some history ...and pictures from Cologne lights (=Kölner Lichter)

Cologne Travel Blog

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Köln / Cologne was "founded" by the Romans about 48 AD and was named - Colonia Claudia Ara Agrippinensium (C.C.A.A.).

Cologne is the oldest major city in Germany. The name Cologne stems from the Roman empress Agrippina. The wife of the Emperor Claudius was born on the banks of the Rhine and elevated her "Colonia" to the status of a city in the year 50 A.D. Today, traces of the Romans are still to be found at every turn in Cologne: the Dionysus mosaic in the Römisch-Germanisches Museum, sections of the Roman city wall and the Roman water system, which formerly brought fresh spring water to the Roman city from the Eifel region.

The Roman road network is still reflected this very day in the layout of the city streets. The Hohe Strasse, a busy shopping street between the cathedral (Dom) and Neumarkt square, can look back over a two-thousand-year history of economic and social life.

The Romans also brought Christianity to Cologne, and owing to its importance, the city very soon became a seat of a bishopric. In the year 785 Charlemagne founded the Archbishopric of Cologne and also bestowed secular powers upon the church dignitaries: the Archbishop of Cologne became one of the most powerful feudal lords in the Holy Roman Empire.

Since the 12th century, Cologne has been the fourth metropolis in addition to Jerusalem, Byzantium and Rome to bear the designation "Sancta" (holy) in the city name: "Holy Cologne, faithful daughter of the Roman church by the grace of God".

In 1164, Rainald von Dassel, Imperial Chancellor and Archbishop of Cologne, brought the relics of the Three Kings to Cologne. The foundation stone for the cathedral, the "largest structure north of the Alps" was was laid on the 15th August 1248. However, the Dom was not completed until 1880, after building work had been discontinued in the mid-16th century. Twelve large Roman collegiate and monastery churches, in addition to the world famous Dom stand as a major architectural testimony to the "spiritual" influence of the times: Groß St. Martin, St. Maria Lyskirchen, St. Severin, St. Kunibert, St. Gereon, St. Pantaleon, St. Maria im Kapitol, St. Aposteln, St. Andreas, St. Ursula, St. Cäcilien and St. Georg. Since 1985 all the churches have been almost completely restored.
To mark this achievement, the city celebrated "Roman Year".

The citizens of Cologne soon had had enough of the secular powers of their spiritual lord. In 1288, they defeated the archiepiscopal army in the battle of Worringen and drove the archbishop as secular leader out of the city for good: he continued to reside in and around Bonn. The archiepiscopal residences of Schloß Augustusburg and Schloß Falkenlust erected in the 18th century near Brühl are now part of the world's cultural heritage. In 1396, the Cologne guilds proclaimed their own constitution with a mayor and city council. Nevertheless, Cologne did not finally receive the status of a free city until 1475. At this point, Cologne had become one of the most densely populated and wealthiest cities in the German speaking area.

It played a major role in the Hanseatic League and was an important exhibition centre at the time. The first municipal university in Europe was founded here as early as 1388. 

Extant remnants of this period include the Overstolzenhaus, an imposing Roman town house now the seat of the Cologne Media College, the gothic city hall and the Gürzenich hall. The period had its dark side: after a long series of pogroms, the Jews fled the city in 1423 to the right bank of the Rhine. In the 16th century, Protestants were persecuted and in the 17th century, many women in Cologne fell victim to witch-hunts. The history of "Holy Cologne" and the free city of Cologne ended in 1794 with the bloodless occupation by the soldiers of the French Revolution. The university was closed, church assets were confiscated and monasteries and religious congregations were secularised.

Protestants were given the same rights as Catholics, and Jews were allowed to resettle in Cologne.

Even the archbishop was allowed to return to Cologne in 1821. In 1815, the Vienna Congress annexed Cologne and the Rhineland to the Kingdom of Prussia. During the subsequent decades, Cologne became the largest and most important Prussian city alongside Berlin. In 1822 and for the first time again since the Romans, the city received a bridge, albeit temporary, over the Rhine.

One year later, the first Rosenmontag procession organised by the Cologne Carnival Festival Committee was held, with Rhenish scorn being aimed particularly at Prussian authoritarianism. With annexation to Prussia, Cologne finally entered, albeit tardily, the industrial age. Famous names such as Felten & Guillaume, the Stollwerck chocolate factory or Klöckner Humboldt Deutz AG bear witness to the economic upsurge of subsequent decades.

4711 House - picture was taken in December
The latter's founder, Nicolaus August Otto revolutionised the engine and automobile industry with the invention of the internal combustion engine in 1874. With Helios AG, Cologne was also the head office of the largest manufacturer of AC electrical machines, transformers and lighting installations in Germany. In 1824, the Cologne mathematician and physicist Georg Simon Ohm had laid new foundations for research into electricity with the "Ohm's Law" formula (voltage = intensity x resistance).

The transport network increased in density and Cologne became an major hub, with railways operating in the Rhineland since 1839. In 1859, the new main station and adjacent railway bridge - now the Hohenzollernbrücke - was opened. Cologne harbour became the final destination for shipping traffic on the Rhine.

"golden dom" - picture was taken in December

The First World War slowed, but did not interrupt, the surge of development in Cologne. By that time, following numerous incorporations, Cologne's population had swollen to over 600 000 inhabitants. In 1917, Konrad Adenauer became the Lord Mayor and served office until he was removed by the National Socialists in 1933. During his tenure, he presided over the refoundation of the university, extension of the outer green belt with Müngersdorf stadium and construction of the KölnMesse exhibition and trade-fair centre. Many of the current parks and green areas date from this period.  Cologne transformed into a media capital in 1926. WDR (Westdeutsche Rundfunk) established its head office on the banks of the Rhine and opened its first broadcasting house.

In contrast, the Pressa international press exhibition held at KölnMesse created a sensation throughout the world. In 1930, Henry Ford laid the foundations of Cologne Ford Works. As a fitting tribute, the first German motorway between Cologne and Bonn was opened to traffic in 1932. On the 13th March 1933, Cologne's National Socialists stormed the city hall and deposed the mayor, Konrad Adenauer. Cologne became the headquarters of National Socialist leadership within the administrative district of Cologne-Aachen. In 1935, the Gestapo moved into its new headquarters in the city centre.

Today a museum, the EL-DE-Haus now serves as reminder of the crimes of the Gestapo. Few people resisted the Nazi regime. Even Cologne carnival revellers became involved in Nazi racial hatred: in 1935, floats with anti-Semitic and racist slogans took part in the Rosenmontag procession. In 1936, the German Army invaded the previously demilitarised Rhineland. From 1937 onwards, racial persecution also occurred in the cathedral city or Domstadt: four synagogues were destroyed and many Jews, gypsies and dissidents fell victim to the inhuman system. The last of a total of 11,000 Jews from Cologne and the surrounding area were deported to the extermination camps in 1943.

In early 1940, sections of the German Western Army gathered in Cologne before the invasion of the Netherlands, Belgium and France. After the offensive began, Cologne was the target of an Allied bombing raid for the first time on 13th May 1940 and the raids increased in number as the war progressed. The last, and one of the most devastating bombing raids hit the city on the 2nd March 1945. By the end of the war, more than 90% of the city centre had been destroyed and the number of inhabitants had decreased from 800,000 to around 40,000. 

Reconstruction began immediately after the war ended. The Rhine bridges were restored or rebuilt: the Deutzer Brücke was opened to traffic in 1948 as the first newly built post-war bridge. Vacant lots in the city centre were filled and restoration of the historic centre was embarked upon. It was not until 1972, however, that the historic city hall was restored. Extension of the highways progressed more rapidly.

In 1965, the motorway ring around Cologne was completed: this was the first time that a European city had this type of traffic system. Today, the highest volume of traffic in Germany is recorded over this stretch of motorway. The city centre was also redesigned in terms of traffic engineering: the Cologne tram and underground system entered service in 1968. Photokina started in 1950 in Cologne. The trade-fair had developed by that time into the largest international exhibition for technology involving still and motion pictures. Cologne celebrated another world premiere in 1967: Reduced Art Cologne in 1984, it is the leading international art exhibition and has spawned many imitators. At the same time, it represents Cologne's rise to the status of a European art (dealing) metropolis.

Many gallery owners and artists subsequently settled in Cologne. By the end of the eighties, there was one gallery for every 5,500 citizens - a world record. The collectors Peter and Irene Ludwig found new inspiration here for their art collection. Donations of contemporary art works, including I particular pop art, flooded into the Ludwig Museum, newly opened in 1986. Peter Ludwig became a freeman of the city in 1975, with his wife becoming the first free-woman of the city 20 years later.

The creative scene at that time not only included the Fine Arts. Numerous connections with literature and music existed. In addition to Mauricio Kale and Karlheinz Stockhausen, John Cage and Nam Junk Paik worked in the legendary WDR electronic studio in Annostrasse. In 1962, the Deutschlandfunk radio service began broadcasting. Cologne therefore became the location of four transmitters, once the British Forces Broadcasting Service (BFBS) had moved in 1954 from Hamburg to the Rhine. I listen to this radio station since I was 14 years old.

The number of inhabitants of Cologne approached the one million mark. In 1974, the Römisch-Germanisches Museum opened on the redesigned Dom square. Renovation of the entire historic centre was completed in 1986 with construction of the Rhine bank tunnel and opening of the new Wallraf-Richartz Museum/Ludwig Museum and the Cologne Philharmonic Hall. The writer Heinrich Böll received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1972 and was finally appointed a freeman of the city of Cologne in 1983. A phase of growth for private television channels and the media business began with dissolution of the state-owned broadcasting monopoly. In 1988, RTL went on the air from Cologne. Other television stations followed in subsequent years with VOX, Super RTL, VIVA, VIVA ZWEI and Onyx.

By the turn of the Millennium, Cologne was home to the largest number of television broadcasting stations of any other European city. In 1980, Pope Jean-Paul II visited the city to mark the 100th anniversary of the completion of the cathedral. In the same year, the Tutankhamun exhibition in Cologne City Museum attracted a record number of over 1 million visitors. In 1986, the Federal Monopolies and Mergers Commission ruled that only beer brewed in Cologne may bear the name Kölsch. Previously, 24 Cologne breweries had agreed on a "Kölsch Convention". In 1991, the Rosenmontag procession was cancelled for the first time since the Second World War due to the Gulf War. On 20th December 1991, the Cinedom became the first building to be opened in Cologne's newly-developed Mediapark, and this Multiplex has since become one of the most successful cinemas throughout the entire Federal Republic.

9th November 1992: "Don't just sit there - say something!" - 100,000 demonstrate against racism. 30th October 1993: Opening of the Imhoff Stollwerck Museum (chocolate museum) 1994: Beginning of the Triennial Music Festival. A festival showcasing the music of the 20th century, to which the director of the Philharmonic Hall Xaver Ohnesorg invited jazz and pop groups, in addition to world famous symphony orchestras to perform.

1996: The Cologne Musical Dome near the main railway station opened with a production of the musical Gaudi. Following the bankruptcy of the Dome's management company one year later, another promoter assumed control of the venue and successfully launched the musical "Saturday Night Fever". 1998: Germany's largest all-purpose venue, the KölnArena, opened. Owing to its silhouette, it has been nicknamed the "lunch basket". 1999: Double Summit in Cologne.


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photo by: lauro