Cologne Town Hall
The historic Cologne City Hall (Kölner Rathaus) is located in the old town of Cologne, in western Germany, in the federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia.
The first mention of the “house in which the citizens of the city gather” dates back to 1135.
The Cologne Town Hall is considered Germany’s oldest town hall. And the history of the construction of the town hall stretched for 800 years.
Archaeological excavations have shown that part of the foundation of the town hall stands on the remains of the fortress wall of the Roman settlement Colonia, from the name of which, in fact, the modern name of the city of Cologne comes from.
The first town hall building was a two-story Romanesque building. The oldest part of the building, preserved to this day, dates back to 1330. In the 14th century, a restructuring of the Gothic town hall was undertaken. The entire second floor now occupied one long hall. The 1349 Jewish pogroms in the neighboring Jewish quarter also damaged the town hall.
With the transfer of city power to the so-called Gaffel, the union of guilds of artisans, it was decided to add a tower (beffroy) to the building of the town hall, which later became the most famous part of the whole complex of town hall buildings. In the 15th century, a magnificent Renaissance style gallery was added to the main entrance to the town hall building. In the 16th century, a courtyard with arches was added from the side of the town hall tower.
From the side of the Town Hall Square in the XVII century a town hall office is being built, today called the Spanish building. Her historic building, unfortunately, has not been preserved. The modern Spanish building was erected in 1956.
During the Second World War, the Cologne City Hall was seriously damaged. Restoration work continued until the seventies of the XX century. Most of the building, however, was decided not to be restored. The so-called Piazzetta – a building made of glass and concrete with modern graphics and installations is open to the public.
What to see
Despite the fact that most of the historic building of the Cologne Town Hall has not been preserved, the remaining buildings will tell a lot of interesting things about the history of the city.
Town Hall Tower
The construction of the Town Hall Tower (Ratsturm) in the Gothic style was carried out from 1407 to 1414. The tower in its shape resembles Belfrid, often found in Dutch and Belgian cities.
The quadrangular Ratsturm, with a total height of 61 meters, has three floors, and an additional two levels of octagonal shape. Initially, it was planned to place a treasury and city treasury in the tower building.
The upper floor, the so-called Kure, was used as a fire observation post. The tower also housed a wine cellar and a meeting room for the city senate.
Sculptures on the Town Hall Tower
Each floor of the tower is decorated with sculptures of emperors, kings, saints and patrons of Cologne, as well as its famous inhabitants. Historical figures made of sandstone, under the influence of time and weather conditions, collapsed, but were replaced with their exact copies.
In the post-war period, the sculptures destroyed by the bombing were again restored and new ones added – the city council decided to perpetuate the memory of the modern prominent natives and residents of Cologne. The sculptures on the town hall tower are arranged according to their lifetime.
The sculptures placed on the tower of the Cologne City Hall can be used to trace the entire glorious history of the ancient city on the Rhine.
On the ground floor of the tower are figures of emperors, kings, popes, beginning with Gaius Julius Caesar and the founder of the city Agrippina the Younger.
On the second floor of the town hall tower are the famous residents of Cologne, who lived in the period from VIII to XVII centuries.
On the second level there is a controversial sculptural composition depicting the Bishop of Cologne Konrad von Hochstaden on a pedestal in the form of a figure engaged in autofellation. Hochstaden was hated by the city, being a supporter of the papal party, he deprived Cologne of independence, but weakened the power of the patricians by raising the guilds. And his main merit is the laying of the famous Cologne Cathedral. In any case, the name of the bishop is immortalized at the city hall.
The third floor is dedicated to the famous inhabitants of Cologne from the 17th to the 19th century – generals, poets, historians, as well as Johann Maria Farina – perfumer, inventor of cologne and Karl Marx.
On the fourth floor – the famous inhabitants of Cologne XIX – XX centuries. Among them are Nikolaus Otto, one of the inventors of the internal combustion engine, Max Isidor Bodenheimer, one of the founders of the World Zionist Organization, Konrad Adenauer, the first Federal Chancellor of Germany.