Cologne Cathedral or High Cathedral of Saint Peter is the Roman Catholic cathedral located in Cologne, Germany. Cologne is located on both sides of the Rhine River, less than eighty kilometers from Belgium. It is the seat of the Archbishop of Cologne and of the administration of the Archdiocese of Cologne. This renowned Gothic architecture monument was declared a World Heritage site in 1996. It is Germany’s most visited landmarks, attracting an average of 20,000 visitors a day. Construction of Cologne cathedral commenced in 1248 and was halted in 1473, leaving it unfinished. Work restarted in the 19th century and was completed to the original plan, in 1880. Its highest spires give it the largest façade of any church in the world.
In 1164, the Archbishop of Cologne, Rainald of Dassel acquired the relics of the Three Kings (the three wise men in the Gospel of Matthew who visited Jesus after his birth, bearing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh) which the Holy Roman Emperor, Frederick Barbarossa had taken from the Basilica of Sant’Eustorgio, Milan, Italy. The relics have great significance and drew pilgrims from all over Christendom. It was important to the church officials that they be properly housed and thus began a building program in the new style of Gothic architecture. The design of Cologne Cathedral was based quite closely on that of Amiens Cathedral in France, in terms of ground plan, style and width to height proportion of central nave. The plan is in the shape of a Latin Cross, as is usual with Gothic cathedrals.
During the World War II, the cathedral suffered fourteen hits by aerial bombs which badly damaged it. The twin spires were an easily recognizable navigational land mark for Allied aircraft bombing. Repairs were completed in 1956. An emergency repair on the northwest tower’s base carried out in 1944 using poor quality brick taken from a nearby ruined building remained visible, until 2005 as a reminder of the war, when it was decided to restore the section to its original appearance.