When I moved to Brussels 14 years ago someone asked me whether I have ever visited Cologne. ‘What is Cologne?’ I replied. ‘A city in Germany’ was the answer. ‘I have never heard of it’ I said. I could easily imagine how ignorant I looked in the eyes of my colleague.
Shortly after I realised that Cologne is actually Köln, as it is known in my home country, where we used to pronounce, for example, cities’ and writers’ names in original. So my ignorance probably shocked, but I did not care. This story went on with the case of Antwerp (known as Anvers only) or Aix-La-Chapelle (known as Aachen).
We visited Köln for the second time this summer. And we were happy to revisit its famous Kölner Dom, the cathedral, bearing the name of St. Peter. Being a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the cathedral is a well-known monument of German Catholicism and Gothic architecture and it is Germany’s most visited sight.
The cathedral has got the largest façade of any church in the world because of the two gigantic spires. The cathedral plan is based on a Latin cross, which is guarded by a stone statue of St Christopher.
The cathedral is decorated with remarkable stained glass windows. The building houses a number of treasures such as the High Altar, crafted in black marble, the Shrine of the Three Kings, with the bones of the Biblical Magi (the Three Wise Men), Milan Madonna, a sculpture in wood, the eleven bells, just to name a few.
When we first visited Köln it was the Carnival time and the cathedral was the place where all groups gathered to enjoy the festival. It was a cold February, but the atmosphere was fuelled with excellent German rich food, drinks and… joy, so nobody felt the awful weather. This time, in the middle of the summer, groups of noisy students, speaking so many languages, were enjoying their summer school trips with a memorable stop in front of the cathedral.
The Kölner Dom therefore welcomes people from everywhere in the world and is ready to offer some unforgettable moments to each of them. This is what we felt while visiting the cathedral. Our visit came to an end by assisting to a special religious service, which impressed us with the music performed by both the organist and the choir. With our poor German we understood that it was a ceremony called “Pontifikalamt am Vierungsaltar”. We keep trying to find out the name of the song and its composer. What an outstanding performance and a great building acoustic!