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Cologne, Germany: The Cologne Cathedral


About the Cologne Cathedral:

The immense Cathedral in Cologne is an excellent example of Gothic architecture and is the most visited tourist attraction in Germany. Estimates are that there are about 20,000 visitors per day.

Exterior of the Cologne Cathedral
Exterior of the Cologne Cathedral

Stepping out of the train station you are immediately greeted with the gigantic facade of the Cathedral.

Amazingly, although much of the city was destroyed around it during World War Two, and the Cathedral was hit by 14 bombs, it emerged mostly un-scathed.


Perhaps the main point of interest here is the resting place of the Magi (the three wise men), kept in the reliquary shown here. It was a major pilgrimage site in the middle ages.

The “relics of the Magi” were originally kept in Constantinople (modern Istanbul), but Emperor Constantine entrusted them to the Bishop of Milan in 314.  Then in 1164, Holy Roman Emperor Fredrick Barbarossa took the relics of the Magi from the church of Saint Eustorgio in Milan and gave them to the Archbishop of Cologne, Rainald of Dassel.

Of minor note is that fact that in the Bible (Matthew 2:1-12) it does not specify that there were three wise men..or that they were actually kings….only that there were three gifts (Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh).   This represented a special spiritual symbolism about Jesus himself—gold representing His kingship, frankincense a symbol of His priestly role, and myrrh, a prefiguring of His death and embalming.

Because Matthew nominated three gifts (gold, frankincense and myrrh) that the magi brought to Jesus, it soon became assumed that there were exactly three wise men. A medieval tradition even gave them names: Gaspar, Balthasar, and Melchior, but again there is no mention of their names in the Bible.

Admission to the Cathedral itself is free. There is a fee for climbing the tower that gives you a magnificent view of the city. It is a bit strenuous, so probably not for everyone.

Also there are some guided tours, the most popular of which is the Treasury. Cost is around 40 euros but definitely worth it.

Getting there:

The Cathedral is in the center of town and, of course, Cologne has a major airport as well as excellent train connections.   Get air, train & bus schedules, see fares & buy tickets here.

Address: Domkloster 4, 50667 Köln

GPS coordinates: 50° 56′ 28.8888” N, 6° 57′ 29.9052” E

Tel: +49 221 – 17940-200 Fax: +49 221 – 17940-299

e-mail: domseelsorge@metropolitankapitel-koeln.de

Click here for the official website of the Cologne Cathedral.

Find hotels in Cologne, compare prices, and read what other travelers have to say at TripAdvisor

Sources: Madden, Daniel M. A Religious Guide to Europe. New York: Macmillan, 1975. 139-44. Print

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