August 14 – Anniversary of the Start AND Finish of a Very Long, Very Tall Construction Project

Posted on August 14, 2014

I've never been to Cologne, Germany, but I've long noticed that it's one of those towns whose name in English, Cologne, looks NOTHING like it's name in German: Köln. I mean, can't the same first initial be the same, at least???

Cologne is known for having one of Europe's oldest and largest universities and for its cathedral, which is considered a World Heritage Site, and which is (amazingly) Germany's most visited landmark, attracting an average of 20 THOUSAND people every DAY!

It is the cathedral that concerns us today.

On this date in 1248, construction began on the cathedral. It took more than 600 years to finish—but don't picture peasants toiling away on the construction project for all those centuries! Actually, construction on the cathedral halted in 1473 (after more than 200 years of building!), even though it was still unfinished. It wasn't until 1842 that people began construction again, following the original plan. The completion was celebrated by the German nation on this date in 1880, exactly 632 years – to the day – after construction began!

By the way, it is amazing to read that the city of Cologne was almost entirely flattened by Allied bombing during World War II. The city lost 95% of its population! The cathedral itself took 14 hits by bombs but remained standing. In 1944 an emergency repair was made with bad-quality bricks taken from a building that had been flattened—and although the rest of the cathedral was fixed, post-war, in a more appealing way, the quick-fix brick repair was left to be a reminder of the war. That is, until 2005, when it was decided to reconstruct that section to its original appearance.

Even though the post-war repairs were completed in 1956, there is still some scaffolding erected and repairs being done—always—somewhere on the building. But that is common in Europe. When the most treasured buildings are more than half a millennium old, there's going to be some scaffolding! Wind and rain and pollution eat away at mountains, and they eat away at cathedrals and monuments as well...

I thought it was interesting that, after it took centuries to finish the church, once it was completed it was awarded the title the Tallest Building in the World. However, it only kept the title for four years! In 1884, when the Washington Monument was finished in the U.S., it became the tallest building in the world (for a while!).

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