The media city of Cologne captivates visitors with its cultural diversity – just think of the famous carnival – but also with its 2000-year history and the most visited attraction in Germany, the Cologne Cathedral.
Cologne is today the fourth largest city in Germany with over one million inhabitants. The location on the Rhine, in the heart of Germany, played a key role in Cologne’s status as the provincial capital. The city became the center for the worship of God and famous for the legend and the worship of St. Ursula and she built several outstanding Romanesque churches that still exist today. Today’s modern pilgrims not only visit the impressive cathedral and the Roman churches, but also the city’s excellent museums, which exhibit valuable Roman artifacts and an important artistic heritage.
They also like to experience the city’s proverbial hospitality in its countless breweries (Cologne has more breweries than any other European city) and during the largest carnival in all of Europe.
Area code: 221
Population: 1,118,789 (2020)
City history of Cologne
The most striking – and most visible – part of the history of the city of Cologne is its fate during the Second World War. Numerous postcards show the city in ruins, which the Allies bombed almost beyond recognition – only the majestic towers of Cologne Cathedral were spared. There was also a great deal of personal suffering in the city during the Third Reich, as evidenced by the plaques that commemorate the Jews and numerous other people who were sent to concentration camps.
That the city literally rose from the ashes is a great testament to the resilience of the human mind. The fact that it offers such an impressive carnival every year and is seen as a pioneer of homosexual rights in Germany is proof of human rights – and shows how much the human spirit longs for peace.
But of course the history of the city of Cologne goes back further than in the dark days of the 20th century. The city began its existence as a Roman colony or colonia (hence the name Cologne) and was an important strategic place. Remains of the Roman streets, walls and mosaics are still discovered during renovation work today and it is worth keeping your eyes open while walking through the city.
Catholicism flourished in this part of the Roman Empire – and still has a remarkable presence today. Construction of the mighty cathedral began in 1248, a worthy hostel for the relics of the three wise men. The work lasted until 1473, but the cathedral was still not finished. Nevertheless, the cathedral was the tallest building in the world and is probably still the largest Gothic building in the world. Even in its unfinished state, the cathedral attracted pilgrims from all over Europe. The work was taken up again in the 19th century, and the completion date is 1880. Even in the 21st century, the cathedral is still Germany’s most visited attraction.
Cologne has experienced a lot in its history, the most formative was probably the frequent disputes with the French. After the French Revolutionary Wars, Cologne was under French administration. The University of Cologne was closed and all residents were granted French citizenship. It is particularly worth mentioning that the French administrators numbered the houses of the city in 1794 – the house with the number 4711 became the home of the Cologne Water a few years later and the house number became an internationally known brand name.
The Prussians came after the French, and after the defeat in World War I, the British controlled the city for a while. The fortifications from the war days were converted into green spaces around the city and the University of Cologne was reopened in 1919.
Towards the end of the Second World War, Cologne belonged to the FRG and started to thrive. The old town was partially rebuilt, as were the many Romanesque churches that had been destroyed during the war.
Today Cologne has made a name for itself as a media city by founding an art college for media, an international film school and a media park. Good transport links have made Cologne one of the most easily accessible places in western Germany and as a result, the city continued to thrive.