The history of Germany’s greatest Gothic cathedral is unusually long and complex. The foundation stone of the current Cologne cathedral was laid on August 15, 1248, and the presbytery consecrated in 1322. The cathedral was constructed gradually till round 1520, however remained unfinished till the nineteenth century. The constructing was lastly accomplished in 1842-80, based on the rediscovered, original Gothic designs. Once the world’s tallest construction, Cologne Cathedral nonetheless boasts the world’s largest church façade.
The 3.4-ton bell forged in 1418 in honor of the Three Kings was tuned to the note B. It hung in a belfry adjacent to the cathedral, however in 1437 it was moved to the south tower. Eleven years later, it was joined by Europe’s largest bell, the 10-ton Pretiosa, tuned to G. When rung together, the bells produced a G-major chord. In 1449, the 4.3-ton Speciosa was added. It was tuned to A, in order that Cologne Cathedral could be the first church to have its bells tuned to a melody rather than a chord. The first bell has since been replaced.
Round 30 years after the cathedral’s foundation stone was laid, the pillars of the choir had been embellished with early-Gothic statues of Christ, the Virgin Mary and the 12 Apostles. These bigger-than-life figures are clad in splendid robes. Above them there’s a choir of angels playing musical instruments, symbolizing the heavenly music performed to rejoice the celestial coronation of the Virgin Mary. The coronation itself is depicted within the figures of Christ and Mary.
The Shrine of the Three Kings, the biggest reliquary within the Western world, is situated close to the high altar. Studded with valuable and semiprecious stones, this lidded sarcophagus is a masterpiece of medieval goldsmithery. Its sides are embellished with images of the prophets and Apostles, the adoration of the kings and the baptism of Christ. The rear includes a portrait of Rainald von Dassel, archbishop of Cologne.