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The bet with the Devil

Photo: © Dombauhütte Köln, Matz und Schenk

When the Old Cathedral was to be replaced by a beautiful new one, Master Gerhard of Ryle, who had studied the art of cathedral architecture in France was commissioned to design a new plan within a period of one year. He started the work enthusiastically but whenever he was certain that he had found an executable plan, new problems arose and he began to have doubts. When he was walking on the other side of the Rhine, completely filled with his sorrows, he came upon a large rock which was called the "Devil's Stone". Here he fell asleep. When Master Gerhard awoke, a stranger stood before him, dressed in the manner of the French architects. The foreigner began to draw in the sand with his stick the lines of a building plan which Gerhard easily recognized as the completed plan of the Cathedral. Astonished, Gerhard asked the foreigner what he must give in exchange to receive this plan. The answer was: "I will help you build this structure in three years when you offer yourself as well as your wife and child. In case that I have not completed the building at the first crow of the rooster at the end of the last night of the third year, you will be free."

Not even the devil can complete such a massive structure within three years time, thought Master Gerhard and agreed to the bet. From then on the work at the site proceeded as quick as never before. By day and night the sound of construction rang and the Master architect became more and more astounded. Soon it was rumored that weird and evel things were going on at the work site. The Master architect's wife heard this. Worried she questioned her husband and to her disdain Master Gerhard told her of the disastrous pact. In despair the clever wife began to think of a way out. One day, as she went to the market with her son, the child pointed out a magnificent rooster and tried to mimic its cry. Full of happiness the intelligent wife hugged her child because a way out of this doubtful situation had been found. Immediately she began to practice the crow of the rooster at home until the roosters of the entire neighborhood began to answer her. The last night of the third year came and the wife of the architect prayed that God would save them. Shortly before the first break of dawn, just as the last stone of the Cathedral tower was being raised to the top, she let out her cry like that of the rooster and all the roosters in the area answered her back. With a thunderous roar the Cathedral collapsed. Thus the architect and his family had been saved but the Cathedral was only finished many centuries later.

Kulturstiftung Kölner Dom Das Generationenprojekt 11.000 Sterne für den Kölner Dom ZENTRAL-DOMBAU-VEREIN ZU KÖLN VON 1842 DOMKLOSTER 4