Cologne, Germany

Cologne
View across the Rhine to the historic center of Cologne, including St. Kunibert Church and Cologne Cathedral. Photo © Sacred Destinations.

Cologne (German: Köln) is the largest city in the Rhineland region of Germany, with a population of about 1 million. It is located 17 miles north of Bonn and 117 miles northwest of Frankfurt. Cologne's population is 43% Roman Catholic, 18% Protestant and 39% nonreligious or other. Cologne is best known for its magnificent Gothic cathedral, which was once the tallest building in the world. But Cologne is also so rich in antiquity that every time a new foundation is dug, the excavators come up with archaeological finds.

Extensive bombing during World War II seriously damaged nearly all the buildings of the Old Town, but the cathedral was mostly spared and the old churches have all been lovingly restored. Today, Cologne is a bustling modern city with much to see, from ancient Roman artifacts to magnificent Romanesque churches. Cologne has 31 museums, with exhibits ranging from archeological findings to contemporary art. Most recently, Cologne hosted the 2005 World Youth Festival, attended by German native Pope Benedict XVI.


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St. Gereon
Built in the 11th and 13th centuries, St. Gereon has an unusual decagonal-shaped nave topped with a great dome. It houses numerous medieval murals, rare Romanesque mosaics, and the tomb of St. Gereon.
Cologne Cathedral Treasury
A glittering collection of crowns and croziers, plus the original wooden Shrine of the Magi and some ancient Roman artifacts.
Schnütgen Museum
Built in 1130-60 as a house for noble canonesses, it later became an Augustinian convent. Today the church shelters the Schnütgen Museum, an excellent collection of medieval religious art.
St. Pantaleon Church
St. Pantaleon is one of the oldest of the Romanesque churches in Cologne. Dedicated to a Greek martyr and built over the ruins of a Roman villa, the present building dates from 996.
Cologne Cathedral
This is easily the greatest Gothic cathedral in Germany and it has been Cologne's most famous landmark for centuries. Once the tallest building in the world, it still has the largest facade anywhere.
Roman-Germanic Museum
This museum next to the cathedral displays vast collection of Roman artifacts from Cologne and the surrounding area, including the remarkably well-preserved Dionysus Mosaic.
St. Maria im Kapitol
Built over the site of a Roman temple, the plan of the 11th-century church echoes that of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.