So close to heaven

Cologne

The construction of the Cologne Cathedral took 632 years! On October15,1880, the construction workers set the last stone at the top of the South Tower! Today, around 6 million visitors per year flock to the church. But not only the interior of the nave with its High Gothic forms is worth a visit; even the roof was fantastically decorated. We visited it!

A rickety freight elevator for the roofers and stonemasons climbs up the north facade. It rumbles skyward on the outer wall, taking us up into a magical, hidden landscape. Although the cathedral is located in the middle of this major city on the Rhine, this part of it is little known.

After getting off the elevator, you have to reorient yourself and become accustomed to the altitude, the wind blowing from the river and the view over this busy city. Only people who are vertigo-free will be happy here. But then, after a few steps in this breezy place, you feel as though you're entering a parallel world. It's like a labyrinth of arches and pillars, carved flowers and hewn stone foliage. Rhenish Gothic in its pure form! Fascinating! But soon one discovers the first wolf faces, sad angels, devils’ horns, and dragons’ wings. Grotesque demons stretch their claws, a monster drags off a boy, and a werewolf digs its claws into a screaming man’s back. Creepy! Not what you would expect on the Cologne Cathedral, one of the most famous German buildings!

The roof of the cathedral is 12,000 square meters in size. There would be room here for a department store here. Most of it is built-up: The cathedral builders planned everything down to the last detail, even to decorating the roof with 11,000 turrets and more than 2000 sculptures.

Quite a lot of work - especially when you consider that this tremendous display of splendor is not even visible from the floor level, where the crowds of visitors pass by every day. Why? Our guide's answer is quite simple. "The Cathedral was not built humans." From above - i.e. from the sky - you have a perfect view of the roof.

There are several guided tours every day of the week, but they are so popular, that the waiting period is often quite long, even many weeks. The wait is worthwhile, however, because there is much here to discover: the stonemasons were not only serious in their work: a worker in his hardhat, a soccer player from the 1. FC Köln, a pudgy dancing girl and a carnival procession are immortalized in these lofty heights. On the roof of the cathedral visitors feel close to heaven at the very least.

A small door leads into the interior directly under the rafters of the cathedral. These are steel, and until the Eiffel Tower was built in Paris, this was the world's largest steel structure. Here you will be amazed by the 640 thousand tons of heavy superstructure from 1860.