The Cathedral in Cologne Germany is one of the best known landmarks in Europe. It has been the unofficial symbol of Cologne throughout Germany and around the world for centuries. One of the most interesting things about the Cathedral is that it took over 600 years to complete. It was begun in the thirteenth century and not completed until 1880. The Cologne Cathedral was built in the styler of the day which is now known as gothic. That simply refers to the period of time, after the twelfth century, when this style was in vogue. The Cathedral features towers that over 500 feet high and the church itself is about 400 feet long and 200 feet wide. The Cathedral was commisioned by the first Christian Bishop of Cologne, Maternus, and it was built on the site of a fourth century Roman temple.Work began in 1248 and despite early optomism and rapid progress, construction slowly came to a standstill, and by the year 1560 only a torso had been built. Only when Cologne became part of the kingdom of Prussia did enthusiasm return to the project and construction resumed in 1824. The work was finally completed in 1880, 632 years after construction had began. Today there is almost always some repair and maintainance being carried out in some section of the building in order to try and preserve it from the ravages of wind, rain, and pollution. Inside the Cathedral there are a number of celebrated works of art. The most famous is the Sarcophagus of the Magi which dates from the thirteenth century and is thought to hold the remains of the Three Wise Men. Their bones and clothes were found near the opening of the Cathedral in 1864, 2000 years after their death. Another famous relic is called the Gero Cross and it is believed to be the oldest cross north of the Alps. There is also the Milan Madonna, a wooden sculture depicting Mary and the baby Jesus that has been dated around 1290, and an altar piece by Stephan Lochner, a German artist who died in 1451. During World War Iithe Cathedral suffered 14 direct hits by aerial bombs but luckily didn't collapse and reconconstruction was completed in 1956. In 1966 the Cathedral was named a World Heritage Site.
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