17 October 2006

Eau de Cologne

We’re now back in Berlin, although J is on a whistle-stop 2 day business visit to Dubai to sort out some details. So while J is away, M will play – with the blog!

Visiting Photokina a couple of weeks ago also brought the opportunity to go into Cologne (Köln) for a few hours before catching our train back to Berlin.

Before you think that we’ve lost all sense of taste with the border colour of our images, let me explain!

How many of you remember (or know about) 4711 Eau de Cologne? How many of you know that it is actually made in Cologne, and is still manufactured today?

M’s grandmother was an avid fan and user of 4711 Eau de Cologne, and her birthday date was the day after our Cologne visit. I remember standing in her bedroom, holding the 4711 bottle and gazing at the detail of the gold filigree on the label. On the recent visit to J’s parents, we discovered that her grandmother was also a 4711 user.

So, as a tribute to our late maternal grandmothers, we’ve coloured the image borders in this post to reflect the trademark colour of the 4711 label! Displays of the 4711 products could be seen all over the city.

Click on the images to enlarge them in your browser

Upon leaving the train station and walking out into the open air, the most imposing sight greets visitors to the city. The Cologne Cathedral (Kölner Dom) dominates the skyline, exuding a mixture of impressions – fear, wonderment, awe, and foreboding. Cologne is built around the cathedral, and it has the largest façade of any cathedral in the world – it is truly mind-boggling to see the detail and intricacy of the thousands of carved figures, and the actual shape of the building, and take into account that all this work was done mostly by sight and by hand – no computers, no laser alignment equipment, no modern day equipment.

This is what greets you when exiting the train station

The foundation stone was laid in 1498. Intended to be the seat of the Archbishop of Cologne, the church is under the administration of the Roman Catholic Church, but run as an independent entity.

If you’ve read Ken Follet’s The Pillars of the Earth, you’ll have some idea of how long these cathedrals take to build. Generations of families work as architects, builders and stonemasons to complete the construction which can span centuries. The Cologne Cathedral is no exception, taking 600 years and the intervention of the Prussian royalty to ensure that it was finally finished in 1880. The 2 taller spires reach to 157m, and the whole structure is 144m long and 86m wide.

Walking around inside reveals what a masterpiece of craftsmanship and architecture this building is. The exceedingly high naves curved over the top of us – largely unhindered by any ugly structural reinforcement – a true work of engineering art.

Shrine of the Three Kings
Of course, in the cathedral there are many artworks and religious symbols of great significance to the Roman Catholic faith – and also one which transcends denomination to touch all faiths, for here is the resting place of the 3 Kings – The Shrine of the Magi. Also known as the 3 Wise Men, they are thought to have been of Persian descent, and travelled to Bethlehem following a star, to bring gifts for the newborn Jesus.

Placed above the high altar in the cathedral, the 13th century Magi reliquary shines with a golden light and is believed to be the largest reliquary in the world. The graves of the Magi were reputed to have been found by St. Helena on a pilgrimmage to Palestine and the Holy Lands. She took them back with her to Constantinople (Istanbul). Later, they were moved to Milan before being brought to Cologne in 1164 by the Holy Roman Emperor, Frederick Barbarossa I.

If you ever get the opportunity to visit the shrine, look at the mosaics
on the floor all around the altar. They depict people of different skills. Most interesting is the one directly in front of the altar. In the circle around the main image, are images of women as astronomers, architects, and other careers that would not have been thought to be women's work during the era of the church construction. Unfortunately I couldn't get a photo of it because of the over-zealous minders telling off anyone who wanted to take photos!

After walking around the interior of the cathedral, and getting cricked necks from all the upwards gazing, we decided to go up to where we had been staring.

The Spire
One of the 157m spires is open to the public to be climbed – 509 steps up to the 95m observation platform. 509 of mostly narrow spiral staircase echoing with the huffing, puffing and groaning of gung-ho climbers like us who decided to brave the ascent!

The right-hand spire is the one we climbed

The Bells, the Bells
Halfway up the spire is the Belfry where we paused for a well-earned rest, sinking gratefully onto a wooden bench to wipe the sweat from our brows and gaze at the 12 enormous bells which hang there. In the center of the Belfry sits the Master of all bells, the bell of St. Peter – the world’s largest free-swinging bell weighing 24 tons.

Any bats in this belfry would surely be deaf!

We were lost in the wonderment of trying to figure out how, all those years ago, they made a mould that big, melted enough metal in one go and poured the bell in a single cast. Fantastic. While in the Belfry, we heard the half hour chime on the way up and the hour chime on the way back down. One word – LOUD!

The Spire continued
After our break in the Belfry, we continued to ascend the steeple, finally getting to the observation deck to gaze over the city and stand in the cooling breeze. If they had sold bottled water in the Belfry or on the deck, I would have bought the lot!

Looking up

It was wonderful to look over Cologne with the Rhine River running languidly through it, and to look down at all the buildings surrounding the cathedral.

Looking down

The Treasury
After our descent, we made a pit stop at the nearby café in the square for a glass of cold water and another of cold local beer! The ice cream sundaes looked so tempting, but we were very controlled!

We rested down there!

Rehydrated, we made our way to the door of the cathedral treasury, where we descended into the depths of the church to hunt for relics. We were fortunate to latch onto a guided tour of some detail. The visiting group was from another German Catholic church, and their priest had brought them to Cologne to see the Cathedral. Of course, the information which was given to them was far more detailed than the standard tour patter!

The first vault room under the cathedral

What these vaults contain is truly breath-taking. In the first chamber were reliquaries, chalices, crosses, crucifixes of incredibly intricate and detailed crafting – gold, silver, and precious stones uniting in exquisite harmony.

A ceremonial cross with Limoges inlays

Exquisite reliquaries

The Archbishop wears this brooch and ring for special services

The next chamber held clerical robes of such finery that MamaDuck would quack with delight. Silks, wools, silver and gold thread, precious and semi-precious stones – sewn, woven and embroidered into garments and tapestries of intricacy.

The Tapestry Room

Look at the detail in this tapestry of the Magi visiting baby Jesus – truly wonderful. Semi-precious stones, such as the one in Mary's crown have also been added.

A selection of the clergy vestments on display

Mitres and Altar cloths

In a neighbouring chamber sat some of the restored statues from the exterior of the cathedral and it was great to be able to get a closer look at the detail and to be able to achieve a sense of scale.

These smaller ones, shown here, number in their hundreds around the cathedral exterior and are mostly found in the apexes above the doors.

In this image they are black and unrestored, in 4 rows lining the arch above the heads of the lifesize statues at the bottom.

Leaving the Treasury bang on closing time, we had just enough time to walk through some of the surrounding cobblestoned streets and eat a traditional German meal of sausages, potatoes, and red cabbage - washed down with another couple of beers!

Then it was back to the station to catch the ICE train to Berlin.


kaya said...

WoW! Thats something isnt it. My grandma is part of the 4711 brigade!!
You know you can get them as wet wipes now.
What pictures, what resplendent granduer.
Magnificent as usual.

MamaDuck said...

Yes, I'm with Kaya on this: wow - magnificent. I've never seen such splendour. I imagine it will be the work of decades to restore all the stonework to its natural colour, but it will surely be worth it. Rather you than me on the heights!

Have you read Edward (I think) Rutherfurd's Sarum? I think you'd appreciate it after this visit. It begins in prehistory and ends between the two World Wars, I think (not so satisfactory in the final chapters), incorporating my favourite prehistoric artefact, and the building of Salisbury Cathedral into the story.

In fact he had it published as a fund-raiser for the cathedral preservation fund. It's written with affection and great knowledge, and I found it absorbing.

Good luck to J on her Dubai trip. Will you both be here over Eid?

Grumpy Goat said...

All your wonderful Cologne pictures remind me of years ago when my girlfriend and I climbed to the top of the spire of Ulm minster. There is a photo somewhere of yours truly, in his red, white and black motorcycle leathers, captioned "This is the Grumpy Goat pretending he hasn't got vertigo."

Keefieboy said...

Welcome back to BlogLand. Splendid pics, as always!

Anonymous said...

Welcome back.

Seeing these pics especially of the Cathedrals makes me realize how much I miss Europe.

Thanks to you, I now feel like going to Church as well after seeing those beautiful Cathedral pics.

Sunshine will be blocked from this post for I'm sure, I'd be dragged to Church here - LOL

Anonymous said...

Yes, superb/interesting pics as usual. Do you guys ever rest!?

Shaykhspeara Sha'ira said...

And what is wrong with mint coloured borders, hmm? I happen to love mint.

That cathedral reminds me of the one in Vienna and there is one in Aachen too that sort of resembles it. Fantabulous architecture. People just don't bother anymore. Houses and buildings can be quite uninspiring. I'm talking about the everyday sort of buildings. Cement and slab.

Lovely pictures, feels like we have been with you. :)

Jin said...

I love the magnificent architecture of cathedrals/churches & looking at your brilliant pics (as always!) I kinda thought back to seeing the Blue Mosque in Istanbul for the first time..........no one building is better than the other, but each holds so much character.

Is there any news on the work front yet & if so, where are you two off to next?

Dubai Sunshine said...

Welcome back! Amazing pics as always....I still can't believe you take all these pics with that tiny camera...and here I was expecting this monster thing with a huge lens sticking out of it....

I really have a long way to go when it comes to photography :(

elle said...

Great Post! Lovely picures ! I just love all that history Europe has to offer.

Peceli and Wendy's Blog said...

Excellent post. Fabulous pictures of the cathedral. The cricked neck was worth it.
I have some reservations about the tomb of the Three Wise Men - and what about tombs for wise women eh?
Happy Diwali tomorrow -if you celebrate it.

Pandabonium said...

Great pictures. The cathedral is magnificent and quite an architectural and engineering marvel. Thanks for the tour.

nzm said...

Kaya: whay am I not surprised about your grandma and 4711? And no, I had no idea you could get them as wetwipes!

MamaDuck: Haven't read Sarum but sounds interesting. If it's in your library, I just might borrow it when we're down in a couple of weeks!

GG: Bet you cut a dashing figure! I was quaking at the height a couple of times myself - especially when climbing the open stairwell at the top!

Keef and Louis: thanks!

DL: Plenty of time to rest when we're dead - or maybe after we resolve our unemployment crisis!

SS: It's just awesome to be able to visit sites like this and countries with centuries of history. NZ and the Pacific are so young in comparison.

Jin: the Blue Mosque is on my list of Definitely To See! I saw it in a film about the earthquake faultline that runs through Turkey and was blown away by it - truly beautiful.

DS: lol. Most people can't believe that I take these images on such tiny cameras, but I do! I saw some gorgeous cameras at Photokina and will one day update to a bigger one again.

Elle: Thanks! I'll be adding your blog to our list - it was great to read your post about the Al Ain Zoo improvements - it's a great place and has an awesome reptile house.

Wendy: Happy Diwali to you too! I sure miss not being in Fiji at times like this, and revert back to childhood to fire off some skyrockets at the neighbour's house!

PB: thank you! It truly is amazing when you think of what could be done all those centuries ago - cathedrals, mosques, pyramids - architecture to dream about!

Happysurfer said...

Hi! Came here from Pandabonium's. Wow! Awesome! Thanks for the tour and the pictures. That's really rich history.

Mme Cyn said...

It's not just the Granny Brigade, nzm! I too have bottle of 4711 on my dressing table.. it's nice and light and pleasant in the summer time.

Lovely pix of the cathedrals. Thanks!

nzm said...

Happysurfer: welcome!

Mme Cyn: oops! Well, maybe it's going through a revival with the younger generation! (There, did I get myself out of the hole that I dug?) ;-)