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Avalon Artistry II arrived in Cologne, Germany around 7 AM, while we were having breakfast. Two complimentary walking tours were offered - one of them focused on Jewish heritage and the other was a city tour. We opted for the latter.
Construction of the Cologne Cathedral, a Gothic masterpiece, took place in several stages starting in 1248 and concluding in 1880.
This Roman Catholic cathedral dominates the skyline of Cologne. It is one of Germany's most famous landmarks. It was the highlight of our morning tour of the city. Dedicated to the saints Peter and Mary, Cologne Cathedral (Kölner Dom) is the seat of the Catholic Archbishop of Cologne.
The cathedral's main treasure is a golden reliquary containing the remains of the Three Magi of Christmas story fame. These relics and other treasures have made Cologne Cathedral a major pilgrimage destination for centuries.
The reliquary is said to contain the bones of the Biblical Magi, also known as the Three Kings or the Three Wise Men. The shrine is a large gilded and decorated triple sarcophagus placed above and behind the high altar of Cologne Cathedral. It is considered the high point of Mosan art and the largest reliquary in the western world.
In 1996, the cathedral was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List of culturally important sites. In 2004 it was placed on the "World Heritage in Danger" list, as the only Western site in danger, due to plans to construct a high-rise building nearby, which would have visually impacted the site. The cathedral was removed from the List of In Danger Sites in 2006, following the authorities' decision to limit the heights of buildings constructed near and around the cathedral.
The interior of Cologne Cathedral is even more impressive than the exterior. Since the official part of our tour concluded at the cathedral, we were free to roam at our own pace. We could have spent hours there. We highly recommend an extended visit to the cathedral should your plans bring you to Cologne.
Near the sacristy is the Gero-Kreuz, a large crucifix carved in oak and with traces of paint and gilding. Believed to have been commissioned around 960 for Archbishop Gero, it is the oldest large crucifix north of the Alps and the earliest-known large free-standing Northern sculpture of the medieval period.
In the Sacrament Chapel is the Mailänder Madonna ("Milan Madonna"), dating from around 1290, a wooden sculpture depicting the Blessed Virgin Mary and the infant Jesus. The altar of the patron saints of Cologne with an altar piece by the International Gothic painter, Stefan Lochner is in the Marienkapelle ("St. Mary's Chapel"). Other works of art are in the Cathedral Treasury. The altar also houses the relics of Saint Irmgardis.
Cologne Cathedral (Interior)
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