March 2015: Cologne and Aachen 



Yes, we've broken a lifetime's habit and deserted Italy for Germany, staying in Cologne for three days. On one of those days we took the train to Aachen. 

'The Dom': Cologne Cathedral. 

A wonderful building, and an astonishing survival of world war II.  Some might suggest divine providence; a possible reason is that the RAF wanted to keep the spires in place as they were a useful navigation aid.


Post-war view


The view today


  I've recently written about the Gero cross when writing about the crucifixion here, so this was something I was most anxious to see, as was the shrine of the Magi. Both superb, and beautifully displayed.

There were many other splendid things too; the stained glass, which was presumably removed during the war, and the medieval statue of St Christopher.

  Cologne is noted for its Romanesque churches. Some were almost completely destroyed in the war, but have been rebuilt 'as they were, where they were.' Something of a contrast with London's Wren churches. We couldn't visit all of them but we managed to fit in three; St Martin, St Gereon, and, my number one, St Ursula. Having written on the legend of St Ursula and the 11,000 virgins here, I was anxious to go there - but would we be able to visit the 'Golden Chamber' and see the relics of all those virgins? Our guide book wasn't encouraging; it suggested that a visit was only possible by 'special arrangement'. But when we got there, it was open and, for three euros each, we were allowed in, and allowed to take photographs.

  Lots more to see in Cologne - the Archaeological museum has the superb Dionysus mosaic and the World's finest collection of Roman glass. The medieval section of the Wallraf-Richartz gallery was particularly interesting; much work by unknown Cologne artists, with a particularly idiosyncratic take on on religious images. This version of the Arrest of Christ is by the Master of the Karlsruhe Passion, dating from around 1450.


On to Aachen


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