Kölner Dom (Cologne Cathedral)
The Kölner Dom, also known as the Cologne Cathedral, is the largest Gothic church in Northern Europe. In the 19th century, it was the tallest building in the world. Amazingly, it would take 632 years to complete.
Begun in 1248, the Kölner Dom was commissioned as a suitable place to house the relics of the Three Kings, acquired and delivered by Holy Roman Emperor Frederick Barbarossa. Construction was predictably slow, beginning with the east wing. At some point in 1473, construction came to a stop and it remained at rest for four centuries, marked by a crane that loomed over the south tower; until 1842, when a civic organization raised the bulk of the money to finish construction. In today’s dollars, the cost for finishing Kölner Dom would be over a billion dollars. Finally, in 1880, Germany’s largest cathedral was completed.
The Kölner Dom’s sheer scale projects an indomitable spirit, and as such, it is a symbol of the city. In World War II, it bore the brunt of 70 airborne bombs, yet still remained intact, towering over the otherwise flattened city. Today, it is the seat of the Archbishop of Cologne, and a bastion of Catholicism in Germany. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
As a symbol of the city, of Catholicism in Germany, and a testament to human imagination and ingenuity, the Kölner Dom is one of the most popular attractions in all of Germany, receiving as many as 30,000 visitors a day.