Built between 1248 and 1880, Cologne Cathedral is regarded as a masterwork of medieval Gothic architecture. It is one of the finest ecclesiastical edifices in the world and the epitome of high-Gothic cathedral architecture in its purest possible form.
When it was finally completed in the 19th century, Cologne Cathedral was the tallest building in the world. It has the largest exterior surface of any church in the world, said to be around 7,000 square metres, and is flanked by two huge towers each rising to a height of 157 metres.
The cathedral houses a wealth of important art treasures, including colourful stained glass windows; the Ottonian Gero Cross (970 AD), the oldest large-scale sculpture in the western world; the shrine housing the relics of the Three Kings (1180-1225), an outstanding example of Rhenish goldwork; the altar of the patron saints of Cologne by Stephan Lochner (around 1450), a masterpiece of Cologne's painting school, and the organ ensemble.
Art historians consider Cologne Cathedral to be a unique orchestration of all architectural elements. Cologne's best-loved landmark rises high above the heart of the city like a gargantuan watchtower. It has been a UNESCO-World Heritage site since 1996.