Europe is not short on cathedrals and churches, it must be said. From the grandiose, gargantuan cathedrals such as St Peter’s in Rome to the tiniest little countryside church, spanning centuries of building, there are so many to visit when you go to Europe it’s no wonder we all get sick of ‘oh, another church’ sooner or later.
But personally there are some that, as a happy-snapping tourist, you really can’t afford to miss. And right up there on that list is Cologne’s Cathedral, the Kolner Dom – also dedicated to Saint Peter. It’s the central piece to Germany’s amazing city of Cologne, it’s most recognisable landmark and chief tourist attraction.
It is one of the biggest cathedrals in all of Europe, and the biggest in Northern Europe. Interestingly work began in the 13th century on this incredible edifice, but worked was halted and it wasn’t completed until the 19th century. Restoration work was done in the 20th century to leave us with what we can visit today.
The style is unmistakably gothic. It sits in Cologne with a square in front of it and the river behind it, and yes there are simply hoards of people visiting each day. But to visit Cologne and not visit the Dom would be… well you know, like visiting Lalibela and not seeing the rock-hewn churches! (and yes, I met someone in Lalibela who gave them a miss!)
I remember standing gob-smacked outside the cathedral in the square looking up at it. The spires seemed a long long way up – in fact they are 157 metres. The gothic style is a strange one in some ways, it’s dark and intricate and quite foreboding and haunting – churches are supposed to places of light, right?
You go inside and somehow it seems even bigger once you are in. You get an idea of the length which you don’t really from outside. It’s set out in the traditional cross formation, and so the centre – from the entrance to the back – is impressively high with the rows of seats for mass.
As with most large cathedrals it’s the side areas that take the time, with little ‘chaplets’ dotted around with their own altars and icons, paintings. Some of the lower rooves are painted, and there is a large section full of candles for visitors to buy and light for a prayer. Parts of the floor are actually mosaic art works, which are also magnificent.
So – a trip to Cologne without seeing the cathedral? Don’t do it! I doubt you would anyway. Cologne is actually a brilliant city to visit and there’s more to see than just the cathedral, but it is (and was for me) the perfect place to start your exploration of this city!
Thanks for reading – May the Journey Never End!