The Cologne Cathedral, located in the city of Cologne, Germany, is the largest Gothic church in northern Europe, and is revered as it is believed to house the relics of the three magi who visited Baby Jesus at the time of birth. The building of the Cathedral commenced in 1248 and continued until 1560, and then stopped midway. In 1842, a new cornerstone was laid by King Frederick William IV of Prussia. Architects Ernst Friedrich Zwirner and Richard Voigtel, guided by architectural drawings made in about 1300, undertook the enterprise with renewed vigour. The construction finally ended in 1880, 632 years later.
Between 1880 and 1884, the Cologne Cathedral was the tallest building in the world. The Cathedral is still the second highest building in Cologne after the telecommunications tower, with its immense twin towers that stand 515 feet (157 metres) tall. Its footprint spans 145 meters (475 feet) in length, and the cross nave measures 86 meters (282 feet) in width.
While the enormous Western facade is the largest in the world, the Cologne Cathedral has the world’s third largest church interior. The structure covers almost 8,000 square meters (86,111 square feet) of floor space and can hold more than 20,000 people. The design of the Cathedral closely resembles that of Amiens Cathedral in France, in terms of ground plan, style and the width to height proportion of the central nave.
The Gero Cross or Gero Crucifix, dating back to 965–970 AD, is the oldest large sculpture of the crucified Christ north of the Alps, and has always been displayed in Cologne Cathedral.
From 1880 to 1900 mosaic flooring made of ceramic material was laid in the choir. The figurative scenes, made in Mettlach after designs by August Ottmar von Essenwein, have mythological and allegorical themes. The Cathedral is admired for its many art treasures that have been crafted by renowned craftsmen across the centuries.