History of the Building
The Cathedral in the Year 1170
The place in which the cathedral is situated today has been since late roman times the place where the first christians assembled in Cologne. Several churches- each one in turn larger than its predecessors- have been built on this site near the city walls. The first of these churches of which we know what it looked like was the Carolingian cathedral finished around 800. It had on each end of the nave a transept as well as a choir.The altar to the east was consecrated to Maria and the western altar was consecrated to St. Peter. Under the archbishop Bruno a northern and a southern side aisle were added to the nave. This cathedral stood until the 13th century and underwent only small changes during this time. The picture shows the cathedral as well as the St.Maria ad gradus church situated towards the east of the cathedral.
The Cathedral in the Year 1248
Ever after archbishop Rainald von Dassel brought the relics of the Magi to Cologne in 1164 the cathedral was not only the official church of the Cologne archbishop, but also became one of the most important pilgrimage churches throughout Europe. Therefore it desperately needed another architectonic form. The old cathedral had to be pulled down step by step before the building of the Gothic cathedral could be begun in 1248. When the workers tried to demolish the eastern choir by fire the whole building burned down. The western parts were restored for the time being in order to be able to hold services there.
The Cathedral in the Year 1322
In 1322 the Gothic choir was consecrated. Its vautlts span high above and a filigree wood of buttresses and flying buttresses surrounded the building in order to back up its walls. Once again this part of the building was closed up by a wall towards the west so that services could be held in the whole of the choir building. This also enabled the cathedral chapter to hold its meetings in the inner choir. The eastern choir was richly decorated even before they started to build the remaining parts of the cathedral. Important works of art which had already been in the old cathedral as e.g. the Gero cross and the shrine of the Magi were placed in the new building. Saints like e.g. Irmgardis and important archbishops like e.g. Philipp von Heinsberg were once again buried in the choir chapels.
The Cathedral in the Year 1794
After the Gothic choir was finished the two aisles of the nave were built as well as two storeys of the southern tower.Until approximately 1530 works on the cathedral continued and the building was adorned with furnishings. Then lack of money and a general lack of interest stopped the building. The nave was closed with a makeshift roof. The building remained apparentely a fragment as shown in the picture, but seen from inside it was a large church which was obviously regarded as sufficient. Therefore its rich decoration inside was continued throughout the following centuries. In 1794 the troups of the french revolution marched into Cologne. The archbishop and the cathedral chapter fled. From then on the cathedral served during many years profane purposes, e. g. as a warehouse. Only in 1801 it was consecrated again as a church.
The Cathedral in the Year 1864
The love and the enthusiasm of the Cologne people for this extraordinary building grew especially during those years in which the cathedral was profaned. Many forces united so that they could carry on the building of the cathedral in 1842. About half of the necessary money came from the Prussian treasury the other half was raised by the Zentral Dombau Verein (Central Association for Building the Cathedral), in which many committed Cologne citizens were engaged. A very intensive and effective phase of building began. The builders strictly followed the medieval plans in regard to form, but they used modern building techniques.
The picture shows that in 1864 the two transept facades as well as the triforium of nave and transept were already finished. The wooden roof truss above the medieval choir was replaced by an iron construction which covered the whole building. It was one of the most progressive examples of its time. In 1880, finally, both of the towers were finished.
The Cathedral in the Year 1998
Even though Cologne Cathedral was hit by 14 large aerial bombs it survived also the Second World War. Many years of reconstruction followed. Modern construction styles were used - above all- in the northern transept.. The most conspicuous mark of the post war era which can be seen in the picture is the modern crossing tower. It was formed by Cologne Cathedral Architect Willy Weyres and the sculptor Erlefried Hoppe.
Even today some of the wounds slayn during the war exist. They must be repaired together with the damages caused by weather and pollution. Therefore Cologne Cathedral is an
"eternal costruction site" and will hopefully stay thus for a long time to come, because these enduring works on the cathedral show us how important the cathedral still is for us today.
Prof. Dr. Barbara Schock-Werner, Cologne Cathedral Architect