The Cologne Cathedral is the seat of the Archbishop of Cologne and of the administration of the Archdiocese of Cologne. Its foundation stone was laid in place on August 15, 1248, by Archbishop Konrad von Hochstaden.
The cathedral is the largest Gothic church in Northern Europe. It was conceived to house the relics of the Three Kings, acquired in 1164 by Rainald of Dassel, the Archbishop of Cologne.
The eastern arm of the cathedral was completed in 1322; it was sealed off by a temporary wall so the cathedral could be put into use while work on the construction of the rest of the cathedral continued.
Except for sporadic work on the nave in the 15th and 16th centuries, all work on the cathedral was halted in 1473. In the 19th century, the original plans for the facade were discovered and efforts to complete the construction began, with the support of the Protestant Prussian court.
On August 14, 1880, the cathedral was finally completed, 632 years after construction had begun.
During World War II, the cathedral, though damaged by Allied bombing, remained standing, even though much of the surrounding city was flattened. Repairs to the damage the cathedral had suffered were completed in 1956.
In 1996, the cathedral was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List of culturally important sites. Today, the cathedral is among Germany's most popular landmarks, visited by an average of 20,000 people per day. Visitors can climb the 509 stone steps of the spiral staircase to a platform 322 feet above the ground that affords them a scenic view over the Rhine.
Louis Vierne's "Cathédrales," performed by Prof. Clemens Ganz
Listen to music performed by Prof. Clemens Ganz on the cathedral's "Swallow's Nest" organ, built in 1998 to celebrate the cathedral's 750 years.