Industrial and commercial port in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany, on the left bank of the Rhine, 35 km/22 mi southeast of Düsseldorf; population (2003 est) 965,300. Cologne is an important transhipment and financial centre, and a major industrial centre for the manufacture of cars (Ford), engines, engineering, electronics engineering, chemicals, textiles and clothing, printed materials, and eau de cologne.
Founded by the Romans in 38 BC and made a colony in AD 50 under the name Colonia Claudia Arae Agrippinensis, Cologne became a leading Frankish city and during the Middle Ages was ruled by its archbishops (made an archdiocese under Charlemagne). It was self-governing after 1288, became an imperial free city in 1475, and, as a member of the Hanseatic League, flourished as a commercial centre until the 16th century. The city was seized by the French in 1794, and in 1815 it passed to Prussia. The great Gothic cathedral was begun in the 13th century, but its twin towers were not built until the 19th century (completed 1880). To the north of the city is the Ruhr coalfield, on which many of Cologne's industries were originally based.
Cologne suffered severely from aerial bombardment during World War II, notably the British ‘thousand bomber raid’ on 30 May 1942; 85% of the city and its three Rhine bridges were destroyed. Cologne has two universities; the older was founded in 1388, closed by Napoleon in 1797, and then re-established in 1919.
Features The medieval limits of the city can still be detected in the semi-circular avenues which mark the line of the old walls, and three of the ancient city gates still stand. Among relics of Roman times are a tower (1st to 3rd century) and the so-called ‘Dionysius Mosaic’, the mosaic floor of a villa which was discovered during excavations near the cathedral in 1941. Most of inner Cologne was in ruins in 1945. The Adenauer Hills, huge mounds of wartime rubble covered with earth and planted with shrubs, are a feature of the city. Among the notable post-1945 buildings are the opera house, the Lufthansa, Gerling, and Fernmelde tower blocks. There are also numerous academies, museums, and botanical and zoological gardens.
Construction of the cathedral The Gothic cathedral is one of the finest buildings in Europe and the largest in northern Europe. The cornerstone of the cathedral was laid by Archbishop Conrad of Hochstaden in 1248 on the site of an earlier church; the sanctuary was dedicated in 1322, the nave was ready for use in 1388, and the south tower
had reached a height of about 55 m/34 ft in 1447. The work was then interrupted for some 400 years. In the 19th century it was resumed, chiefly through the efforts of Sulpice Boisserée who persuaded the crown prince, afterwards Frederick William IV, to use his influence to have the building completed. The scheme aroused great popular interest with both Catholics and Protestants contributing funds to the work. The cathedral was finished in 1880 and the opening ceremony took place in the presence of William I and the reigning princes of Germany. It sustained heavy damage in World War II but was later restored.
The cathedral's treasures Inside the cathedral are the medieval gold reliquary of the three Magi (whose bones are supposed to have been brought here by the Emperor Frederick I in 1162), the 15th-century painting The Adoration of the Magi, by Stefan Lochner, and the 14th-century stained glass of the choir windows.
Churches Among Colognes's ancient churches are St Pantaleon, a Romanesque basilica which contains the tomb of Bruno the Great; St Gereon, which has a ten-sided nave and which contains relics of St Gereon and of the 350 martyrs slain under Diocletian's persecution; St Ursula, in which are said to rest the bones of St Ursula and her companions; St Andreas, in which the scholar Albertus Magnus is buried; and the Minorite church, which includes the tomb of the Scottish monk John Duns Scotus.
Economy To the west of Cologne the massive brown coal (lignite) deposits of the Villefield are becoming less important for electricity generation, and industry has diversified into environmental and chemical engineering, and waste management. Cologne's Rhine harbour has 8.5 million tonnes of traffic annually. Some of Europe's largest commercial trade fairs are held here. It shares an airport with Bonn at Wahn.
History Cologne was founded in about 37 BC by a Germanic tribe, the Ubii, who were compelled by Agrippa to migrate from the right bank to the left bank of the Rhine. In AD 51 a colony of Roman veterans was established on the spot by Claudius and named after his wife Agrippina the Younger. It was a bishopric from very early times, and was made an archbishopric by Charlemagne in 785. The city entered the Hanseatic League trade federation in 1201 and contended with Lübeck for pre-eminence. Until the 16th century it maintained a great commercial prosperity, but its fortunes then declined, before reviving again in the mid-nineteenth century.