a late Gothic building. For example, he did not create flat structures, as was customary in High Gothic, but gave the facade a pronounced physicality by shaping the main pillars into its own massifs, creating the impression of extraordinary massiveness through the fial towers, and for the deep window niches by doubling them Tracery designed a fissured facade. The towers develop – flanked by mighty pinnacles – from a stable building mass, so that the octagonal spiers only slowly emerge from a stable structure.
After all, the master builder gave the tracery helmets a plasticity through the dominant supports, which the Freiburg-based company hasExample does not show. Michael von Savoyen perfectly merged the high Gothic canon of forms with the corporeal, three-dimensional construction of the early late Gothic and thus created a west facade for the Cologne Cathedral that is consistent with the high Gothic form of the choir. In this way, Master Michael also guaranteed that the overall structure of the cathedral still looks completely uniform today.
When the plan to complete the cathedral matured in the 1830s, there were different ideas about the construction. On one side there were considerations to complete the cathedral with little effort and also to use the structural possibilities of the 19th century for reasons of cost. On the other hand, there was a deep romantic conviction “to make the ideal plan a reality, to complete a climax of the Middle Ages.”
The first designs by master builder Ernst Friedrich Zwirner, developed together with Karl Friedrich Schinkel, provided for the central aisles to be erected without a cliff. A second draft from 1838 planned with the full vault height of 43.35 meters, but wanted to do without the buttress and use the tie rods that were common at the time to absorb the shear forces. According to Zwirner’s cost estimates, the buttress should be about as expensive as the completion of the nave. The transverse arms should be closed with simple facades.
In contrast, the Central Cathedral Building Association, which had been founded in the meantime, had anchored in its statutes that the cathedral should be completed “according to the original plan”. Since the Prussian King Friedrich Wilhelm IV had approved the statute, it became law. In this way, the association – intensively supported by Zwirner – was finally able to enforce the completion of the cathedral in the elaborate medieval form against the Prussian government.
Zwirner succeeded in completing the medieval planning by going back directly to the facade plan F from 1370 and isolating his designs for the transept facades – for which no medieval planning has been handed down – from it without significant modifications. He also designed the buttresses based on models from the Gothic era. Its neo-Gothic completion was achieved because the builders of the late Middle Ages used a uniform, high-Gothic architectural language that – although it did not follow a general Gothic plan – seemed committed to a homogeneous idea of the ideal cathedral. “If the cathedral had been built somehow around 1500 deviating from the plan, there would never have been any real completion.”
The west facade of the cathedral is the largest church facade ever built. It has an area of nearly 7000 square meters and was completed only in the 19th century, but follows in detail the cathedral builders of Michael of Savoy developed medieval planning, in 1370 the so-called facade crack F was recorded. For a time, the authorship of the plan was attributed to master builder Arnold († 1308) and his son and successor Johannes († 1331). Recently, however, Johann Josef Böker identified the crack as the work of the cathedral builder Michael von Savoyen, who was appointed by Archbishop Friedrich III, who came into office in 1370. from Saar Werdena representative draft has been requested.
The St. Peter’s portal is located in the south tower. It dates from 1370/80 and is the only original medieval portal of Cologne Cathedral. However, not all figures are medieval, only the first three on the door on the left and the first two on the right of the vestments. The other sculptures are from the 19th century. The figures differ significantly in color and processing quality. The five medieval figures are clearly influenced by the Parler family, to which the Cologne-based builder Michael was related.
The central portal (main portal) is 9.30 meters wide and over 28 meters high. Most of the figures were created by Peter Fuchs in the 19th century and supplemented by Erlefried Hoppe in 1955. The north portal is the three-king portal. It comes from Peter Fuchs and was created between 1872 and 1880.
The south facade was designed by master builder Ernst Friedrich Zwirner, who coordinated his plans with Karl Friedrich Schinkel, Sulpiz Boisserée and King Friedrich Wilhelm IV. It was built between 1842 and 1855 and is now considered to be one of the most important and artistically perfect works of the neo-Gothic. In the facade there is the Ursulaportal on the left, the Passion Portal in the middle and the Gereonsportal on the right.
The portal sculptures were designed by Ludwig Schwanthaler in 1847 and carved in stone by Christian Mohr from 1851 to 1869. The sculptures represent a high point of romantic- Nazarene sculpture with a religious content in Germany. Ewald Mataré renewed the portal doors in 1948. His student at the time, Joseph Beuys, helped him with this. Mataré had intended a major remodeling and simplification of the south facade with the elimination of the rich decorative forms, which was not carried out.
The construction of the north facade had already begun in the 14th century. Cathedral builder Ernst Friedrich Zwirner tried to complete this in neo-Gothic forms, which therefore show simplifications compared to the south facade. On the left is the Bonifatius portal, in the middle the Michael portal, on the right the Maternus portal.
The sculptural decoration of the north transept facade was created by the sculptor Peter Fuchs between 1878 and 1881. The overall program is thematically concerned with the founding history of Christianity. It begins with the handing over of the pastoral office to Peter. The Maternus portal specifically shows the development of the Cologne church province. Maternus is considered to be the first pupil of Peter and was the first bishop of Cologne. He transferred the “apostolic teaching office to the Cologne chair”. The saints grouped around it act as witnesses to this event.
Characteristic of the silhouette of the Cologne Cathedral is the twin-towered facade with the two pointed towering spiers. They were built when the cathedral was completed until 1880 and are therefore a work from the neo-Gothic period. However, the realization followed the medieval planning down to the last detail, which is shown in the facade plan F developed by Michael von Savoyen around 1370. Master Michael had designed an octagonal, completely openwork spire made of tracery, which is crowned by a multi-tiered finial.
Obviously he knew Erwin von Steinbach’s planned tower of the Freiburg Minster and its tracery helmet, however, developed a more massive shape for Cologne, in which the octagon only seems to develop gradually from the square of the tower. The tracery designed spire helmets were obviously inspired by goldsmithing, the comparable shapes for reliquaries or ciborieshad found. According to objective functionalist criteria, openwork tower helmets were not useful because they did not offer any protection from precipitation and the tracery originally could not take on any static tasks. Nevertheless, with these solutions, which explored the limits of what is technically possible, the architects wanted to underline that the building wants to be a “monumental reliquary” that houses the three wise men inside.
It is assumed that the planning carried out around 1370, which was very complex for the time and carried out with great precision, was not developed by the cathedral master builder alone, but with the participation of several masters. Because numerous motifs and design elements of this planning were implemented on other buildings of this time, although this part of Cologne Cathedral could not be completed in the Middle Ages. The tracery helmet in the Freiburg Minster remained the only larger tracery helmet that was erected in the 14th century. Other important tracery helmets were created by master builders trained in Cologne in the 15th century on the Strasbourg Cathedral and on theBurgos Cathedral. The other well-known spiers – such as in Ulm or Regensburg – are works of neo-Gothic.
Roof and crossing tower
The roof area of Cologne Cathedral takes up over 12,000 m². They are covered with large-format 3 mm thick lead plates which together weigh around 600 tons. The roof structure is not composed of wooden beams, but of iron girders.
Even the unfinished medieval cathedral had a roof turret on the choir, which was replaced by a baroque one in 1744. The baroque was canceled in 1812 because it was dilapidated. A new iron tower was built over the crossing from 1860 to 1861 in the style of historicism. It was covered with zinc and was decorated in a neo-Gothic style with eyelashes, fial turrets and gargoyles. The decoration was badly damaged in World War II. The exterior of the tower was built from 1965 to 1971 based on an Art Deco design by master builder Willy WeyresRedesigned: The eyelashes were replaced by eight angels designed by the cathedral sculptor Erlefried Hoppe. The angels were made of larch wood by Hubert Bruhs and clad with lead. They weigh 2.25 tons each and are 4.10 meters high. In contrast to many churches, there is no cross on the crossing tower, but a star as a reference to the Christmas legend of the three wise men.
Sculptures and building sculptures on the exterior
The numerous sculptures on the exterior, only the figures on St. Peter’s Portal were created in the Middle Ages. All others were only created when the building was continued in the 19th century. They followed the figure program designed by Sulpiz Boisserée. The over 1000 individual works are considered the largest ensemble and the most extensive cycle created in the 19th century. The most important participating artists were Ludwig Schwanthaler, Christian Mohr and Peter Fuchs. Individual statues – especially on the north portal of the west facade – were added in a modern style in the 1950s.
Sculptures of St. Peter’s Portal
The only portal completed in the Middle Ages is the St. Peter’s Portal in the south tower, which was built until 1380. It was equipped with sculptures as early as the 14th century, probably by three sculptors. At least two of them belonged to the leading master builder family of the time, which included both the cathedral master builder in Cologne, Michael von Savoyen, and the master builder of St. Vitus Cathedral, Peter Parlerposed. Of the larger-than-life figures, a total of five sculptures come from the Middle Ages: Petrus, Andreas and Jakobus the Elder. on the north side and Paul and John on the south side of the portal. They are characterized by a swinging posture and a finely crafted design of the robes, in which sharp hem edges are combined with softer folds. The saints and angels enthroned above the figures and in the archivolts also impress with their lively depiction. With their representation, the sculptors wanted to ensure that the program of figures is not perceived as a flat display wall, but as a three-dimensional space when the visitor walks through it.
Saint Catherine can be attributed to a nephew of Peter Parler’s named Heinrich, who married a daughter of the Cologne cathedral builder Michaels in 1381. His son, also baptized Michael, can be considered the master of the prophets, who cut the seated figures of prophets in stone, and who was guided by the comparatively rustic style of his father-in-law Peter Parler. “The finest sculpture, the most haunted and beautiful stone sculptures from that time” shows angels wielding bells. This figure, created by a third master, combines the Prague style with the more elegant forms of the Rhineland. Since the 1970s, the medieval figures have been shown in the cathedral treasury for conservation reasons; there are copies of the portal.
Special stone carvings
Over the years, the various Cologne cathedral masons have left their mark. In many capitals and on the two towers they created a veritable hodgepodge of German and, above all, Cologne originals. They immortalized the following people on the facade of the cathedral: Paul von Hindenburg, John F. Kennedy, Nikita Khrushchev, Charles de Gaulle, Harold Macmillan, cathedral builder Arnold Wolff and numerous other well-known people from sports, politics and Cologne.
The high choir was consecrated in 1322; it is the only part of the cathedral that could be fully completed in the Middle Ages. Today it is considered “the most architecturally splendid part of the interior.” The choir consists of the inner choir, the ambulatory with the seven choir chapels, the choir aisles and the sacrament chapel. All components show a perfection of the architectural form, which cathedral builder Arnold Wolff described as the “perfect cathedral”.
In contrast to the French models, the Cologne builder succeeded in building a smooth transition between the long choir and the round choir. Both components merge so smoothly that the flowing spatial impression is not impaired. The first vault section (yoke) of the round choir appears like a shortened yoke of the long choir and is slightly turned inwards. The tracery of the triforium is, however, already designed in the same way as in the round choir. Although the windows in the upper storey are still four-lane, they seem to be as wide as the narrower windows in the round choir. Because of this unclear transition, the viewer is unable to judge where the long choir ends and where the round choir begins.
The high choir, which was kept uniformly in a light ocher color, is clearly structured by vertical, rising architectural elements. However, the builders had provided distinctly brightly colored figurative ribbons on three horizontal levels: the intensely colored pillar figures formed the lower horizontal level, which in the upper storey corresponded to the pastel row of kings from the windows. The angels in the choir arcades were about halfway between these two person galleries.
The ambulatory and the seven choir chapels are the oldest part of Cologne Cathedral. This part of the building was started in 1248 and taken into use in 1265. The architecture and overall impression have been preserved. The seven choir chapels have a uniform floor plan; they form seven parts of a regular dodecagon. The Engelbertus chapel in the north and the Stephanus chapel in the south connect directly to the long choir. These two are strictly opposite each other and are no longer twisted – as in the French cathedrals. The Dreikönigskapelle is located in the central axis of the Cologne chapel wreath. It is the same size as all the other six chapels. In this respect, the Cologne floor plan resembles that of the Beauvais Cathedral and not the otherwise exemplary design ofAmiens Cathedral, which has an enlarged axial chapel.
The Dreikönigskapelle in Cologne was the only one with a colored window picture when it was built. The older Bible window dates from around 1260 and is stylistically attributable to the late Romanesque zigzag style. The oldest Gothic- style window is in the St. Stephen’s Chapel. This so-called Younger Bible Window was donated to the Dominican Church around 1280 and has been in the cathedral choir since 1892. The windows in the chapels are first seen around 1340 completely decorated with colored glass paintings to impress the passing pilgrims with “jewel-like color chords”. Although the Gothic tone of color has largely been preserved to this day, the original, typically high-Gothic pathos of the three-part composition is only recognizable in the Johanneskapelle and Michaelskapelle.
The side aisles of the choir in the south are called the Lady Chapel. There you will find the altar of the city patron by Stefan Lochner, one of the most important works of art in the cathedral, and the Milanese Madonna, which was the center of the Marienkapelle in the Middle Ages. The choir aisles in the north are called the Chapel of the Holy Cross because the cross altar and the Gero cross (around 970) are located here. This is considered to be one of the most important sculptures from the Ottonian period.
The sacrament chapel was added to the choir as a chapter house in 1277 and consecrated by Albertus Magnus in the same year. The square room has a vault with four pointed arches, which are supported on just one pear stick pillar in the middle of the room. The chapel is one of the highest quality works of high Gothic interior design.
The main nave of Cologne Cathedral, around 120 meters long, was built in five building periods over the course of seven centuries. Nevertheless, it has a strictly uniform, highly Gothic form, the original plan of which apparently appeared so perfect that all subsequent builders were willing to adhere to it. All central aisles of Cologne Cathedral in the nave, transept and choir have practically the same dimensions and an identical structure. The height measures 43.35 meters and the width 12.50 meters.
There is a pillar every 7.50 meters (yoke width); they are all of identical shape, designed as round bundle pillars, which are surrounded by 12 services. The pillars converge in pointed arches, the arcadesform. The triforium begins above this at a height of 19.75 meters. This mezzanine floor is about one meter wide and 5.80 meters high, which is glazed to the outside and has an open tracery to the interior. The upper cladding rises above the triforium with windows 17.80 meters high, between which relatively narrow wall pillars strive towards the vault. Because the upper storey and triforium are uniformly designed and vertically structured, they look like a unit, which makes the room appear even higher.
The narrow pillars, however, alone cannot support the thrust of the vault. They are therefore supported from the outside by a system of buttresses and arches. Although it is richly decorated, it is primarily intended to serve as a structural framework that “helps the interior to achieve its unearthly weightlessness.” The crossing is the place where the Shrine of the Three Kings should be erected according to the original plan. However, this part of the building could not be completed in the Middle Ages. The east pillars were erected in the 13th century, the lower part of the west pillars were built in the 14th and 15th centuries; the upper one could only be built in the 19th century; the vault was withdrawn in 1863.
The entire architecture of Cologne Cathedral is designed to accommodate the largest possible windows. It has therefore been described as an “extremely harmonious glass house”. The windows cover an area of around 10,000 m², which roughly corresponds to the area of the building. Of all the large cathedrals, Cologne has the largest window area in relation to the length of the church. Around 1,500 m² of the window area has been preserved from the Middle Ages.
The windows come from different epochs and shape the overall impression of the cathedral. They clearly reflect the respective contemporary demands on the design and function of the windows. The windows of the chapel wreath, which was initially to be reserved exclusively for clergy, were glazed purely ornamentally around the year 1260 with the exception of the central axial chapel window, and it was not until 1330/1340 that a figurative image program for the pilgrims passing through was provided. The window in the central Epiphany Chapel from 1260 is the oldest surviving cathedral window.
Between 1304 and 1311 the 17.15 meter high windows of the upper choir were inserted; they show 48 kings alternating with and without a beard. Presumably the bearded are the 24 elders of the Apocalypse, the bearded are the kings of Judah, the Old Testament predecessors of Christ. The kings are approximately 2.25 meters high. The axis window shows the three wise men paying homage to Mary with the child. The total area of the choir windows is 1350 m². It is one of the largest preserved glass painting cycles of the Middle Ages. In the meantime, many details have been lost, but the original color tone has been preserved.
The late medieval windows in the north aisle reflect the end of the first construction period of the cathedral. Typical windows from the second construction period in the 19th century can be found in the south aisle, such as the Bavaria window. Losses from the Second World War are still evident today, but gradually, provisionally repaired or replaced windows are being restored or replaced by modern windows. The latest in the south facade is the large Richter window from 2007.
One of the treasures of the cathedral is the High Altar, which was installed in 1322. It is constructed of black marble, with a solid slab 15 feet (4.6 m) long forming the top. The front and sides are overlaid with white marble niches into which are set figures, with the Coronation of the Virgin at the centre.
The most celebrated work of art in the cathedral is the Shrine of the Three Kings, commissioned by Philip von Heinsberg, archbishop of Cologne from 1167 to 1191 and created by Nicholas of Verdun, begun in 1190. It is traditionally believed to hold the remains of the Three Wise Men, whose relics were acquired by Frederick Barbarossa at the conquest of Milan in 1164. The shrine takes the form a large reliquary in the shape of a basilican church, made of bronze and silver, gilded and ornamented with architectonic details, figurative sculpture, enamels and gemstones. The shrine was opened in 1864 and was found to contain bones and garments.
Near the sacristy is the Gero-Kreuz, a large crucifix carved in oak and with traces of paint and gilding. Believed to have been commissioned around 960 for Archbishop Gero, it is the oldest large crucifix north of the Alps and the earliest-known large free-standing Northern sculpture of the medieval period.[full citation needed]
In the Sacrament Chapel is the Mailänder Madonna (“Milan Madonna”), dating from around 1290, a wooden sculpture depicting the Blessed Virgin Mary and the infant Jesus. The altar of the patron saints of Cologne with an altarpiece by the International Gothic painter Stefan Lochner is in the Marienkapelle (“St. Mary’s Chapel”). After completion in 1265, the radiating chapels were immediately taken into service as burial place. The relics of Saint Irmgardis found a final resting place in the St. Agnes’ Chapel. Her trachyte sarcophagus is considered to be created by the cathedral masons’ guild around 1280. Other works of art are in the Cathedral Treasury.
Embedded in the interior wall are a pair of stone tablets on which are carved the provisions formulated by Archbishop Englebert II (1262–67) under which Jews were permitted to reside in Cologne.
The Cologne Cathedral is the central church of the Archdiocese of Cologne and therefore has an extremely rich artistic interior. The most important piece of equipment has always been the Shrine of the Three Kings, which is said to contain the bones of the Three Kings. The construction of the Gothic cathedral can even be understood as a stone reliquary that was planned around these relics. In the Middle Ages, the Gero cross from the Ottonian period and the so-called Milan Madonna (around 1290) were also considered special objects of worship. Today, in addition to the most important works of cathedral furnishings, that ofStefan Lochner created altar of the cartridge (according to 1426) and the clear Altar (1350), both of which have come to 1810 in the dome.
Shrine of the Three Kings
The Shrine of the Three Kings is placed in the center of the choir room and thus dominates it. It dates from the 13th century and is the largest medieval goldsmith’s work in Europe.
The shrine is 220 cm long, 110 cm wide, 153 cm high and designed in the style of a basilica. It is adorned by 74 embossed figures made of gold-plated silver. The precious shrine is structured and enclosed by cast metal combs on the gable panels on the front and back, colored bands of enamel strips, lines of blue and gold inscriptions and filigree panels set with precious stones. Over 1000 gemstones and pearls increase its shine. Numerous ancient gems and cameos with 300 cut stones alone represent the largest collection of ancient sculptures from the Middle Ages worldwide. The shrine houses the relics venerated as the relics of the three wise men and is the destination of the every January 6thCarol singers pilgrimage.
The requirement set in Kreuzkapelle Gero cross dates from the period around 970. It is considered one of the oldest monumental representations of the Crucified and the oldest post-classical sculpture of the West. It shows Christ as dead with bowed head. The face with broken eyes and a slightly open mouth is considered very expressive. This makes the sculpture an outstanding example of the form, which was new at the time, which no longer shows Christ as a victor, but as suffering and human. The cross is named after Archbishop Gero, since he used it for the cross altar in the Old Cathedralshould have donated. There the cross was placed very prominently in the nave. It found a less dominant place in the Gothic cathedral, but still enjoyed great veneration as a miraculous image. Today the Gero Cross is considered the most important work of sculpture from the Ottonian period.
In the Middle Ages, the so-called Milan Madonna was the third object of veneration in the cathedral after the Epiphany shrine and Gero cross. Today the high-Gothic wooden statue, created around 1290, is placed on the south wall of the southern choir aisle in the Marienkapelle. The colored wooden figure is the oldest image of the Virgin Mary in the Gothic cathedral. It got its name because it was probably intended as a replacement for a statue with the bones of the Three Kings brought back from Milan by Rainald von Dassel, which was destroyed in the fire of the Old Cathedral. The Gothic statue is closely related to the pillars of the choir in terms of posture and the design of the garment, and its style has been described as “beyond French”. It is considered a high point of high Gothic Mannerist sculpture. The colored version as well as the scepter and the crowns were created during a restoration around 1900.
Equipment of the choir
In order to turn Cologne Cathedral into a royal cathedral, the medieval artists also strived for the highest possible artistic expression in the furnishings. “Their outstanding quality surrounds the furnishings of the Cologne Cathedral Choir, including the choir pillars, the choir stalls and choir screen paintings, with an aura of inaccessibility.”
The image program of the choir is formulated in horizontal levels, which penetrates from the near-ground world of humans with increasing height into heavenly areas and finally becomes completely spiritual in the vault. The choir stalls showing with his carvings, which many grotesque depict mythical creatures, the earthly human existence. The apostles are to be regarded as a choir pillars figures simultaneously as the spiritual pillars of the Church. Above that, the angels provide heavenly music and the angel images in the arcade spandrels lead over to the heavenly levels. The figures in the clapboard windowsmay be understood as a royal court that has gathered around the throne of God. Finally, the color tone from the tracery windows is intended to symbolize the metaphysical presence of God.
The late medieval choir stalls are the largest in Germany with 104 seats and, as a special feature, reserve one place each for the Pope and the Emperor. It was made entirely from oak between 1308 and 1311. The stalls show extensive carving both on the cheeks but above all on the support boards (misericordia). The artists created images with people, animals and mythical creatures, some of which were inspired by scenes from the Old Testament, but also from antiquity and popular belief. As usual with misericordies, the carvers showed an unbridled imagination to create attractive and rough motifs with dancing, fighting, begging, mocking and loving people.
Choir screen painting
Behind the choir stalls are the brick choir screens, which are adorned with a large-format cycle of pictures over 30 meters wide. “The choir screen paintings are the most important work in terms of development history and, in addition, the highest artistic work of German monumental painting from the first half of the 14th century.” There are three wall paintings on the north and three on the south side of the choir. The paintings form the back wall of the choir stalls; a painted Gothic frame system, which is inspired by tracery forms, creates picture fields that are almost 60 centimeters wide, each as wide as a seat of the chairs.
All images are divided into three horizontal zones. The base zone shows a number of figures of emperors and bishops. In the main zone, the stories of saints are presented in seven arcades per barrier. A canopy zone with alternating architectural depictions forms the upper end of the painting. In the base zone on the south side, all Roman and German emperors can be seen starting with Cäser above the emperor’s seat. On the north side, Cologne bishops and archbishops are depicted, starting with Maternus above the Pope’s seat. The pictures on the south side show scenes from the life of Mary, the story of the three wise menand the transfer of their bones to Cologne, as well as the martyrdoms of Saints Felix, Nabor and Gregory of Spoleto. The pictures on the north side depict scenes from the legend of Peter and Paul, the legend of New Year’s Eve and scenes from the life of Constantine with the Constantine donation and his mother Helena.
The artists used a tempera technique and applied the paint directly to a sanded chalk base of the stone walls made of dragon rock strachyte. They transferred the painting technique of panel painting to the mural. Unfortunately, the chalk ground and the painting have flaked off in many places. Because the works were never painted over, we only see the originals. Defects were closed discreetly in the tone of the environment. Overall, through the use of tempera paints, the artists were able to fall back on a larger color palette as well as depict details that are hardly inferior to book illumination.
The motifs and the method of representation show that the artist knew the painting of his time from Flanders, Italy and England, but was above all inspired by the art movements in Paris. He combined all the impulses into an independent style that made choir screen painting the oldest example of the Cologne school of painting that would later become known.
The choir stalls and the choir screen painting designed as a back wall (dorsal) are closely linked in the overall concept, through the motifs used, but also in stylistic details. It is therefore likely that both furnishings were planned together under the supervision of cathedral builder Johannes von Köln and that the choir screen paintings were also created up to the consecration of the choir in 1322.
Pillar sculptures in the choir area
On the pillars of the high choir there are 14 sculptures depicting Mary, Christ and the twelve apostles together with twelve angels making music. These figures were from 1320 to 1340 in the Cologne cathedral workshop under the supervision of the cathedral architect John of Cologne created and be counted among the major works of European sculpture in the early 14th century today. To plan a cycle of apostles for a choir building in the middle of the 13th century was a rarity. The Middle Ages had basically developed the idea of comparing the apostles as spiritual pillars of the church with the pillars of a vault. Realizing this symbolism in church construction was the first to have it in 1248Sainte-Chapelle done in Paris, which was picked up by Master Gerhard in Cologne. With its extraordinarily rich colors, the Sainte-Chapelle seems to have given important impulses for the setting of the choir pillars. The angels were added to the ensemble around 1300; they were understood as musicians who make unearthly music.
The 14 figures are the epitome of high Gothic sculpture, which most purely meet the requirements of the ideal Gothic cathedral. The artistic style of the figures must be assessed in connection with the architecture of the cathedral, because the statues are works of the Cologne cathedral building and were designed as an integral part of the choir building. The size of the cathedral also corresponds to the monumental dimensions of the figures, each around 2.15 meters high and 5.25 meters high in the ensemble with console, canopy and crowning angel.
The figures stand on a sheet console. A canopy rises above the apostles, each carrying an angel with a musical instrument. The artist made the figures out of tuff, which was painted in bright colors. The current painting, applied in 1841/42, can be considered a true copy of the medieval models. The 39 different fabric samples shown can all be traced back to the Middle Ages.
The slender figures in splendid robes can be placed in their style in the tradition of both Parisian and Reims sculpture. It was appreciated that they seem to communicate with one another in heavenly remoteness and lively gestures. In some cases, however, it was noted that habitus and gestures clearly tend to over-refine.
Each of the twelve apostles is assigned an angel making music, who crowns the canopy of the ensemble of figures. The angels were not originally intended; however, they were planned for the time the choir was being built. The angels appear simpler in execution and less artificial in posture than the apostles. The robes of the angels are also much simpler and show only a simple undergarment and a cloak placed over the shoulder. The facial expression of the angels, all of whom are curly blond, has been described as a blissful smile, which shows how they transfigured listened to the heavenly music. Each angel plays a different musical instrument. Shown include: the psaltery, the portative, the citole, the fiddle, the bagpipe, the bell, the bell drum, the harp, the quintern and the shawm.
Choir arcade painting
On the arcade spandrels of the high choir, a cycle of angel figures is depicted on a gold-colored background. The painter Edward von Steinle created this cycle as a fresco in the 19th century. The medieval painting from the 14th century showed angels with musical instruments and censer, but was whitewashed in the 18th century and was considered ruined when it was discovered in 1841. The new design shows in the 15 arcade fields the nine choirs of angels in their different hierarchies, like those of Pseudo-Dionysius Areopagitaformulated in the 6th century. According to this, angels, guardian angels and archangels form the first hierarchy of angels. They can be found in the spandrels of the two northern arcades.
They are followed by the angel choirs (Virtutes, Dominationes, Potestates), who watch over the order of the universe in the central arcades. In the five arcades of the choir head the seraphim and cherubim are depicted, which in the Middle Ages were imagined as spirit beings made of love and fire, who are relieved of any earthiness. Edward von Steinle was an artist who served the Late Nazareneis attributed. He created his pictorial program from 1843 to 1845. The angel figures seem to float over a golden ornamental background that forms the compositional unit of the cycle. The ornament pattern, which varied in all arcades, was pressed into the plaster and covered with gold leaf.
Floor mosaic in the choir
The floor mosaic of the choir is about 1300 m². It was designed by August Essenwein from 1885 to 1892 and relocated by the Villeroy & Boch company in Mettlach.
The floor mosaic in the choir shows in an extensive theological-metaphorical picture program the entire spiritual and secular life in the manner of the medieval worldview. This includes the emperor and the pope. Starting from the Pope, the four rivers of Paradise run through the choir. The emperor is surrounded by the seven liberal arts and the main churches of the Christian nations. In the west, the age of the person and his activities are shown. In the ambulatory, the history of the church in Cologne is depicted using a catalog of the bishops and archbishops. The crossing shows the times of day, the four winds and the four elements. There the mosaic is hidden by the altar pedestal. The mosaic in the axis chapel was destroyed during excavations in 1947 and is only present in fragments. It was replaced by a floor covering made of clay tiles from Mettlach.
Equipment of the choir chapels
The seven choir chapels have been used together with the ambulatory since around 1265; the chapels were evidently intended as burial places from the start. Before the high choir was completed, the graves of five aristocratic archbishops and Irmgardis, venerated as a saint, were reburied from Hildebold Cathedral in the chapels. The tumba of Konrad von Hochstaden, who laid the foundation stone for the cathedral, was placed in the place of honor in the Axial Chapel.
The prominent importance of the Dreikönigenkapelle in the axis of the cathedral was already emphasized during the construction period by the fact that it was the only one to receive a colored glass painting. This older Bible window is the oldest surviving window in the cathedral. In 1322 the Shrine of the Three Kings was set up in the Axial Chapel and Konrad’s grave was moved to the neighboring Johanneskapelle. The shrine was given a specially made lattice chapel, which was replaced by a baroque mausoleum in 1660. The chapel got its current appearance at the end of the 19th century when the neo- Gothic wanted to transform it into a total work of art of the idealized Gothic. The baroque mausoleum was dismantled in 1889;Friedrich Stummel renewed and supplemented the high Gothic wall painting in 1892 and was inspired by the Sainte-Chapelle in Paris. Friedrich Wilhelm Mengelberg created the neo-Gothic altar in 1908 and used four Cologne reliquary busts for it. In a tabernacle he found space for the Füssenich Madonna from the 13th century.
In the other choir chapels, the medieval high tombs are still the most important pieces of art from a historical point of view: The simple stone sarcophagus (around 1260) of Archbishop Gero (969–976) is in the Stephanus chapel. In the Agnes chapel, St. Irmgardis von Süchteln (died 1085) found her final resting place in a trachyte sarcophagus (around 1280), which was created by the Cologne cathedral builder. Philip I von Heinsberg (1167–1191) received a tumba (around 1320) in the form of a walled city in the Maternus chapel.
In the Johanneskapelle rests on the high grave for Konrad von Hochstaden(1238–1261) the youthful reclining figure of the archbishop as probably the most important bronze work of the 13th century in Germany. The last free place in the choir chapels was occupied by Walram von Jülich (1332–1349) in the Michael’s Chapel, where a reclining figure made of Carrara marble adorns his tumba. From this it was concluded that the redesign of the ambulatory as a pilgrimage route and the complete furnishing of the chapels with didactically effective, figurative and colorful glass windows came about in his time and was even inspired by him.
Near the entrance to the Sacrament Chapel, a document carved in stone from 1266 can be seen today, the Cologne Jewish privilege, through which Archbishop Engelbert II of Falkenburg granted certain rights to the Jewish population of the Archdiocese of Cologne. The cemetery and funeral law, customs regulations and the monopoly on money lending were regulated.
In contrast to the usual medieval altar, the high altar in Cologne Cathedral does not have an altar structure (reredos). Because the Archbishop of Cologne had the right to stand behind the altar and celebrate Mass with a view of the Canons. Presumably for this reason the altar table (cafeteria) was built particularly large and with exceptionally rich figurative decorations. In his standard work on the Christian altar, Joseph Braun rated it as “undoubtedly the most splendid and magnificent altar that the Middle Ages created not only in Germany, but in general.”
The high altar was made around 1310 and consecrated on September 27, 1322. Its 25 cm thick altar plate was carved from a piece of black marble. It measures 452 cm × 212 cm with a total area of 9.58 m², making it the largest stone in the cathedral and the largest known altar stone from the Middle Ages. All around the altar is decorated with Gothic arcades, in which there are small statuettes depicting apostles, prophets and saints as well as scenes from the life of Mary. The figure decorations are carved from white Carrara marble, which contrasts very effectively with the black marble stone of the altar body. The individual figures are shown in clear movement with a rotated corpus, which is hidden in a rich, pleated robe. Stylistically, they are related to the choir pillars, even if they show a somewhat more compact physicality.
The front of the altar is still original and shows the coronation of Mary in the center with six apostles on each side in the arcades. The decorative figurines on the side walls were removed in the course of the Baroque era. Alexander Iven made copies of the originals in the Museum Schnütgen around 1900, when the altar was restored to its high-Gothic form in the course of the cathedral’s completion.
The plain altar (alternate spelling: Clare altar) was built around the 1350th It is considered to be one of the most important winged altars of the 14th century in Germany, the winged doors of which are among the oldest Gothic canvas paintings. Originally it was donated for the St. Clara St. Clara Church in Cologne. After St. Clara’s demolition in 1804, it ended up in the cathedral. Today it is set up there on the north side in front of the transept.
The clear altar, which with its double doors enables three different views – the weekday side, the festival side and the high festival side – shows a complex image structure that is supposed to depict the heavenly Jerusalem. The basic dimension of his cycle of images is the number twelve: the altar shows twelve saints, twelve scenes from the childhood of Jesus and twelve more from the Passion, twelve apostles and twelve relics. The cycle of images is structured by a tabernacle built into the center of the altar, the door of which is painted with the seldom depicted St. Martin’s Mass. Cathedral builder Barbara Schock-Werner has described the retable as an “altar of superlatives”.
Stylistically, the clear altar is considered to be one of the key works of the early Cologne School of Painting, with the masters being clearly influenced by the painting of the choir screen and the cathedral pillars. The narrative painting, some of which was presumably painted by the master of St. Veronica, is “among the best that German art of that time has to offer.” On the back of the altar was the painting of the Most Holy Trinity by 1905 Friedrich Wilhelm Mengelberg added, which is the youngest neo-Gothic work of art in the cathedral.
Altar of the city patron
The altar of the city patron is considered to be the most important work by Stefan Lochner and a highlight of medieval painting in Cologne. It is a three-winged retable that has been in the cathedral since 1809. The altar was commissioned by the city council after 1426 to be placed in the council chapel. In the middle picture, Mary, the Mother of God, is enthroned with the baby Jesus and accepts the adoration of the Magi. The brooch on her coat shows a unicorn. The city saints are depicted on the side panels. On the left is St. Ursula with Aetherius and a large number of virgin companions. On the right outer wing is St. Gereonpictured with members of the Thebaic Legion. When the altar is closed, the Annunciation can be seen.
With this depiction, the city of Cologne wanted to illustrate its claim to ownership of the relics of the Three Kings. In his altarpiece, Lochner merged Italian colourfulness and Flemish realism in a masterly manner with his own idyllic serenity, and with the Three Kings Altar he created a reference work for the so-called Cologne School of Painting.
Agilolphus Altar and Agilolphus Shrine
The Agilolphus altar is named after the Cologne bishop Agilolf from the 8th century. It was created around 1520 and is an Antwerp reredos. It is one of the largest and most important Antwerp carved altars with scenes from the life and passion of Christ (approx. 5.5 m high and nearly seven meters wide). It was once the main altar in the Gothic east choir of the collegiate church of St. Maria ad gradus near the cathedral. After it was demolished in 1817, it probably ended up in Cologne Cathedral. It was extensively restored and inaugurated in July 2012 with a festive service in the southern transept of the cathedral.
Altar of the ornamented Madonna
The altar of the ornamented Madonna in the north aisle is one of the few baroque pieces of furniture that have been preserved in the cathedral. The altar wall made of black marble and white alabaster was originally created between 1668 and 1683 by the Cologne artist Heribert Neuss as a front for the mausoleum in which the Shrine of the Three Kings is locatedwas set up. After the mausoleum was demolished in 1889, the front was rebuilt as an altar in the side aisle in 1920; Until 1939, the three kings shrine placed in the treasury behind it could be seen through the lattice. Since 1963 the so-called ornamented Madonna, a miraculous image from the 18th century, richly hung with jewelry, has been venerated in the altar. Above the main floor of the altar with four columns, an alabaster relief shows the adoration of the Magi. The side standing marble statues of Saints Felix and Nabor were added by Michel van der Voort in 1699.
Features of the crossing
Originally the Shrine of the Three Kings was supposed to be erected in the crossing. Since it was not completed in the Middle Ages, however, it was abandoned. The crossing was converted into the new liturgical center of the cathedral in the early 1960s.
The crossing altar was also added to the cathedral during the renovation. It was designed by Elmar Hillebrand in 1960. Its sides consist of four bronze plates, which are decorated with stylized grapes and ears, as well as with balls made of Cipollino. His cafeteria (altar plate) is also made from Cipollino. Its graceful size (1 meter high, 1.80 meters wide and 1.18 meters deep) still allows an unobstructed view of the choir head from the nave.
In front of the north-eastern crossing pillar is the Archbishop’s cathedra, which was made of polished cherry wood and designed by Willy Weyres. Two reliefs show the handing over of the keys by Christ to Peter and the handing over of the keys by Peter to Maternus, the first bishop of Cologne, who, according to a legend, was a pupil of Peter. The coat of arms of the incumbent archbishop hangs above the cathedra.
Opposite the cathedra is the oak pulpit, which is dated to 1544 and thus comes from the Renaissance. It is decorated with reliefs of Peter and Paul.
The crossing also has an ambo and a lectern, which stand at the western end of the altar island, which in its current form dates from 1990.
In the crossing was originally also the sacrament house, which was created in 1964 by Elmar Hillebrand. It is made of Savonnier limestone and was later moved to the choir, in place of the Gothic tabernacle from 1508, which was removed during the Baroque era.
Statue of Christophorus
The statue of St. Christopher in Cologne Cathedral is a monumental sculpture made of tuff stone. It was created around 1470 and is attributed to the workshop of the master Tilman. It is placed on a column at the transition from the southern transept to the ambulatory of the chapel wreath.
Pillar sculptures in the nave
The pillar figures in the nave represent saints of the Franconian Empire. In the tower halls there are figures from the old covenant. Most of the total of 46 figures are by Peter Fuchs, the six of the north transept by Anton Werres, the consoles and canopies were built in the 14th and 15th centuries. Century created.
Eight large tapestries made to designs by Peter Paul Rubens will be hung in the nave during Easter. Four of the Ruben carpets show scenes from the Old Testament that are interpreted in relation to the Eucharist, four other carpets show allegorical representations of the triumph of the Eucharist. The knitted paintings are in formats of around four meters high and three to more than seven meters wide. The Spanish Infanta Isabellahad commissioned twenty tapestries from Rubens for a monastery in Madrid in 1627.
The Brussels carpet manufacturer Frans van den Hecke produced individual carpets and smaller cycles over decades based on Rubens’ slightly modified designs; the Rubens carpets delivered in 1687 are the largest surviving of these cycles. Wilhelm Egon von Fürstenberg, Prince-Bishop of Strasbourg, had given the tapestries to the Cologne Cathedral Chapter, presumably in order to achieve his intended election as Archbishop of Cologne. The baroque carpets were originally attached to the choir screen, but then fell into oblivion and can only be seen in the cathedral again since their restoration from 1974 to 1986.
Cologne Cathedral has two main organs, which were built by the organ manufacturer Klais from Bonn: The transept organ was completed in 1948 on a gallery in the northern crossing, the nave organ was hung in 1998 as a swallow’s nest organ in the nave. Both organs can be played from a common console, as can a high-pressure unit that was installed in the west part of the cathedral in 2006.
The transept organ was built in the northeast corner of the crossing after the Second World War, when the cathedral had not yet been restored, but the nave was still separated from the transept and the chancel by a shield wall. The transept organ was inaugurated in 1948 on the occasion of the 700th anniversary of the cathedral. It was expanded in 1956 and 2002 and today has 88 stops on four manuals and pedal. The nave organ was built in 1998 as a swallow’s nest organ with 53 registers. It remedied the unsatisfactory sound situation of the post-war period, especially of the liturgical organ playing. It is acoustically well positioned in the Gothic church interior, but it interrupts the spatial continuum of nave, crossing and high choir desired by the neo-Gothic of the 19th century. In 2006, the organ ensemble in the cathedral was finally expanded to include a high pressure plant (Bombardewerk) with two high pressure registers.
Winfried Bönig has been the cathedral organist since 2002, who succeeded Clemens Ganz. Ulrich Brüggemann has been the second organist since 1994.
In addition, the cathedral has two small organs, which are placed in the Marienkapelle and in the sacrament chapel.
The Cologne Cathedral has eleven bells. Eight hang in the south tower and form the main bell. Among them is the Petersglocke since 1924, which the people of Cologne affectionately refer to as D’r decke Pitter or simply decker Pitter (i.e. thick Peter). It is one of the largest swinging church bells in the world and weighs around 24 tons. It was cast by master bell founder Heinrich Ulrich in Apolda in 1923. It replaced the approx. 26 tonne Imperial Bell (Gloriosa) from 1875, the clapper of which fell off on June 8, 1908 and damaged the bell tower, and which was melted down in 1918 for armaments purposes. Two large late medieval bells also hang in the south tower: The Pretiosa from 1448 and the Speciosa from 1449. In 1911, Karl (I) Otto from the Otto bell foundry in Hemelingen / Bremen cast the new chapter bell and the Aveglocke.
Three more bells hang in the turret above the crossing: the small Mett bell from 1719 and the two oldest bells in the cathedral: the Angelus bell and the transformation bell, both from the 14th century.
The Cologne Cathedral already had a large astronomical art clock in the 14th century, which at lunchtime showed the figures of the Three Kings who paid homage to the Christ Child. Around 1750 this clock was broken off and, according to legend, sunk in the Rhine. The Cologne clockmaker Siegmund Bertel made a wrought-iron clock in 1787, which remained in operation until 1877. A large, polychrome painted wooden dial with hour hand and baroque border has been preserved. Due to construction-related inaccuracies and constant repairs, it was decided in 1878 to have a completely new clockwork at the Royal Bavarian Court = Thurmuhrenfabrik by Johann Mannhardtto have made. The large, neo-Gothic oak watch case was designed by the sculptor Richard Moest.
The clock system, which extends over a total of almost 60 meters, was put into operation on April 9, 1880. After a few teething problems, which led to the builder being denied a desired certificate about the successful work on the watch, the watch runs perfectly. The movement is one of the last Mannhardt movements in operation and has been preserved in its original condition. It has a so-called free-swinging pendulum, which has an extremely high, almost weather-independent rate accuracy. It was presented by Johann Mannhardt in 1862. Due to the lack of lubricants such as oil and grease on this pendulum device, the movement hardly reacts to weather influences. Johann Mannhardt also supplied tower clocks for the Frauenkirche in Munich, the Red City Hall in Berlin, and the Vatican in Rome. The original invention of the free swinging pendulum, however, goes back to the clergyman Josef Feller (1823-1893).
The dial, together with the bell bells, is attached to the tracery inside the cathedral, which separates the outer south aisle from the tower hall. This is why the clock is also called the nave clock. The dial system was damaged in World War II. The clockwork was preserved and was initially used without a dial as an hour strike until, in January 1989, the company Royal Eijsbouts in Asten (Netherlands) cleaned the clockwork and made a new openwork dial based on the historical plans that still existed. In contrast to the original, however, this was only reconstructed on one side.
The quarter and hour strike occurs in the cathedral interior on two historic clock chimes that come from one of the previous clocks. The bell in the belfry of the south tower hits the ave or chapter bell (Otto company, Bremen-Hemelingen, 1911). The three heavy weights are lifted daily by hand using a crank. The cathedral clock is still convincing today with its great accuracy, without the aid of additional electrical equipment. Another restoration, in which the gilding of the movement that had been lost in the past was restored, was carried out in spring 2018 by the master watchmaker and restorer Christian Schnurbus, Düsseldorf.
The interior of the cathedral, which is otherwise very gloomy, especially in the evening hours, has been computer-controlled by more than 1000 lights since October 2008. So that “there is not always an atmosphere like All Souls’ Day,” as Cardinal Meisner once commented on the lighting conditions in the cathedral. The new lighting has 80 programmable settings that enable different lighting effects. It was supported by the Zentral-Dombau-Verein with around 1,200,000 euros.
Thanks to the Leuchtendes Rheinpanorama association, the cathedral is the only public building in Cologne to be illuminated all night long.
Burial place and crypt
The archbishops of Cologne found their final resting place in the cathedral. 33 archbishops, a Polish queen, two secular princes and a popular saint are buried in and below the cathedral.
The high grave of Archbishop Konrad von Hochstaden in the Johanneskapelle shows the archbishop as a youthful bronze figure. In the Maternus Chapel, the high grave of Archbishop Philip I von Heinsberg is shown in the middle of a city wall, which is interpreted as a subsequent approval of the construction of the Cologne city wall. Archbishop Friedrich von Saar Werden’s high grave can be found in the Marienkapelle. The large bronze reclining figure of the unusually high Tumba shows facial features that are considered a portrait of the archbishop who commissioned the west facade in 1370. The Gothic high grave Rainald von Dasselsmade of sandstone is on the outer wall of the Marienkapelle. In 1905, Alexander Iven created the limestone reclining figure instead of the medieval bronze figure that was destroyed at the end of the 18th century.
A modern three-nave crypt was built in 1960 in part of the excavation area under the high choir. The crypt was designed by master builder Willy Weyres and designed with a stucco ceiling in the slightly raised central nave by Erlefried Hoppe. To the east, behind a wrought-iron grating by Paul Nagel, is the archbishop’s crypt. It was created between 1958 and 1969 on the initiative of Cardinal Joseph Frings and contains the burial chambers of several archbishops since the 19th century.