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Cologne cathedral

Cologne Cathedral (or Kölner Dom), 144m in length and 86m in width, with its two spires, 157 m in height, has been Cologne's most famous landmark for centuries and one of the most well-known architectural monuments in Germany.

It was built on the site of a 4th century Roman temple, a square edifice known as the 'oldest cathedral' and commissioned by Maternus[?], the first Christian bishop of Cologne.

The present cathedral was built to house the relics of the Magi, brought to Cologne from Italy by Archbishop Rainald von Dassel in 1164. The foundation stone was laid on August 15, 1248, by Archbishop Konrad von Hochstaden. The choir was consecrated in 1322. After this initial rapid progress, construction work gradually came to a standstill, and by the year 1560, only a torso had been built. It was only with 19th century romantic enthusiasm for the Middle Ages and the commitment of the Prussian Court that construction work resumed in 1842 with the addition of the spires and other substantial parts of the cathedral.

It took 632 years from the laying of the foundation stone to the completion of this, Germany's largest cathedral in 1880, celebrated as a national event, and attended by the Kaiser.

The cathedral suffered 14 hits by Second World War bombs; reconstruction was completed in 1956.

The most celebrated work of art in the cathedral is the Sarcophagus of the Magi, a large gilded sarcophagus dating from the 13th century, and the largest reliquary in the western world. See: Shrine of the Three Kings at Cologne Cathedral.

The Gero Cross (Gero-Kreuz) (around 970 AD), near the sacristy, is the oldest large cross north of the Alps.

In the Sacrament Chapel, the "Milan Madonna" (Mailänder Madonna), dating from around 1290, is a wooden sculpture depicting Mary and the child Jesus.

In St. Mary's Chapel (Marienkapelle) is the altar of the patron saints of Cologne with an altar piece by Stephan Lochner.

Other outstanding works of art are to be found in the cathedral treasure chamber.

For a small fee it is possible to climb a spiral staircase to a viewing platform about 98 metres above the ground.

The cathedral is listed in the UNESCO World Heritage List of culturally important sites.

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