World Heritage Cologne Cathedral is he biggest gothic building of the world
Long before you reach the centre of Cologne you see two mighty spires each 157 metres (515ft) high pedominating the city skyline. They belong to the Cologne Cathedral (Kölner Dom), which was added to the World Heritage list by Unesco in 1996. It is one of Europe's most spectacular cathedrals and holds the record of the the biggest church facade in the world.
|Colourful stained glass windows that flood the Cologne Cathedral with their mysterious light.
Building began in 1248 in the French Gothic style but was suspended for lack of money. For approximately 300 years, the stucture lay half-finished and was even demoted to a prison by Napoleon's troops until a generous cash infusion from Prussian King Friedrich Wilhelm IV finally led to its completion in 1880.
At that time it was the tallest building in the world but lost the title to the Washington Monument in 1884.
Once you're in Cologne thinking of a nice day trip it's a good idea to visit another World Heritage: Augustusburg Castle and park in Brühl. It's a worthwile destination just 15km away from the tourist crowds of Cologne.
Nevertheless it's still the biggest gothic building in the world with a wealth of important art works inside: the colourful stained glass windows that flood the cathedral with their mysterious light, the wooden Gero cross of monumental size, the shrine housing the relics of the Three Kings, an exceptional example of the regional goldsmiths’ art. These relics and other treasures like the Shrine of the Three Magi have made the church a famous pilgrimage destination - but it's a shame, due to the hundreds of visitors inside it feels more like a touristic site than a reliquious place of worship.
Additional highlights are to visit the Cologne Cathedral treasury (Domschatzkammer) or to climb 509 steps up the south tower - views from the 95m platform are pretty good.
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