Travel Stories

Cologne Cathedral

The "Dom" Against the Sky

When a resident of Cologne returns after even a short stay outside the city, it just isn't home until they've seen the black towers of the "Dom" against the sky. Germany's largest gothic cathedral can't be described with the usual words: monumental, awe-inspiring, beautiful, majestic. It's more than that.

It's been known to perplex visitors about just what makes this cathedral so visually overwhelming. Its height has something to do with it—515 feet of sandstone blackened by time and exhaust fumes. Or maybe it's the Dom's location, the feeling that a massive 13th-century gothic church was dropped out of the sky into the center of modern Cologne, a stone's throw from the central train station and the shops on Hohestrasse.

Inside, the mind-boggling beauty of the place hits visitors again. The arches, slender columns, and buttressed ceiling force you to look up. Unearthly light glows from the stained-glass windows. The chapels in the ambulatory, the oldest part of the cathedral, hold one treasure after another: the Gero Crucifix from 970, a massive carving of the lifeless Christ, and the golden Shrine of the Three Magi behind the choir, which made the Dom one of Europe's most important pilgrimage sites in the Middle Ages.

The Cologne Dom's magnificence isn't easy to describe. Photos don't do it justice. It just has to be experienced—like Notre Dame or St. Peter's Basilica—to be believed.