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Kolner Dome (Cologne Cathedral)

cologne, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany A symbol of German Catholicism

Amidst the Nazi heartland lies a Gothic German masterpiece which symbolizes German Catholicism, the Kolner Dom. It is a masterpiece of exceptional intrinsic value and a powerful testimony to the strength and persistence of Christian belief in medieval and modern Europe.

The magnificent cathedral dominates the skyline of Cologne and is one of Germany’s most famous landmarks.  It is also one of the most beautiful examples of Gothic and Neo-Gothic architecture in the world.

The spires and buttresses outside and arches and phalanxes of pillars inside invoke a feeling of spiritual trance.  The internal and external architecture of Kolner Dome is a feast to connoisseur of medieval architecture. The cathedral epitomizes the Gothic medieval architecture at its best.

The rise of the tall towers of the Kolner Dom are a reminder that amidst the dark history that the country holds, there is still hope if you turn your ways to God.

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History and Belief

In 1164, the Archbishop of Cologne, Rainald of Dassel, acquired the relics of the Three Kings which the Holy Roman Emperor, Frederick Barbarossa, had taken from the Basilica of Sant'Eustorgio, Milan, Italy. The relics have great religious significance and drew pilgrims from all over Christendom. It was important to church officials to house the relics properly and accommodate thousands of pilgrims. , This led to the building of Cologne’s new cathedral in the new style of Gothic architecture, based in particular on the French cathedral of Amiens.

On 15 August 1248, the day of assumption of Virgin Mary, the foundation stone of Gothic cathedral was laid.

Though it is believed and mentioned at various forums that the work was halted in 1473 due to insufficient funds but the official information doesn’t mention that. The construction was interrupted but it was in 1520 and then for next 300 years, the cathedral was in ruin.

The condition of the cathedral became worse when the troops of the French Revolution occupied the Rhineland in 1794. The cathedral was closed for masses and was used for a variety of purposes, including as a stable, a magazine distribution, and a place of detention for prisoners of war.  

Despite all this, the re-construction again started in 1842 when King Frederick William IV of Prussia laid the foundation stone and the citizens of Cologne founded Zentral – Dombau – Verein, an association to raise money for the cathedral.

With the aid of new technology, the construction was completed in 14th August 1880. This was celebrated as a national event and was attended by Emperor Wilhelm I.

Again, During World War II, the Cathedral got badly damaged It has hit by 14 high explosive aerial bombs.  Repair work began during WW II and continued till 2005 when the towers and the cathedral were restored back to their original glory. 

In 1996, Germany’s largest and magnificent cathedra was added to the list of World Heritage Site.


The Kolner Dom is designed in the shape of Latin cross .To enjoy this, an aerial tour is a must. The beautiful spires and buttresses in French characteristic style add grace to the gigantic structure.

The height of the northern and southern towers of Kolner Dom is above 157.30 m (516 ft) and are visible from anywhere in Cologne. As soon as someone takes the main exit from the central station, Cologne Dom is the first sight. 

The landmark Spires are the second tallest after Ulm minster located at ULM, Germany. The Kolner Dom remained the tallest building in the world from 1880 to 1884. It is still the largest Gothic church in Germany and tallest Roman Catholic cathedral in the world.

One can experience spiritual trance on entering the cathedral. The beautiful 19th century nave, stained glass windows and the choir beautifully decorated with carved stalls can take one away from the bland architecture of modern times.  84 misericords dating back to 1322, the Gero Crucifix and the altar paintings add aesthetic charm to the cathedral. No wonder the master artist of the cathedral states that the Kolner Dom is a picture of heaven.      

The chimes arising from the 11 bells of the Kolner Cathedral can surely atone anybody’s sins. The 24 tonne Peter Bell dated 1923 is the largest free swinging bell in the world and a metallurgical marvel. The cathedral has the highest vault in the world and is supported by two aisles on either sides.

The spiritual sanctum holds priceless treasures in form of the High Altar, the Shrine of Three Kings and Milan Maddona dating from around 1290.

During World War-II, window in south transept glass got damaged and was replaced by plain glass. German contemporary artist Gerhard Richter replaced this glass with one of his own masterpiece “symphony of light”. Utilizing modern computer technology he simulated the pixel effect through 11,500 pieces of colored glass of same size. When the sun filters through 11,500 squares in 72 colors they weave a magical experience. 

To enjoy scenic view of Rhine flowing by the side of cathedral, one can step on its viewing platform which is located 330 ft above the ground. One can reach this platform by climbing 533 stone steps of the spiral staircase.

The cathedral has two pipe organs built by Klais Orgelbau, the Transept Organ built in 1948 and the Nave Organ built in 1998. Every year, 12 concerts are held in the cathedral drawing tourists from all over the world. Since its inauguration in 1960 by Professor Zimmerman, the impressive lineup of people who performed here include Josef Zimmermann, Clemens Ganz and Winfried Bönig. As a part of World youth day celebrations, the cathedral hosted Beethoven, Missa Solemis performed by Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and the London Philharmonic Choir by Sir Gilbert Levine telecasted live all over the world.

The Kolner Dom is also the seat of the Archbishop of Cologne and of the administration of Archdiocese of Cologne


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Daily programs

The cathedral timings are:

May to October: 6:00 AM to 09:00 PM
November to April 6:00 AM to07:30 PM
For tourists on Sundays and holidays: 01.00 PM TO 04:30 PM

The regular services hours are:

Regular service hours:
    Monday - Saturday: 6:30 AM, 8:00 AM, 9:00 AM, 12 Noon and 6:30 PM;
    Sunday: 7:00 AM, 8:00 AM, 9:00 AM, 10:00 AM, 12:00 Noon; 5:00 PM ; 7:00 PM

In case you wish to make a confession the timings for making confession are:

Monday to Friday: 7:45 AM - 9:00 AM
Saturday: 2:00 PM - 6:00 PM


How to travel

The best time to visit is before Christmas when the city is in full festival mood.

The Cathedral is at a walking distance from Cologne Central Railway Station (Köln Hauptbahnhof). There are three airports, Cologne Bonn Airport, Dusseldorf International Airport and Frankfurt Rhein Main International Airport, and there are fast trains to connect these airports to Cologne Central Railway Station.

Moreover, Amsterdam, Brussels and Paris have high speed trains that link Cologne’s two railway stations Köln-Deutz and Köln Hauptbahnhof (Cologne Central Railway Station).

The trains via Koblenz take extremely scenic route along the Rhine valley and also cost 30% cheaper

The well connected international bus station at Breslauer Platz connects lot of major cities in and outside Germany. The bus station is again at a walking distance from the cathedral.

For all tourists travelling by car, “Low Emissions” sticker is mandatory. It is preferable to check in traffic conditions as in peak hours, traffic is heavy.

Cologne city has over 250 hotels ranging from economy to luxury.

City Class hotels is one such chain which is nearer to Cathedral. Accor hotels offer rooms from 29 Euros a night in one of the 18 Accor hotels.

The city also provides hostel facilities.

Pathpoint Cologne and Black Sheep hostels are nearer to all sightseeing highlights while A&O Koln Neumarkt is nearer to transportation hub of Cologne.

If you wish to travel and stay economically, the City also provides camping facilities at many camping sites. Some of the camping sites are:

  • Camp site Berger

Contact: Berger GmbH & Co. KG, Uferstraße 71,  50996 Köln -Rodenkirchen

Tel.: +49 221 / 935 52-40; Fax: +49 221 / 935 52-46;


  • Municipal camp site

Contact: Campingplatz der Stadt Kölnt, Weidenweg 35, 51105 Köln-Poll

Tel.: +0049 221 / 831 966; Fax: +49 221 / 460 22-21;



May to October: 06:00 AM to 09:00 PM 

November to April: 06:00 AM to 07:30 PM

Note: From March 2017 tourists are not allowed to carry bags inside the cathedral. This step was taken in view of the terrorists attacks in the country.

Entrance Fee

Though the entry to the cathedral is free but there are charges to visit specific sections inside the cathedral –

  • Visit to tower: 3 Euros- 9:00 AM to 04:00 PM/06:00 AM (depending on the season);
  • Treasure chamber and tower: 6 Euros
  • English guided tour: 8 Euros for adults and 5 Euros for children
    • Monday to Saturday - 10:00 AM and  02:30 PM,
    • Sundays and holidays - 2.30 PM


See Kolner Dome (Cologne Cathedral) on map

Nearby Attraction

Cologne has some other attractions that will keep the visitors engaged. With the aid of well-connected subway, trams and bus network, moving around is fairly easy.  One can visit Wllraf-Richartz Museum and the Ludwig Museum in Cologne. These galleries house masterpieces from renowned artists such as Rembrandt, Manet, Renoir, Lieberman and Slevogt.

Afgha-Foto-Historama is a photo museum which has photos dating back to 1840. The Roman Germanic museum near the cathedral has some ancient artifacts like Dionysus mosaic that were discovered during excavations in the city. The funerary monument of Poblicius is from 1st century.

Kolumba is a museum that houses artifacts of Archdiocese of Cologne and a place of interest.

Additional Information

The Kolner Dom is an awe-inspiring monument to human ingenuity. Master architect of the cathedral believes that it represented heaven to people in medieval times.

A holy place of Christian Pilgrimage attracts 20,000 visitors every day and it leaves the visitors impressed, astonished and amazed. Built in more than 600 years, this holy place had withstood some of the most difficult times. In spite of its magnificence and unparalleled grandeurs, a walk inside the cathedral makes you feel prayerful.  The relics of the three kings, the Gero crucifix and other artifacts aim at drawing the observer to spirituality through craftsmanship. The choir performances and organ recitals ultimately draw us to the aura of spirituality that lies within and push us to sit down and pray.





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