Cologne Cathedral is a Roman Catholic church in Cologne, Germany. It is the seat of the Archbishop of Cologne and the administration of the Archdiocese of Cologne. It is renowned monument of German Catholicism and Gothic architecture and is a World Heritage Site. It is Germany's most visited landmark, attracting an average of 20,000 people a day.
Cologne Cathedral was built between 1248 and 1880. It is 144.5 metres (474 ft) long, 86.5 m (284 ft) wide and its towers are approximately 157 m (515 ft) tall. The cathedral is the largest Gothic church in Northern Europe and has the second-tallest spire and largest faoade of any church in the world. The choir has the largest height to width ratio of any medieval church.
In 1996, the cathedral was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List of culturally important sites. In 2004 it was placed on the "World Heritage in Danger" list, as the only Western site in danger, due to plans to construct a high-rise building nearby, which would have visually impacted the site. The cathedral was removed from the List of In Danger Sites in 2006, following the authorities' decision to limit the heights of buildings constructed near and around the cathedral.
As a World Heritage Site, and with its convenient position on tourist routes, Cologne Cathedral is a major tourist attraction, the visitors including many who travel there as a Christian pilgrimage.
Visitors can climb 509 stone steps of the spiral staircase to a viewing platform about 98 m (322 ft) above the ground. The platform gives a scenic top view of the Rhine.
On 18 August 2005, Pope Benedict XVI visited the cathedral during his apostolic visit to Germany, as part of World Youth Day 2005 festivities. An estimated one million pilgrims visited the cathedral during this time. Also as part of the events of World Youth Day, Cologne Cathedral hosted a televised gala performance of Beethoven's Missa Solemnis, performed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and the London Philharmonic Choir conducted by Sir Gilbert Levine.
Architecture: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 ill-fated Beauvais Cathedral, much of which collapsed. Externally the outward thrust of the vault is taken up 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 which 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 is enhanced by a good many 19th century stained glass windows including a set of five on the south side called the "Bayernfenster" which were a gift from Ludwig I of Bavaria, a set highly representative of 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 and Regensburg Cathedrals.