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Europe, part 2: Koln, Germany

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By Jamie Daugaard Contributor

On a recent trip to Europe, I visited
the Netherlands, Germany, Luxembourg
and Italy. Here, I’d like to
discuss the architecture of the Koln
Cathedral, which exemplifies the
Gothic Architecture during the medieval
time period, in Germany. My
next article will continue to be on
the Rheinland of Germany and in
particular the Roman city of Trier.
As I traveled from Amsterdam,
Netherlands to Koln (pronounced
Cologne), Germany by the Autobahn,
I noticed a change from the
urban density of the Netherlands to
smaller clusters of towns and rural farms.
My first destination in Germany
was Koln, and with it, a visit to the
Koln Cathedral. I’ve studied architectural
history and taught as an
aide at Montana State University,
so experiencing this type of architecture
in person was stunning, awe
inspiring and humbling. In it, I saw
the culture’s importance of expressing
a higher belief and making
every effort to celebrate that.
Koln Cathedral is based on gothic
architecture. It was constructed
between 1248 and 1880. Yes, 632
years to construct, although the cathedral
started to be used in the 1330s.
At 515 feet, the spires once made Koln
Cathedral the tallest structure in the world.
As gothic architecture evolved from
Romanesque architecture, construction
techniques and engineering
improved. The mass of the exterior
supporting walls became smaller,
and were replaced with larger
openings. This type of architectural
style was able to nurture and
celebrate vertical expression and
natural light in its spaces.
The Koln Cathedral is made completely
of stone and embodies
gothic ecclesiastical architecture,
with the exterior flying stone buttresses
built to support the outward
thrust caused by the weight of the
structure above. Much of its decoration
is pointed up, toward heaven.
Its stone windows and “plate and
bar tracery” are capped with rich
stone articulation at entries, roof
edges and spires.
Approaching Koln Cathedral I felt
the impressive scale in height and
width. As I got closer, the ornamentation
everywhere was evident.
Interesting is the patina of the
stone, where weathered older stone
turns a darker black color and more
prominent at the top of the Cathedral
and fades to a gray as you get to
lower elevations.
Inside the Cathedral, the immensity
of space and the verticality
is captivating. I noticed so many
details: faint sounds and tones;
colored light pouring in from the
stained glass; the stone rib for the
vaulting, soft colors; and the large
relieved stone furniture pieces.
The stone on the interior is less
worked and ornamented than the
exterior; I believe it was done this
way to direct focus on the bishop
at the end of the nave. The stone
tile flooring mosaics are articulated
throughout, and I’m certain with
religious and historical meaning:
Emblem seals compliment Latin
scriptures, and there are repeating
elements such as leaves, birds and
geometric shapes.
This site is a beautiful project on
a massive human scale, all built
before power equipment, lifts, steel
cranes or gasoline powered vehicles
Koln Cathedral is also listed on the
UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Jamie Daugaard, principal of
Centre Sky Architecture, received
his B-Arch and M-Arch from MSU.
Sustainability is deeply rooted in his
work, which is mostly in mountain
regions, with offices in Denver and
Big Sky. He will post more photos
from this trip at
If you would like to comment
on this article or would like to learn
more about another topic, you can
contact him at
or (406) 995-7572.

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