Cologne Cathedral

Marvel at the Gothic architecture and the shrine of the three wise men at one of the largest churches in the world.

The Cologne Cathedral is the tallest Roman Catholic cathedral in the world. It was built between 1248 and 1880 in order to house the precious Shrine of the Three Holy Kings. The cathedral stands 516 feet (157 meters) tall and is one of the most popular attractions in the city.

Admire the majestic spires before entering the cathedral. Once inside, walk down the main aisle and look up at one of the tallest Gothic vaults in the world. The stained-glass windows are particularly eye-catching; five of them were gifts from King Ludwig I of Bavaria. One of the windows is a 66-foot (20-meter) high modern interpretation added by the German artist Gerhard Richter in 2007.

Approach the impressive High Altar to see the sarcophagus the cathedral was built for. Decorated in gold and studded with jewels, the shrine is said to hold the crowned skulls of the Magi, otherwise known as the “three wise men,” and is the largest reliquary in the Western world.

The shrine is not the only treasure you’ll find in the Cologne Cathedral. The oldest surviving crucifix monument north of the Alps, the Gero-Kreuz, is located just by the sacristy. In the Sacrament Chapel is the Milan Madonna, an elegant wooden sculpture of the Virgin Mary with the infant Jesus, dating back to the 13th century. Enter the Treasure Chamber to see a collection of precious artifacts, some dating as far back as the fourth century.

Climb the cathedral tower for views of the city from 328 feet (100 meters) high.

Some say the cathedral is an example of divine intervention, as it survived the bombings that razed the rest of central Cologne to the ground during World War II. Others attribute its survival to the fact that Allied bomber pilots used the cathedral as a point of orientation for navigating the area.

The main hall can be entered free of charge. There are small fees for entry to the Treasury Chamber and Cathedral Tower. The cathedral is located next to Cologne’s main train station. Take the U-Bahn to the station Dom/Hauptbahnhof. There is a pay parking facility nearby.

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