Der Kölner Dom, or the Hohe Domkirche St. Peter und Maria, is a Gothic masterpiece built on the site of a 4th century
Roman temple. Its construction began in 1248 to house the relics of the Magi, taken from Milan by Barbarossa and given
to the Archbishop of Cologne, Rainald of Dassel in 1164. The cathedral was not completed until 1882 when the Prussian
Government encouraged and committed itself to efforts to complete it. The floor space is over two acres, and it is the
third-largest Gothic cathedral in the world. It is the seat of the Archbishop of Cologne. Cologne Cathedral has the largest
facade and is the second-tallest Gothic structure in the world, trumped only by the steeple of the Ulm Münster. Cologne
cathedral was the world's tallest building until 1884 when the Washington Monument was built in America.
The first of the cathedral's 12 bells was the  "bell of the three kings" or Dreikönigenglocke, cast in 1418. The largest of the
bells is the "bell of St Peter" or St. Petersglocke, cast in 1922 and weighing 24 tons. It is the largest free-swinging bell in
the world. The cathedral houses the Sarcophagus of the Magi, a 13th century gilded sarcophagus which is the largest
reliquary in the Western world and is believed to hold the remains of the Three Wise Men, whose bones and 2,000 year
old clothes were discovered upon opening of the shrine in 1864. The Gero-Kreuz (cross) from 970 is the oldest large
cross north of the Alps. The altar in Marienkapelle, or St. Mary's Chapel, has a grand altar piece by Stephan Lochner.
Der Kölner Dom