From New World Encyclopedia
Cologne Cathedral with Hohenzollern Bridge
Cologne Cathedral with Hohenzollern Bridge
Coat of arms of Cologne
Cologne (Germany)
Coordinates 50°57′0″N 06°58′0″E / 50.95, 6.96667
Country Germany
State North Rhine-Westphalia
Admin. region Cologne
District Urban district
Lord Mayor Jürgen Roters (SPD)
Basic statistics
Area 405.15 km² (156.43 sq mi)
Elevation 37 m  (121 ft)
Population 1,010,269  (17 December 2010)
 - Density 2,494 /km2 (6,458 /sq mi)
Founded 38 B.C.E.
Other information
Time zone CET/CEST (UTC+1/+2)
Licence plate K
Postal codes 50441–51149
Area codes 0221, 02203 (Porz)

Cologne (Köln in German) is Germany's fourth-largest city after Berlin, Hamburg and Munich. A key inland port of Europe, it lies on the west bank of the Rhine River, downstream from where the river enters the fertile North German Plain, nearly midway between Bonn and Düsseldorf. It is one of the oldest cities in Germany, having been founded by the Romans in the year 38 B.C.E., and granted the status of a Roman colony in 50 C.E. From 260 to 271 Cologne was the capital of the Gallic Empire. In 310 Emperor Constantine I ordered a bridge built over the Rhine at Cologne. The city's location on the Rhine River placed it at the intersection of the major trade routes between east and west. This was the basis of Cologne's growth.

Besides its economic and political significance Cologne also became an important center of medieval pilgrimage. Three great Roman Catholic scholars and theologians Albertus Magnus, Thomas Aquinas, and John Duns Scotus all taught there. Its churches preserve the relics of Magnus, Saint Ursula, and those believed to be of the Three Wise Men.

Cologne became a member of the trading guild alliance Hanseatic League in the thirteenth century and became a Free Imperial City in 1475. It retained that status until 1794. From that time until 1815 it was occupied by France. Following the defeat of Napoleon Cologne became part of Prussia. Great Britain occupied Cologne as a condition of the Treaty of Versailles from the end of World War I until 1926. During World War II the city suffered 262 Allied bombing raids, including "Operation Millennium," the first 1,000-bomber raid by the Royal Air Force. Following the second world war Cologne was reconstructed beginning in 1946 through the Marshall Plan and then public and private initiatives to become one of the wealthiest cities in Germany.

In addition to being the historic and economic capital of the Rhineland, Cologne is its cultural center as well, with more than 30 museums and hundreds of art galleries. The Cologne Cathedral, one of the best-known architectural monuments in Germany and the city's most famous landmark, was named a World Heritage Site in 1996. It is described by UNESCO as "an exceptional work of human creative genius... and a powerful testimony to the strength and persistence of Christian belief in medieval and modern Europe."


The name Cologne derives from the German name Köln, which in turn comes from the Latin word Colonia from the Roman name of the city—Colonia Claudia Ara Agrippinensium.

Cologne is located close to where the River Rhine enters the North German Plain, about 21 miles (34km) northwest of Bonn, and 25 miles (40 km) southeast of Düsseldorf. Its elevation is 210 feet (65 meters) above sea level. Cologne's position on the river Rhine, at the intersection of east and west trade routes, was the basis of the city's growth.

As part of the North-West German lowlands, and influenced by the Atlantic Ocean and the North Sea, Cologne has a mild climate. The daily and yearly fluctuations in temperature are subdued, with an average maximum temperature in January (winter) of 35°F (1.5°C), rising to an average of around 66°F (19°C) in July. Mean annual precipitation is 28 inches (700 mm), spread relatively uniformly throughout the year.

As an industrial city, Cologne was liable to high air pollution made worse by increased road traffic, until well into the 1960s. At that time, biologically, the Rhine was a dead river. Following the desulphurization of smoke from the power stations, and the introduction of catalytic converters, air pollution has decreased. The introduction of purification plants has cleaned the Rhine and has attracted back many species of fish, such as salmon.

Cologne covers an area of 156 square miles (405 square kilometers), with 85 districts divided into nine city areas. Most of the city is located on the left, or western, bank of the Rhine, with some suburbs on the right bank.


Reconstruction of the Roman city of Cologne.
Devastation of Cologne in 1945
KölnTurm (148.5 m/487 ft)
Chorweiler, a social housing development from the 1970s in the north of Cologne.
View from the tower of Cologne Cathedral.
ICE3 at Cologne Central Station.
Cologne Central Station.

The remains of Neanderthals, which lived about 100,000 years ago, have been found near Düsseldorf. Around 4500 B.C.E., farming peoples from southwest Asia migrated up the Danube Valley into central Germany. The Romans had influence on the area after Julius Caesar destroyed the Eburones in 53 B.C.E. At that time, the Roman general Agrippa (63-12 B.C.E.) colonized the area with the Germanic tribe, the Ubii, who founded Oppidum Ubiorum in 38 B.C.E.

Roman city

In 50 C.E., the settlement acquired the name of Colonia Claudia Ara Agrippinensium, in honor of the wife of Emperor Claudius, and attained the status of Roman colony. Considerable Roman remains can be found in contemporary Cologne, especially near the wharf area, where a 1900-year-old Roman boat was discovered in late 2007.[1]

From 260 to 271 Cologne was the capital of the Gallic Empire under Postumus, Marius, and Victorinus. In 310, under Constantine, a castle and a bridge over the Rhine were built. Maternus, who was elected as bishop in 313, was the first known bishop of Cologne. The city was the capital of a Roman province until occupied by the Franks in 459. In 785, Charlemagne made Cologne an archbishopric.

The Middle Ages

From 962 to 1517, the Archbishop of Cologne was a prince-elector and an ecclesiastical elector of the Holy Roman Empire, and ruled a large temporal domain. The archbishop received tolls, customs duties, and other payments until 1288, when Sigfried II von Westerburg (elector from 1274-1297) was defeated in the Battle of Worringen and forced into exile at Bonn. Cologne became a Free Imperial City, a status that was officially recognized in 1475.

As a free city, Cologne was a member of the Hanseatic League, an alliance of trading guilds, which existed from the thirteenth century to seventeenth century. The archbishop retained the right of capital punishment, so the municipal council, which in other ways opposed the archbishop, depended upon him for criminal jurisdiction, including torture, which could only be handed down by the episcopal judge, the so-called "Greve." This legal situation lasted until the French conquest of Cologne in 1798.

Cologne became a center of medieval pilgrimage, when Archbishop Rainald of Dassel gave the relics of the Three Wise Men, captured from Milan, to Cologne's cathedral in 1164. Cologne also preserves the relics of Saint Ursula and Albertus Magnus. Three great Roman Catholic scholars and theologians—Albertus Magnus, Thomas Aquinas, and John Duns Scotus—taught at Cologne.

The free city of Cologne must not be confused with the Archbishopric of Cologne which was a state of its own within the Holy Roman Empire. Due to the free status of Cologne, the archbishops usually were not allowed to enter the city. Thus they took residence in Bonn and later in Brühl on Rhine. The archbishops of Cologne repeatedly challenged and threatened the free status of Cologne during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

French occupation

French troops occupied Cologne in 1798, and under the Peace Treaty of Lunéville 1801, all the territories of the Holy Roman Empire on the left bank of the Rhine were officially incorporated into the French Republic, and later became part of Napoleon's Empire. Cologne was part of the French Département Roer (named after the River Roer, German: Rur) with Aachen (Aix-la-Chapelle) as its capital. The French introduced the Code Napoleon and removed the old elites from power. The Code Napoleon was in use in the German territories on the left bank of the Rhine until the year 1900, when for the first time the German Empire passed a nationwide unique civil code ("Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch").

Part of Prussia

In 1815, at the Congress of Vienna, Cologne was made part of the Kingdom of Prussia, beginning a new era of prosperity with industry and a railway. Tension between the Roman Catholic Rhineland and the overwhelmingly Protestant Prussian state repeatedly escalated with Cologne being in the focus of the conflict. In 1837, the archbishop of Cologne Clemens August von Droste-Vischering was arrested and imprisoned for two years after a dispute over the legal status of marriages between Protestants and Roman Catholics. In 1874, during the Kulturkampf, archbishop cardinal Paul Melchers was arrested and imprisoned, and later fled to the Netherlands. These conflicts alienated the Catholic population from Berlin and contributed to a deeply felt anti-Prussian resentment.

World War I

By World War I (1914-1918), Cologne had grown to 700,000 inhabitants. Industrialization, especially vehicle construction and engine building, changed the city and spurred its growth. Cologne had two fortified belts surrounding the city, opposing the French and Belgian fortresses of Verdun and Liège. This placed a huge obstacle to urban development, as forts, bunkers and dugouts with a vast and plain shooting field before them encircled the city and prevented expansion, resulting in a dense built-up area within the city.

British occupation

After World War I, during which several minor air raids had targeted the city, British forces occupied Cologne until 1926. [2] The mayor of Cologne, who was the future West German chancellor Konrad Adenauer (1876-1967), respected the British for withstanding French ambitions for a permanent occupation of the Rhineland. The era of the Weimar Republic (1919–1933) brought benefits to Cologne, as Adenauer invested in public housing, created large parks, in particular the two "Grüngürtel" (green belts) on the former fortified areas. By 1926, the airport of Butzweilerhof became an air traffic hub, second in Germany only to Berlin-Tempelhof. Nazis deposed Adenauer in 1933. By 1939, the population had risen to 772,221.

World War II

During World War II (1939-1945), Köln was a military command headquarters. During the war, 262 allied air raids killed about 20,000 civilian residents, wiped out the center of the city, and destroyed 91 of 150 churches. During the night of May 31, 1942, Cologne was the site of "Operation Millennium," the first 1,000-bomber raid by the Royal Air Force. A total of 1,046 heavy bombers dropped 1455 tons of explosive in a raid lasting about 75 minutes, destroying 600 acres (243 ha) of built-up area, killing 486 civilians, and making 59,000 people homeless. By the end of the war, the population of Cologne was reduced by 95 percent, mainly because of a massive evacuation to rural areas.

But by the end of 1945, the population had already risen to about 500,000 again. By that time, all of Cologne's pre-war Jewish population of 20,000 had been displaced. The synagogue, built between 1895 and 1899, was severely damaged during a pogrom on November 9, 1938, (Kristallnacht) and ultimately destroyed by Allied bombing between 1943 and 1945. It was reconstructed in the 1950s.

Post-war Cologne

Architect and urban planner Rudolf Schwarz (1897-1961) created a plan for reconstruction in 1947, creating several new thoroughfares through the downtown area, especially the Nord-Süd-Fahrt ("North-South-Drive"), to cater for an expected large increase in automobile traffic. The destruction of famous Romanesque churches such as St. Gereon, Great St Martin, and St. Maria im Capitol, meant a tremendous loss.

Despite Cologne's status as the largest city in the region, nearby Düsseldorf was chosen as the political capital of the Federal State North Rhine-Westphalia. With Bonn being chosen as the provisional capital and seat of the government of the Federal Republic of Germany, Cologne benefited by being sandwiched between the two important political centers of former West Germany. The city became home to a large number of Federal agencies and organizations.

In 1959, the city's population reached pre-war levels, and in 1975, the number exceeded one million inhabitants for about one year. In the 1980s and 1990s, Cologne's economy prospered from the steady growth in the number of media companies, especially because of the new Media Park, and from a permanent improvement in traffic infrastructure, which makes Cologne one of the most easily accessible metropolitan areas in Central Europe.


Major roads through and around Cologne.

Germany is a federal republic in which the president is the chief of state elected for a five-year term by all members of the Federal Assembly and an equal number of delegates elected by the state parliaments. The chancellor, who is head of government, is elected by an absolute majority of the Federal Assembly for a four-year term. The bicameral parliament consists of the Bundestag of 614 members elected by popular vote under a system combining direct and proportional representation. In the Bundesrat, of 69 votes, state governments are directly represented by votes—each has three to six votes depending on population.

Cologne is the administrative center of one of the five administrative districts of North Rhine-Westphalia, which is one of Germany's 16 states, known in German as Länder. (Düsseldorf is the capital of North Rhine-Westphalia.) Cologne's elected council is headed by a mayor and three deputy mayors. The state government controls welfare, planning, transportation, cultural affairs, among other government services. Cologne was the first city in Germany with a tax specifically for prostitution. The tax, initiated early in 2004, by the city council, amounts to 150 euros per month and working prostitute, to be paid by brothel owners or by privately working prostitutes.

Prostitution in Germany is legal and widespread.


Cologne’s location at the intersection of the Rhine River, used for water-borne transport, and an east-west trade route was the basis of the city's economic importance. Cologne has been a banking center since the Middle Ages, and has one of the world’s oldest stock exchanges. The Cologne-Bonn metropolitan area per capita GDP was US$30,800 in 2007, rank of seventh biggest in Germany and 82nd in the world.

The city has been a center for manufacturing car engines, and became the headquarters of the Ford Motor Company European operations, with plants assembling the Ford Fiesta and Ford Fusion as well as for manufacturing engines and parts. Engineering, electrical engineering, and machinery production are also important, as are chemicals, pharmaceuticals, and chocolate.

Eau de Cologne, a spirit-citrus perfume launched in Cologne in 1709, by Giovanni Maria Farina (1685-1766), an Italian perfumer, has continued to be manufactured in the city.

Within Germany, Cologne is known as an important media center, with several radio and television stations. The city's Trade Fair Grounds are host to a number of trade shows such as the Art Cologne Fair, the International Furniture Fair (IMM) and the Photokina.

The city is a hub for Germany’s and Europe’s high-speed passenger rail network. Autobahns radiate from Cologne's ring road. Cologne's international airport is Cologne Bonn Airport, also called Konrad Adenauer Airport. The Rhine harbor is one of the larger inland ports in Germany. Public transport within the city includes buses, a subway system, and the Rheinseilbahn aerial tramway crossing the Rhine. Cologne has pavement-edge cycle lanes linked by cycle priority crossings.


Great St Martin Church.

Cologne is the fourth-largest city in Germany in terms of population after Berlin, Hamburg and Munich. Officially, the city still had somewhat fewer than a million inhabitants as of December 2006, with 989,766 people.[3] Cologne is the center of an urban area of around two million inhabitants, including the neighboring cities of Bonn, Hürth, Leverkusen, and Bergisch-Gladbach.

The population density was 2,528 inhabitants per square kilometer. About 31.4 percent of the population had migrated there, and 17.2 percent of Cologne's population was non-German. The largest group, comprising 6.3 percent of the total population, was Turkish.[4] As of September 2007, there were about 120,000 Muslims living in Cologne, mostly of Turkish origin.

German is Germany's only official and most-widely spoken language. English is the most common foreign language and almost universally taught at the secondary level.

Christianity is the largest religion in Germany with 53 million adherents. The city's famous Cologne Cathedral (Kölner Dom) is the seat of the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Cologne. The second largest religion is Islam with 3.3 million adherents (four percent) followed by Buddhism and Judaism, both with around 200,000 adherents (c. 0.25 percent). Hinduism has some 90,000 adherents (0.1 percent). The third largest religious identity in Germany is that of non-religious people (including atheists and agnostics (especially in former GDR)), who amount to a total of 28.5 percent of the population.

The University of Cologne (Universität zu Köln), which was founded in 1388, dissolved in 1798, under French occupation, and refounded in 1919, had approximately 44,000 students in 2005, the largest university in Germany and one of the oldest in Europe. Cologne also has teacher-training colleges, a sports school, as well as music, engineering, administration, and other professional colleges.

Society and culture

Cologne Cathedral at sunset.
Farina-House, Birthplace of Eau de Cologne

Reconstruction of Cologne after World War II followed the style of the 1950s. Thus, the city today is characterized by simple and modest post-war buildings, with few pre-war buildings which were reconstructed due to their historical importance. Some buildings, for example the opera house by Wilhelm Riphahn, are regarded as classics in modern architecture. Sites of interest include:

  • Cologne Cathedral (German: Kölner Dom), which is the city's unofficial symbol, is a Gothic church, started in 1248, and completed in 1880. In 1996, it was designated a World Heritage Site. It claims to house the relics of the Three Magi. The residents of Cologne call the cathedral "the eternal construction site" (Dauerbaustelle), and predict that by the time the renovation has finished, the end of the world will have arrived.
  • Twelve Romanesque Churches, which are outstanding examples of medieval sacral architecture, date to Roman times. St. Gereon church was a chapel on a Roman graveyard. With the exception of St. Maria Lyskirchen, all these churches were badly damaged during World War II, and reconstruction was only finished in the 1990s.
  • Fragrance Museum Farina House, the birthplace of Eau de Cologne.
  • Römisch-Germanisches Museum, which has items of ancient Roman and Germanic culture, Wallraf-Richartz Museum for medieval art, and Museum Ludwig for modern art.
  • EL-DE Haus, the former local headquarters of the Gestapo, which houses a museum documenting the Nazi rule in Cologne, with a special focus on the persecution of political dissenters and minorities.
  • Cologne Tower, Cologne's second tallest building at 165.48 meters (542.91 ft) in height, second only to the Colonius (266 m/873 ft).
  • Hohe Strasse (English: High Street) is one of the main shopping areas and extends south past the cathedral. This street has numerous gift shops, clothing stores, fast food restaurants and electronic goods dealers.

The word Kölsch is a brand of beer and the name of the local dialect. This has led to the common joke that "Kölsch is the only language you can drink."

Cologne carnival, one of the largest street festivals in Europe, begins annually on November 11, at 11:11, and continues until Ash Wednesday. The so-called "Tolle Tage" (mad days) do not start until Weiberfastnacht (Women's Carnival), which is the beginning of the street carnival. Hundreds of thousands of visitors flock to Cologne during this time. Around a million people celebrate in the streets on the Thursday before Ash Wednesday.

Cologne is well-known for the annual reggae summerjam, the largest of its kind in Europe, and the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender/transsexual festival Christopher Street Day. The city also hosts the Cologne Comedy Festival, which is considered to be the largest comedy festival in mainland Europe.

The city hosts the soccer team, 1. FC Köln, which competes in the Bundesliga, and American football team Cologne Centurions which played in the now defunct NFL Europa. The RheinEnergieStadion stadium was used during the 2006 FIFA World Cup. The city also hosts the hockey team Kölner Haie (Cologne Sharks), the basketball team Köln 99ers, and the annual Cologne Marathon.

Looking to the future

The Cologne Cathedral suffered 14 hits by bombs during World War II. It did not collapse, but stood tall in an otherwise flattened city. Believers said it was divine intervention. Christian thinkers can draw parallels between the apparently indestructibility of the cathedral, which is the city's unofficial symbol, and the indestructibility of the Christian tradition.

Cologne has dealt with severe air pollution, has helped bring the dead Rhine River back to life, and retains the seventh highest per capita GDP in Germany. Besides the intriguing buildings and museums, the city has undergone a remarkable reconstruction and rebirth after World War II. This is Cologne’s legacy. Its continuous pattern of success portends a successful future.

Panoramic image of Cologne.


  1. C.Michael Hogan, Cologne Wharf—Ancient Mine, Quarry or other Industry in Germany in North Rhine-Westphalia, The Megalithic Portal. Retrieved September 19, 2008.
  2. Time, Inc, Cologne Evacuated. Retrieved September 19, 2008.
  3. Landesamt für Datenverarbeitung und Statistik Nordrhein-Westfalen, Bevölkerung im Regierungsbezirk Köln. Retrieved September 19, 2008.
  4. Stadt Köln, 2007 - Einwohnerdaten im Überblick. Retrieved September 19, 2008.

ISBN links support NWE through referral fees

  • Koster, Nina, Wolfgang Fritz, and David Ingram. 1992. Cologne. Insight guides. Singapore: APA Productions. ISBN 9780134669052.
  • Signon, Helmut. 1977. Getting to know Cologne. Köln: Greven. ISBN 9783774301467.
  • UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Cologne Cathedral. Retrieved September 20, 2008.
  • World Fact Book. 2008. Germany.

External links

All links retrieved January 7, 2024.


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