Friday, April 11, 2014

Cologne cathedral and the Romano-Germanic museum

I don't know if I have that much to say really (cue very long post), but I had too many photos to put up on the other post without boring you all, so here goes.

As noted in my last post, Cologne was pretty much destroyed in World War Two, leaving the cathedral as more or less the only significant old landmark in the city. So we ended up spending quite a lot of time in and around it - first attempting a visit on Friday, when it was mostly shut for Mass (who goes to Mass on Friday evening?), then looking around on Saturday before having to go back to the hotel to watch qualifying with the intent of visiting the crypt on Sunday, except it was closed again until 1 pm, so we just took some photos since there was a blue sky for a change.

I wasn't blown away, to be honest. The outside is quite impressive, but also quite dark, and the inside is even darker. All the windows are modern (in fact the whole thing was only finished in the 19th century, after being half-completed for some 400 years), with most of them bright and attractive, but a pastiche of medieval style. It's also too crowded - according to Wikipedia, it's the most visited tourist site in Germany, attracting an incredible 20,000 visitors per day. There were certainly enough people milling about in early April, so I'd hate to be there in the middle of August.

Cologne cathedral

Hey, looks like that guy's drinking Starbucks coffee. Let's shame him!
Now that's a cool stained-glass window. Apparently the Archbishop didn't attend the unveiling, because he would have preferred a depiction of 20th-century Catholic martyrs. This is proof that archbishops have no taste.

One thing Cologne Cathedral does have going for it, though, is the world's most amazing and spectacular ceiling fresco. Move over Monkey Jesus, there's a new masterpiece in town. To say I was excited to document this chef d'oeuvre was something of an understatement. Forget what I said in the last post about Cologne not being a must-see destination and drop everything to wonder at who let a troupe of artistically-challenged school-children decorate the (up to) 800 year-old ceiling of Germany's most visited site. (My money's on the philistine archbishop.)

The best fresco ever

That time a small Peruvian woman dressed up as King Solomon

A touching memorial to traumatised choirboys everywhere

Caw! Caw! That eagle is definitely swooping in for the attack on the cowardly lion. Not for the first time on the blog, something reminds me of the epic Moa vs. Haast's Eagle animatronic battle that used to be at Auckland Museum (RIP André the Giant Eagle, we hardly knew ye)

It was like this, but better

And here we have Gregory the Great as Sad Cartman. Standing over the corpse of the Spirit of Jazz from the Mighty Boosh?

Two enthusiastic thumbs up from me
And now for some jumbled photos I forgot to upload last time:

Finally some nice weather

A park and the TV tower. Weirdly reminds me of the Japanese gardens in Monaco

The Rhine
I uploaded the photos the wrong way round (not that it matters): we actually visited the Romano-German museum first thing on Saturday morning. Getting to the advanced age where I need all my energies to tackle a museum, and even then I was looking forward to lunch and a sit-down by the end. We made the rookie mistake of taking too long studiously reading every label in the downstairs part (mostly full of pottery and tools etc.), and then being a bit over it by the time we got upstairs, which actually had a lot of cool jewellery and statutes.

That said, overall it was a good museum. The stand-out is definitely the large, detailed and amazingly intact Dionysus mosaic, around which the museum was actually built (it being easier to do that than to try to move it). One thing I liked was that there's a huge picture window in the side of the museum, allowing people in the square by the cathedral above to look down at the museum without coming in. Maybe that's just clever advertising, but it seemed like a generous and inclusive gesture. I would say, though, that it is actually worth shelling out to see the mosaic in more detail. The figurative scenes are really lovely and the patterns are impressively complex. It reminded me of being forced to tessalate things in maths class - one of those activities which you think could never be of any possible use to anyone, and since I'm not likely to be called on to create a mosaic anytime soon, probably won't be. Still, amazing to think the planning and skill that must have gone into it, all the way on the fringes of the Empire.

Aww, these little fishies look so happy

Now I'm annoyed I didn't crop off the grey bit at the top, but can't be bothered correcting it

The Dionysus mosaic

There were several depictions of birds pulling mini sledges or performing other tasks

The Dionysus mosaic was discovered while building air-raid shelters in 1941. The museum didn't say when this mosaic was found, but it was from "the villa next door", so presumably at the same time. Can you imagine how excited the Nazis must have been? Probably saw it as a sign from divine providence, suckers.


  1. That sparrowhawk couldn't possibly lift that moa!

    1. Is he trying to lift it? I thought he was just going in for a good old claw/peck. I couldn't find any photos online of the eagle pecking out the moa's entrails, sad times :(

  2. Funny post! (Love the flowery dress.) xx

  3. Very funny post. Your descriptions of the frescoes painted by the troupe of artistically-challenged school-children had me laughing out loud. That wasn't a good thing because I'm lying on my back with my laptop resting on my belly. Next time, please add a warning prior to funny posts! ;)

    1. Thanks MK! But *all* my posts are funny ;)


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