The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.
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Cologne (kəlōn´), Ger. Köln, city (1994 pop. 962,500), North Rhine–Westphalia, W Germany, on the Rhine River. It is a commercial, financial, and industrial center, a rail and road junction, and a river port. Its manufactures include automobile engines, engineering, electronics engineering, metals, chemicals, textiles, printed materials, and eau de cologne.

Points of Interest

The famous Gothic cathedral, the largest in northern Europe, was closed from the end of the war until 1956. It contains the relics of the Wise Men of the East and the paintings of Stephen Lochner. The cathedral was begun in 1248 on the site of an older church, but the nave and the two spires (each spire 515 ft/157 m high) were built according to the original plans between 1842 and 1880.

Other historic buildings in the city include the Romanesque churches of St. Maria im Kapitol, of St. Gereon, of the Holy Apostles, and of St. Andreas (where Albertus Magnus, the 13th-century scholastic, is buried); the Gothic and Renaissance city hall; and the Gürzenich (1441–44), formerly a meeting place of the city's merchants and now a concert hall. Impressive modern structures include the opera house and the radio and television broadcasting stations.

As the center of German Catholicism, Cologne has long been famous for its impressive religious processions and for its exuberant Mardi Gras celebrations. The city figures prominently in German romantic literature. Cologne is the seat of a university (founded 1388; discontinued 1798; reestablished 1919) and numerous museums, including those of painting, ethnology, and municipal history. The European Astronaut Center also is there.


A Roman garrison in the 1st cent. BC, Cologne was made a Roman colony in AD 50 by Emperor Claudius, who named it Colonia Claudia Ara Agrippinensis for his wife, Agrippina. The city passed under Frankish control in the 5th cent. The episcopal see, established there in the 4th cent., was made an archdiocese under Charlemagne. Its archbishops, who later ruled a strip of land on the west bank of the Rhine as princes of the Holy Roman Empire, acquired great power and ranked third among the electors. The archbishops' constant feuds with the lay citizenry resulted in the transfer (mid-13th cent.) of their residence to nearby Brühl, then to Bonn.

Cologne was self-governing after 1288, became a free imperial city in 1475, and, as a member of the Hanseatic League, flourished as a commercial center until the 16th cent. Its decline was hastened by the expulsion of the Jews (15th cent.) and the restrictions imposed on Protestants (16th cent.). Cologne was seized by the French in 1794, and the archbishopric was officially secularized in 1801. The city passed to Prussia in 1815, and in 1821 the archdiocese was reorganized.

In the 19th cent. Cologne prospered again as an industrial center and as the main transit port and depot of NW Germany. The industrial town of Deutz (noted for the manufacture of motors), on the east bank of the Rhine, was united with Old Cologne, on the west bank. Old Cologne, with its numerous historic buildings, was severely damaged by aerial bombardment in World War II.

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