A visit to Cologne was on my mind since I first saw the magnificent Cologne Cathedral, the day I landed in Deutschland. As my train zipped away on a love-struck bridge, it was the Cathedral in distance that caught my eye, and I could not stop staring. I obsessed about visiting Cologne ever since, and I found it prettier than every travel fantasy I had in mind. A beautiful picture postcard of a city, Cologne cannot possibly be summed in one post and I won’t even try.
Cologne Cathedral (or the Dom as the locals call it) is the show stopper on the Cologne Skyline, one that cannot be missed if you’re ever in this city. Even if you’re passing by, it’s more than worth a stop-over. As I walked out of the central station on a sunny summer day, a huge shadow loomed over me. Cologne Cathedral was right there, overshadowing every Church that I have ever seen. It took a moment to realize the importance (both historical and religious) of the Cologne Cathedral, though the Gothic structure resonates it perfectly even from the outside.
The Cologne Cathedral was built to house the mortal remains of the Three Kings, which Archbishop Rainald von Dassel brought back to the city in 1164 from the conquered city of Milan and since then it became one of Europe’s most important pilgrimage points. The foundation stone was laid way back in 1248 but the structure was finally finished in 1880. It has been a center of religion and power ever since, an amalgamation of the two factors making it one of Europe’s most fascinating historic tales.
This magnificent Cathedral 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. Also, it is Germany’s most visited landmark, attracting an average of 20,000 people a day. The Gothic architecture is fascinating to say the least, but there’s a survival story that adds yet another facet of charm to the whole structure. World War-2 left the city of Cologne devastated, but the Cologne Cathedral somehow survived, though it was badly damaged. Legend and logic suggest that the twin spires were an easily recognizable navigational landmark for Allied aircraft bombings which destroyed everything else all around. Though restoration was completed in 1956 but the effects of war can still be visible to a keen eye looking for it. Interestingly, a World War-2 bomb was found in Germany yesterday! Co-incidence much?
I spent a considerable amount of time staring at the Cologne Cathedral from various angles and still couldn’t say that I saw it all. Its stone carved, dark yet beautiful exterior made me realize that no matter how long I spend here, it will never be enough. A lifetime isn’t enough to know the stories behind each of those carvings which have stood the test of time, war, power and religion.
I was expecting an interior that matched the Gothic exterior which had left me in awe of this style of architecture. But then, I could not believe my eyes when I ventured inside. I kept the camera aside and walked around, admiring each wall and window, each sculpture and structure, trying to decipher the work of art that Cologne Cathedral actually is. I lit a candle too, not for myself but in the name of thousands of unknown artists whose immaculate workmanship is evident everywhere in the Cologne Cathedral.
My jaw dropped looking at the beautifully painted stained glass windows, depicting stories from the Bible. These big beautiful windows were playing a game of hide and seek with the sun, filtering sun rays and letting them in only after adding rainbow colors to them. The grand interiors left me in awe of the workmanship that must have gone into creating something so incredible that the eyes just couldn’t contain all that beauty and let out a silent tear. Man is capable of such immense love, there’s no other explanation I would rather believe that lead to creation of something so beautiful that it seems out of the world. And still, we’re sitting on a nuclear bomb today, waiting to explode in name of religion and hate, forgetting that it’s only love that makes sense.
I spent hours admiring the artwork and beauty of the Cologne Cathedral and already planned a second visit. This one was overwhelming to say the least, and I know I would unearth many a new facets of the structure when I visit again. It was almost time for the doors to close when I reluctantly came outside, wishing for more. More is what I got, as artists from today were busy painting the floor with a thousand shades.
Though the Cathedral closes its doors for the visitors at 9 pm in summers, it’s well worth to stay around beyond that and wait for darkness to take over. Night adds its charm and the city of Cologne glitters away, with its Cathedral being the crown jewel.