It seems one can’t escape visiting cathedrals in Europe. After a while, they all begin to run together in one’s mind.
There are interesting cathedrals in the United States. The National Cathedral and the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. and St. John’s and St. Patrick’s in New York come to mind. But one isn’t automatically attracted to these sites when visiting those cities.
In Europe, on the other hand, the cathedrals often dominate the old cities. They are ancient by U.S. terms. They were the center of medieval life often on the market square, and their carvings and paintings told stories and history to an illiterate public.
While they begin to run together in one’s mind, however, each is worth at least a brief visit if you have an open mind. Each has something to offer. Perhaps it is Michelangelo’s Madonna in Bruges or a beautiful old stained-glass window (or a beautiful modern one). In some cathedrals, stained-glass windows damaged by war or other events still have only white glass. Even these give the architecture unique characteristics. Or perhaps just the architecture of a particular building will grab your imagination.
A side note: Gabriel Lorire designed the stained glass in over four hundred European churches after World War II and did about two hundred and fifty in the United States. We own two paintings he did in his old age (he was never famous as a painter), so perhaps visiting his work will be a future trip theme.
The twin towers of the Dom loomed out of the fog as we approached Cologne. Germans are quick to point out — as in many cities – that the city surrounding the Dom was completely destroyed by Allied bombs, but the Dom survived. (One is tempted to say, “you started it.”)
Construction began in 1248, stopped in the fifteenth century and was completed in the nineteenth century. In 2002, I climbed 532 steps with a bunch of high school students to see the magnificent views from the observation platform. In 2013 with a bunch of elderly retirees, I didn’t even consider it; maybe it was because I am getting elderly but perhaps the next time I won’t be thinking that way.
The golden Shrine of the Three Kings, created in the 12th Century, was said to hold the relics of the Three Wise Men. As program director Daniel pointed out in Vienna, it is not important whether these type reliquaries actually hold a piece of the true cross, etc. What is important is that for hundreds of years people believed this gold chest really held the remains of the three kings who visited Christ, and it was an important part of their lives.
Outside the Cathedral, the construction of the subway revealed a “time tunnel” when archaeologists found ruins dating back to Roman times including the largest Roman mosaic floor still intact. Unfortunately, we took our time walking the streets of Cologne – past the place where Eau d’ Cologne was invented by Farina in 1709 – and wandering in the
Cathedral. As a result, the museum with its Roman glass and mosaics was just about to close when we arrived. It is just something to see on another trip.
As we walked back to the ship, we went up on a bridge that crosses the Rhine. It has become a tradition to have a padlock inscribed with the name or initials of you and your lover. You then fasten the lock on the fence on the bridge to symbolize your never-ending love. We later saw the trend is taking hold on other bridges. Now we are waiting for someone to open a bolt-cutter concession.