While taking the train from Frankfurt to Münster, we stopped at Cologne briefly to take a look at what Günther Grass called "that fabulous Gothic monster," Cologne Cathedral, easily the largest cathedral I saw on the trip. I didn't have to walk very far. The Cathedral stands right next to the main train station, a huge and very busy station.
Unless otherwise noted, all of these are my photos and are freely available, especially to educators.
Construction on the present Cathedral began in 1248 and never really stopped. The stresses of modernity (traffic vibrations, pollution, and age) require that some part of the Cathedral be under scaffolding at all times. Cologne Cathedral is the largest in Germany and the largest in northern Europe.
The Cathedral was made to be so huge to hold a major religious relic, the remains of the Three Kings who visited the Infant Christ at Bethlehem guided by the Star. Emperor Frederick Barbarossa gave the relics to the Archbishop of Cologne in 1160 after he took them (stole them?) from the Church of San Eustorgio in Milan. Supposedly, part of the relics were returned to San Eustorgio in the last century.
Cologne Cathedral was begun in 1248, but not completed until 1880. A lot of the Cathedral that we see today was built in the 19th century.
This is a detail from a painting by Hans Memling showing what Cologne Cathedral looked like through most of its history. The east choir was finished in the 14th century and closed on the west side by a temporary wall so that it could be used. At the end of the 13th century and the beginning of the 14th century work proceeded on the south tower and got as far as the base of the belfry. Work came to a stop in 1473 shortly before Memling painted it here. There was some sporadic work on the nave until work stopped altogether in the 16th century. The old crane on top of the unfinished south tower became incorporated into the temporary roof, and became a landmark of the city.
Construction resumed on Cologne Cathedral in 1842, this time driven by resurgent German nationalism. The Protestant regime in Prussia actively supported and financed the construction of the Cathedral to cultivate Catholic loyalty. The very Calvinist first Kaiser of the German Empire, Wilhelm I attended the consecration of the Cathedral in 1880, 632 years after construction began.
Amiens as well. Cologne has similar tall airy proportions with high windows as Amiens.
Cologne Cathedral houses the oldest surviving image of the suffering Christ on the Cross in the world, The Gero Cross, donated by Archbishop Gero sometime around 970. This is the first Crucifix that we would recognize as such. The Crucifix rarely appears in early Christian art or early Byzantine art, both of which are very triumphalist in their imagery. The Crucifixion was considered a shameful subject, and when it appeared at all in early Christian art, it was thoroughly bowdlerized or rendered as otherworldly as possible. For reasons that are not clear, the suffering Crucifix in its customary form emerged suddenly and fully formed in 10th century Germany and spread quickly to England where it appears in manuscript illustrations from the end of the 10th century and the beginning of the 11th.
The center panel shows the Visit of the Magi. The left wing shows Saint Ursula and some of her 11,000 virgins who were all slaughtered with her by the Huns at Cologne according to pious legend. On the right panel is Saint Gereon and his companions, supposedly beheaded by the Roman legions in Cologne.
Cathedral's website. I will hazard a guess that this is the Shrine of Saint Heribert (?) made for the Deutz Church in Cologne. I could be wrong, since all the pictures of that shrine show it securely housed in the Deutz Church.
*I'm now guessing that this shrine once formed part of the nearby altarpiece. The Cathedral website says that the altarpiece has been greatly reduced and modified over time, but once contained a compartment for a shrine. Maybe this was that shrine.
** It is the shrine to Saint Agilolfus. Gerrit did what I should have done before posting this little identification problem; he took a close look at my photo of the end of the shrine above, and sure enough, there are the words OSSA S. AGILOLFIAM... inscribed on the base of the shrine.
I end with a little footnote, a painting that is not in Cologne, but is now in Munich and was painted by a Fleming. It was made for a church in Cologne, and maybe shows some inspiration from Stefan Lochner.
My picture of visitors to the Alte Pinakothek in Munich gazing at my favorite painting by Rogier Van Der Weyden, the Columba Altarpiece made sometime around 1460 for the church of Saint Columba in Cologne.
I traveled to Munich on a day-trip from Nuremberg. I was in that city for an afternoon.
The composition here is far more complex and subtle than anything Stefan Lochner painted. And yet in the Virgin and Child almost but not quite in the center, and the pyramidal group she forms with the kneeling Gaspar, there may be some slight nod here in the direction of Lochner's Dombild.
I also love the thoughtful looking cow behind her.
Another striking anachronism is the small Crucifix above the Virgin's head. Rogier was much more interested in human beings and how they revealed meaning through character and action than he was in symbolism. When he does use symbols, they can sometimes be heavy handed.
Each and every bell of Cologne Cathedral:
Goodbye to Cologne; the view from the train as we head out to Münster.