At 10 o’clock, we went to see the cathedral, which justly excites the admiration of every beholder, and is probably the most magnificent Gothic edifice in the world. It stands some 60 feet above the Rhine, and is dedicated to St. Peter. As early as the 9th century, an Episcopal church occupied this site. The foundation of the present structure, however, was laid in 1248; in 1322, the choir part was consecrated; in 1388 the nave was sufficiently advanced to be fitted up for service; and, in 1447, the bells were placed in the south tower. The unfinished building was provided with a temporary roof in 1508 and gradually became more and more dilapidated, so that in 1796, the French used it as a hay magazine.
Frederick William III, King of Prussia, at length rescued the desecrated building from total destruction. The work of reconstruction began in 1824, and, in 1880, the completion of the cathedral was celebrated. The entire sum expended in the period of reconstruction amounted to $4,500,000, mostly paid by the government.
To give you an idea of the immensity of this structure, I will only mention the height of the walls, 150 feet, the roof, 201 feet, the towers, 515 feet. The enormous mass of masonry is beautified by a profusion of buttresses, turrets, galleries, cornices and foliage.
The interior, which is borne by 56 pillars, is 130 yards in length, and the effect produced by the tout ensemble is singularly impressive. The stained glass windows are fine, five of them executed in 1508, are said to be the finest examples of the kind now extant. The more modern windows, presented by King Lewis I of Bavaria, in 1948, and Emperor William I, at a still later date, are very fine.
The chapels contain fine tombs of archbishops. In one of them, the chapel of St. Michael, is the celebrated Dombild, a large winged picture (by Stepan Loehner 1450), representing the adoration of the Magi in the center, and some saints on the wings. The treasury contains the golden Reliquary of the Magi: silver shrines, ten admirably carved ivory tablets, with scenes from The Passion, a monstrance of the 17th century, 19 1/2 lbs. in weight, thickly set with precious stones.
From here to the Wallraf Richartz Museum, which has some fine mosaic pavement, including the “Mosaic of the Sages,” showing bust portraits of seven Greek philosophers and poets, Diogenes, Socrates, Aristotle, Plato, etc.
The staircase has fine frescoes illustrative of the history of art and civilization in Cologne, fine pictures of the Italian school and modern paintings, among them G. Richter’s “Queen Louise.”
After dinner we took the train for Neuss, and spent a very fine afternoon and evening with Theodor and family, returning home and to bed by 12 o’clock. I will try to write more tomorrow, but now I must close. We are going with Hortense to the Palm Garten. I am way behind with my daily letter, you see. All send love.