Saturday, April 10, 2010

Now that's a church!

It's so tall you can't get it all in one photo.

Here you can get a better idea of
the scale. Look at the tiny van!

A few weeks ago Aaron and I spent the weekend in Köln (that's what the Germans call Cologne and since it's their city I figure we should use their name). The absolute centerpiece of the city is the Cathedral. It is the 3rd tallest church in the world (516 feet) and in the top 10 largest churches in the world (over 85,000 square feet).
I arrived in town by train and as I stepped out of the station, the cathedral towered over me and the entire city center. The exterior is a quite ornate Gothic style but I couldn't help feeling sad about how dirty it was. If you don't believe in air pollution take a look at the second photo above. All the way on the left you can see a column that looks like it was recently scrubbed- that's the real color of the building!
Like most churches we've seen in Europe, it has been under construction for most of its life. It was started in 1248 but wasn't completed until 1880. Amazingly it survived WWII bombings fairly well, unlike the rest of the city which was 95% destroyed.
We even took the dizzying, crowded and claustrophobia-inducing walk up a 509-step spiral staircase to the spire. We had great views of the city and the Rhine River. Near the top we saw the church bells, the biggest of which weighs 24 tons and is called Fat Peter. I can't imagine how they got it up there.
Inside, the church is cold, damp and vast but in spite of all that, I still felt reverent. The sheer size is meant to humble you and reminds you of how small you are compared to God's greatness. There was some really lovely art but we missed some of the best pieces. We learned that Lent is not the best time to tour a Catholic church -the thousand-year-old crucifx was draped and the altars were all closed.
We also went to a chocolate museum in Köln! Maybe I'll tell you about that next time! You know how I am about chocolate...

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