Merry Christmas! Frohes Weihnachten! Feliz Navidad! Whatever your language, we want to wish you and your family a joyous Christmas today!
Another item on our Bucket List was to attend mass at the Dom in Cologne, which we did this weekend. Before we went, I had checked mass times online and Google translate did work so well. They listed four mass times for Sunday morning, a time, which Google translated to Church Office, and then weekday mass services. We opted for the 9 AM mass, which was held in one of the small, side chapels. As we were finishing up though, we realized that the rest of the church was full for the 10AM mass, which is held at the main alter. Oops. Nonetheless, it was still beautiful, especially as the rising sun started to stream through the stained glass windows into the mostly dark church.
One of the things that has shocked me the most over here is how cold the churches are. It was actually colder INSIDE the Dom that outside. I guess it would be prohibitively expensive to heat the giant, drafty, old stone structure. The Mass has also thrown me off a bit. I usually take a copy of the mass translation in an effort to follow along, but that usually doesn't work so well. For one, its a crap shoot as to whether there will be one reading or two before the Gospel. At the point in the mass when the Nicene Creed is recited, I think they say the Apostle's Creed (which I don't have a translation for, yet). I can manage to keep up with the Lord's prayer, but that's about it. It's tougher than I expected to attend mass in a different language. However, I do understand more and more each week, so it's a nice yard stick to measure my German comprehension against :)
Anywho, back to the point of this post. The Dom. Construction started in the late 1200s and continued for just over 100 years, at which point, money ran out. And it sat that way, mostly finished, bu usuable, for another few hundred years. In the 1800s, finds were raised to complete the Dom according to the original plans. From outside, it is just impressive. From the stone work, the metal work (especially on the doors, see the pictures in the galley below), all the small details and the sheer scale of the whole thing, it's breathtaking. Pictures don't do this place justice; it's impossible to get an idea of the size and beauty of the cathedral from a few measly pictures. It's really something you have to see and experience for yourself.
The cathedral is said to house a portion of the remains of the three kings, acquired by a former Holy Roman Emperor in the 1100s from Milan, Italy. The reliquery was opened in the mid-1800s and was found to indeed contain bones and garments. There are also a number of statues of saints, interred remains of former priests and bishops of the Dom, and artwork all around the Cathedral. It would take hours to see it all, and since there was another Mass starting soon, we didn't want to play tourist while there were people worshiping.
After Mass, we climbed one of the towers. It's 3 euro per person and is 533 steps to the top. In a spiral staircase. Last time we went, it was June, and hot, and lots of people. This time, it was cool, almost no people, and the soft winter sun was streaming in through the narrow windows. Needless to say, this time was much nicer. But that didn't make the climb any less difficult, just only slightly more enjoyable. I mean, 533 steps is a lot. My legs hurt for a solid 2 days afterwards. But the view from the top? Totally worth it. Without a doubt. Up here, you can see, up close, the level of detail and skill in the stone carvings. From here, you can also get a unique perspective on the flying butresses, a common element in medieval Gothic architecture. It really is fantastic. If you are physically able, make sure you do it. You won't regret it.
We also got tickets to the Cathedral Treasury. This houses old church items and vestments. We left ourselves only a half hour to explore this, and we were kicking ourselves for it. We had no idea it would be so interesting and contain so many different items. All the information is presented in both German and English, so we could fully understand what we were reading. I wanted to read all the plaques, but alas, we didn't have the time. Next time though...
On the way back, we were booked in an Intercity Express (ICE) train so the trip only took about an hour and a half. We were back in Mannheim by 5. All in all, it was actually a nice, relaxing weekend, even if we were traveling and dealing with the throngs of people in the Christmas markets. One thing is clear though, I think we will need to go back to Cologne at some point. For more pictures from this stunning cathedral, click through the gallery below.
- Meghan -