Cologne's Historical Churches Walking Tour, Cologne

Cologne's Historical Churches Walking Tour (Self Guided), Cologne

The beautiful and historically rich city of Cologne has been around for over 2,000 years. For centuries, it has been regarded as a very important religious center.

The Kölner Dom (Cologne Cathedral), one of its biggest attractions, is renowned as a symbol of Christianity and “a masterpiece of exceptional intrinsic value” (UNESCO World Heritage Site). The twelve Romanesque churches of Cologne are twelve distinguished landmarks set in a semi-circle around the Old Town (Altstadt) – without parallel anywhere else in the world. Among the top examples of these cultural monuments is Groß St. Martin (Great St. Martin's Church) whose distinctive crossing tower has shaped the skyline of the Old Town since the Middle Ages.

Other prominent historical churches include:

Basilika St. Aposteln (Basilica of the Holy Apostles) – built into the core of the city circa 1000 AD;

St. Cäcilien (St. Cecilia's Church) – one of the oldest churches in Cologne, now home to the Schnütgen Museum of Medieval Art, filled with exclusive textiles and enticing stained-glass windows dating back several centuries;

Basilica Church of St. Ursula – named after the legendary Princess Ursula who was martyred along with 11,000 other virgins; built upon their grave, this church containing relics of the virgins in a special section called the ‘Golden Chamber’.

For a closer look at these and other remarkable churches in the Catholic stronghold of Cologne, take this self-guided walking tour.
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Cologne's Historical Churches Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Cologne's Historical Churches Walking Tour
Guide Location: Germany » Cologne (See other walking tours in Cologne)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 8
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.9 Km or 2.4 Miles
Author: derek
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Basilika St. Aposteln (Basilica of the Holy Apostles)
  • Antoniterkirche (St. Anthony Church)
  • St. Cäcilien (St. Cecilia's Church)
  • St. Maria im Kapitol (St. Mary's in the Capitol)
  • Groß St. Martin (Great St. Martin Church)
  • Minoritenkirche (Church of the Immaculate Conception)
  • Kölner Dom (Cologne Cathedral)
  • Basilica Church of St. Ursula
Basilika St. Aposteln (Basilica of the Holy Apostles)

1) Basilika St. Aposteln (Basilica of the Holy Apostles)

The Basilica of the Holy Apostles (Basilika St. Aposteln) is one of the 12 Romanesque churches in the Old Town of Cologne, located near Innenstadt's busy Neumarkt. The former collegiate church is dedicated to the twelve Apostles. It is one of the twelve Romanesque churches built in Cologne in that period.

The church has a basilical plan of nave and aisles, and like Groß St. Martin and St. Maria im Kapitol, has three apses at the east end making a trefoil plan. The basilica is impressive by its "triconch choir" and three towers integrated into it. One of the towers is about 67 meters high, which makes it the third highest tower among the 12 Romanesque churches. The church also has a number of columns which form the larges arches and create a spectacular view when observing the nave.

The painting by Johann Wilhelm Pottgießer, the "Martyrdom of St. Catherine", belonging to an earlier baroque side altar has been preserved in the northern conche.

The sculptures of the so-called Fourteen Holy Helpers come from the Chapel of the Holy Helper, which was demolished at the beginning of the 19th century. Restorations were carried out around 1898 (the color versions mainly come from this) and 1979 to 1983.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Antoniterkirche (St. Anthony Church)

2) Antoniterkirche (St. Anthony Church)

Cologne is a city that every avid tourist must visit at least once. This city has a unique charm and warm atmosphere that entices tourists to come back repeatedly. Cologne is known for its Gothic and Romanesque churches. Among the Gothic churches, the Antoniterkirche holds a special place. Located close to the main shopping street of the city, this Protestant church is frequented by those who wish to pray in absolute peace and quiet.

Antoniterkirche is a very peaceful church built around 1350 to 1380. It boasts a simple, yet elegant architecture. Step inside the church and you cannot miss the Barlach’s Memorial Angel. This cast also known as the Angel of Death is made from the original cast. As the original was destroyed during WWII by the Nazis, this is the only remaining cast today preserved in this church.

You will also be struck by the oasis of peace inside the church in spite of the bustling, noisy Schildergasse outside. Schildergasse is incidentally one of Cologne’s busiest, main shopping streets. Antoniterkirche has three wings even though the church seems more of a chapel due to its small size. On your trip to Cologne, pay a visit to this charming church to enjoy its unique architecture and period art.
St. Cäcilien (St. Cecilia's Church)

3) St. Cäcilien (St. Cecilia's Church)

One of the 12 Romanesque churches in Cologne’s old city, St. Cecilia's church is located close to the famous Gothic church of St. Peter and it dates back to the 12th century, 1130-60. Since 1956, the church has been the home of the Schnütgen Museum for medieval art. To enter Saint Cecilia church, you must pay a small entry fee. Remember that this church is not open on Mondays.

The floorplan of Saint Cecilia's is that of a simple, three-aisled church without towers or transepts. The southernmost aisle and the centre of the nave end in a rounded apse. The northern aisle ends in an apse used as a sacristy, built in 1479. In the upper choir of the middle aisle are frescoes, difficult to see clearly, that were damaged during world war two. The original, arched wooden roof in the middle aisle remains on the site. and the tympanum dates from 1160, which can be viewed as part of the museum’s collection. A copy of it can be seen from outside, at the north entrance.

Visitors are impressed with the colorful and attractive wall paintings. These were painted one and a half centuries after the church was constructed. Do not miss the exquisite and artistic tympanum on the north door. This decorative area depicts the crowning of Saint Cecilia by an angel as her brother and fiance look on.

Though it is currently used mainly as museum of medieval art, the church celebrates two masses each year, one at Christmas and the other on the feast day of St. Cecilia. Plan a trip to this wonderful church and enjoy its unique atmosphere on your visit to Cologne.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
St. Maria im Kapitol (St. Mary's in the Capitol)

4) St. Maria im Kapitol (St. Mary's in the Capitol)

St. Maria im Kapitol (St. Mary's in the Capitol) is an 11th-century Romanesque church located in the Kapitol-Viertel in the old town of Cologne. Designed similar to Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity, the church was built between 1040 and 1065 over a Roman temple site and was dedicated to St. Mary. Measuring 100 m x 40 m and encompassing 4,000 square meters of internal space, St. Maria is the largest of the 12 Romanesque churches in Cologne. Like many of the latter, it has an east end which is trefoil in shape, with three apses. It has a nave and aisles and three towers to the west. It is considered the most important work of German church architecture of the Salian dynasty.

The building which houses this Church in Kapitol was constructed by Abbess Ida, the granddaughter of Theophanu and Otto II. Pope Leo IX consecrated the altar in the year 1049. It was in 1065 that Archbishop Anno II consecrated the completed church. As you enter through the west doors and move towards east, you can enjoy the best view of St. Maria in Kapitol. The Romanesque nave can be accessed through an iron gate here. Narrow round striped arches and strong pillars rectangular in shape support the nave.

You will also find highly decorative cluster of columns and a flat wooden ceiling covering the vault. Do not miss the spectacular trefoil choir. This choir can be accessed from any side of the altar. Pointed blind, striped arches and round headed windows are some of the significant non-Romanesque features of this church. If you are an art lover, you will be thrilled with the amazing medieval artwork found here. Some of the important artworks include the richly carved wooden doors at the south aisle.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Groß St. Martin (Great St. Martin Church)

5) Groß St. Martin (Great St. Martin Church) (must see)

The Great St. Martin Church has a long and storied history. The current church is a Romanesque Catholic church built between 1150 and 1250. The church's most distinctive feature is its iconic tower which has shaped Old Town's skyline for centuries.

During Roman times, this site was an island in the Rhine River. The Romans built a chapel on this site, and another church was built during the 10th century.

The church was destroyed by fire in 1150, and a new church was commissioned. A tri-apsidal structure was built in 1172 and survived an 1185 fire. Another fire damaged the roofs of the four towers in 1378, and a storm in 1434 knocked the roofs from the towers.

During the 18th century, Baroque decorations were added to the church's interior. However, some church officials thought the decorations were too ornate and changed some elements.

In 1794, French forces occupied Cologne and remained for 20 years. Great St. Martin's monastery was disbanded in 1802, and the monks had to find other places to live. The abbey was used as French barracks before being demolished.

Extensive restoration work began in 1847. During World War II, the church was damaged and several parts of the church burned to the ground. The church was restored between 1948 and 1985.

Why You Should Visit:
Very handsome church exterior; very nicely located near the Rhine; very quiet and peaceful; very close to the old town restaurants.

The entrance is slightly hidden at the rear. You may also go downstairs into the basement to see some old Roman foundations which the church was built on.

Opening Hours:
Tue-Fri: 9am-12:30pm; Tue-Sat: 1:15pm-5pm; Sat: 9:30am-12pm; Sun: 1:15pm-6pm
Minoritenkirche (Church of the Immaculate Conception)

6) Minoritenkirche (Church of the Immaculate Conception)

Cologne is a city of exquisite churches. Visitors from around the world throng this city to enjoy the unique atmosphere, ambience and beauty of these Romanesque and Gothic churches. Minoritenkirche is one of the popular churches here, a must visit tourist attraction.

The Dom Cathedral and Minoritenkirche St Maria Empfangnis were constructed around the same time in Cologne. Minoritenkirche is a huge Gothic church built by Franciscans in the 1200s. As compared to the other churches in the city, you will find the architecture here refreshingly simple. It took from 1245 to about 1260 to build its early-Gothic choir, with a three-aisle nave added in the 14th century. As the Franciscans are a mendicant order, they built a ridge turret but no bell tower, indications of the poverty adopted by the order. When the French Revolution spread to Cologne in 1794, the Franciscans were expelled from the church and the adjoining monastery.

Inside the church is John Duns Scotus’ tomb. He was a strong defender of orthodox religion and was a popular theologian. His orthodoxy did not go down well with many during that period. This triple-nave Gothic basilica located in Minoritenstreet houses the gravestone of the “father of journeymen” Adolf Kolping. Kolping and Scotus both were beatified by Pope John Paul II and were feature on the new west doors designed by Paul Nagel in 2006.

Just like the other churches in Cologne, this church too was damaged badly during World War II. In the following years, it was reconstructed, modified and enhanced many times. On your trip to Cologne, visit this beautiful church that reflects glory in stark simplicity. The architecture mirrors the essential Franciscan values. Include this unique church in your itinerary on your next visit to Cologne.
Kölner Dom (Cologne Cathedral)

7) Kölner Dom (Cologne Cathedral) (must see)

Cologne Cathedral is a World Heritage Site and Germany's most visited landmark. Twenty thousand people visit each day. Cologne Cathedral is 157 meters (515) tall and the world's tallest twin-spired church. It is Europe's second-tallest church and the world's third tallest church. In addition, it is Northern Europe's largest Gothic church.

Construction began in 1248 and stalled between 1560 and 1840. Finally, the tower was completed in 1880.

The site has hosted Christian buildings since the fourth century. A seventh-century baptistery was located at the Cathedral's east end. The "Old Cathedral" stood here from 818 to 1248.

Cologne Cathedral was originally built to house the relics of the Three Kings. The eastern arm of the cathedral was built first. Construction on the west front continued in the 14th century. When construction stalled in 1473, a massive crane stayed in place for 400 years.

In the 19th century, the original facade plans were discovered, and officials decided to complete the cathedral. In 1860, the cathedral was completed 632 years after construction began. World War II bombs damaged the church, and repairs were carried out.

The black marble High Altar was installed in 1322. The Shrine of the Three Kings is the cathedral's biggest draw. The shrine holds the remains of the Three Wise Men. Work on the gilded shrine began in 1190.

The Gero Crucifix was created in the 10th century and is one of the oldest examples of a large free-standing crucifix. The wooden Milan Madonna dates to around 1290. An interior wall features a pair of stone tablets from the 13th century, which legalized Cologne's Jewish residents. The choir has original carved stalls that date to the 14th century.

The cathedral features 11 bells. The oldest bell was cast in 1418. When St. Peter's Bell was cast in 1922, it was the world's largest free-swinging bell.

Why You Should Visit:
Simply jaw dropping in size. You may never see another church so detailed and so large.

Take a look at the beautiful mosaics on the floor in the Cathedral's rear part. You may also climb up to the top for a great view of Cologne, or go to underground parking to see the original foundations exposed there.

Opening Hours: daily: 9am-9pm
Basilica Church of St. Ursula

8) Basilica Church of St. Ursula

The Church of St. Ursula is located in Cologne the Rhineland, Germany. It is one of the twelve Romanesque churches of Cologne and was designated a Minor Basilica on 25 June 1920. While the nave and crossing tower are Romanesque, the choir has been rebuilt in the Gothic style.

It is built upon the ancient ruins of a Roman cemetery, where the 11,000 virgins associated with the legend of Saint Ursula were supposedly buried. The church has an impressive reliquary created from the bones of the former occupants of the cemetery. Today the story of Saint Ursula is overwhelmingly considered to be fiction. Accordingly, nothing is known about the girls, if any, who are said to have been martyred at the spot.

The commemoration, in the Mass of Saint Hilarion on 21 October, of Saint Ursula and her companions that was formerly in the Catholic calendar of saints for use wherever the Roman Rite is celebrated was removed in 1969, because "their Passio is entirely fabulous: nothing, not even their names, is known about the virgin saints who were killed at Cologne at some uncertain time".
Sight description based on Wikipedia.

Walking Tours in Cologne, Germany

Create Your Own Walk in Cologne

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Travel Distance: 3.4 Km or 2.1 Miles
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Travel Distance: 4.1 Km or 2.5 Miles