Cologne, Germany

I made a short detour to Cologne after Tobias & Kisha‘s wedding at Marburg. The train journey was about 3 hours westwards, transferring at Giessen and passing by many small German towns. Cologne is a city with a population of over 1million located in North Rhine-Westphalia. The city was founded by the Romans around 50BC during the reign of Emperor Julius Caesar. In fact, the name “Cologne” was derived from the the word “Colonia” which means colony in the Roman Empire. Cologne was originally known as Colonia Claudia Ara Agrippinensis.

The city skyline of Cologne is dominated by the twin spires of the Kölner Dom (Cologne Cathedral), officially known as Church of St. Peter and Mary. Although the construction of this Gothic-style cathedral started in 1265, it took over 600 years for the last stone to be finally laid on the southern spire. The soaring twin spires as we see it today is only about 120 years old. Standing at 157m tall, the Cologne Cathedral is one of the tallest and most magnificent cathedrals in the world. No buildings in within the Cologne city center can be taller than the Cathedral. I spoke to a German who lamented the fact that it’s hard to find skyscrapers in Germany other than in Frankfurt because almost every city has this rule that no buildings can be built taller than the cathedral and not all cathedrals are as tall as the one in Cologne. In fact, for a period until 1890, the Cologne Cathedral was the world’s tallest building until the Ulm Cathedral was built. The Ulm Cathedral remains as the world’s tallest church till this day.

View of Rhine River taken from the top of the southern spire of the Cologne Cathedral. The bridge and the railway tracks lead to the Cologne Hauptbanhof (main train station).

This Greco-crucifix was a very early depiction of Christ’s crucifixion. In fact, it is the oldest monumental crucifix known in the Western world. You’ll notice that it’s a little different from most crucifixes you see today. The difference lies in how Christ’s feet were nailed to the Cross. In early works, Christ’s feet were believed to have been nailed separately to the Cross. Artists of later generations decided to give the crucifix more symbolism by having Christ’s feet overlapping one another in a shape of a Cross, the way the crucifix is known to us today.

The Archbishop of Cologne convening a Sunday mass

Swiss guards

Triptych of the Altar of City Patrons painted by Stefan Lochner (1400-1452).

It wasn’t common practice for artists at that time to include their names on paintings of religious figures and motifs. As such, artists of such paintings were very rarely known. It was by coincidence that Lochner’s name was revealed in the journals of Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528), a German painter and mathematician. In his
journals, Dürer lamented the fact that “he had to pay 2 silvers (equivalent to a day’s pay during that time) to some gallery owner just to marvel at the painting of one Stefan Lochner”. That was how Lochner’s name was revealed as the painter of this triptych.

1 Comment

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September 6, 2007 at 6:20 am

wow, beautiful pictures.wish i could go there.