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Cologne Cathedral

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    The Cologne Cathedral is famous for being a Gothic masterpiece that was built over six centuries (World Heritage Convention (WHC), 2014; WHC 2004).

    Figure 1: Location of Cologne in Europe

    Officially the construction ofmap_cologne.JPG the church begun in 1248, passed several stages and was finished in 1880, by which date it was the biggest  building in the world (WHC, 2014; Deutsche UNESCO-Komission e.V., n.y.). Nevertheless, the building and its development was also  influenced and restored before and after this period and it still is a piece of work to keep the giant in good condition (WHC, 2014). During the  whole timeline builders were always inspired by the same spirit of fidelity and stuck to the original plans (WHC, 2014). The “Kölner Dom”, as it  is called in German, became a world heritage site due to its exceptional intrinsic value and for being an artistic masterpiece of Gothic  architecture (WHC, 2014). Furthermore, the Cathedral testified the lasting strength of Christianity in medieval and modern Europe (WHC,  2014). The giant impresses as an exceptional work of human creative genius and therewith proves its international uniqueness and  authenticity (WHC, 2014). In addition to that the Cathedral includes several relics, e.g. the shrine of the Three Kings (s. picture below) which is  the biggest reliquary shrine of the occident, as well as the high altar on a huge monolithic slab of black marble, which it is also famous for  (WHC, 2014; Deutsche UNESCO-Komission e.V., n.y.). That is why the Cathedral was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1996.

    Source: Google Maps, 2014

    The Cathedral, which is depicted on the middle photo below, is a five-aisled basilica with a two-tower facade of 156m height (WHC, 2014; Deutsche UNESCO-Komission e.V., n.y.). Even if the western section of the Church changes in style, it is not perceptible in the overall building (WHC, 2014).

    Figure 2: relic shrine of the Three Kings


    Source: Kö


    Figure 3: Cologne Cathedral nowadays with view on the south side of the building


    Source: Kö  


    Figure 4: the building phases of the Cathedral from 1248 (darkest) until 1880 (lightest)


    Source: Kö  


    Managerial Challenges

    The Cologne Cathedral is located right in the center of the city Cologne (Köln). On the opposite side of the Rhine is the area Deutz, which develops to an important business district.

    Figure 5: Urban planning model for future high-rise buildings in Köln Deutz

    In 2004 the UNESCO was informed about plan1237fa853d.jpgs of the city Cologne to build five high-rise buildings on the bank of the Rhine River across the Cathedral, like it can be seen on the model on the left picture (WHC, 2004). Due to UNESCO these buildings would negatively influence the integrity of the urban landscape around the Cathedral (WHC, 2004), what is why the Cologne Cathedral was inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger in July 2004 (WHC, 2004). Of course that caused hug discussions and weightings if the city should realize the development plans for Deutz, pushing the economy and business area, or if Cologne should preserve its only UENSCO cultural heritage sites that survived World War II (WHC, 2004). Even if the Cathedral is also well-known without the endangered title, the city decided for UENSCO and against Deutz (WHC, 2006).

    Source: WHC, 2004

    The title “UNESCO world heritage” is nowadays with the expansion of heritage tourism very important and can be seen as a symbol of quality (Aas, Ladkin, Fletcher, 2005; Lenjoint cited in Rhein-Zeitung, 2013). Thus, the authorities of Cologne down-scaled the construction plans of the buildings and improved the overall management of the Cathedrals surrounding including the extension of the buffer zone (WHC, 2006). With the agreement of UNESCO these actions led to the removal of the Gothic masterpiece from the in Danger List in 2006 (WHC, 2006). This case shows quite well the possible conflicts of different interests and interpretations of the use and integration of heritage sites (Graham et al., 2000 cited in Heldt Cassel, Pashkevich, 2013; Heldt Cassel, Pashkevich, 2011) and the enormous power of the UENSCO committee.

    Next to this isue the Cathedral has to deal with many smaller challenges as well, such as being overcrowded by tourists and metro trains which drive under and next to the old building . The Cathedral is constantly under construction, but still does it happen, that pieces of the building crack and fall down (Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger, 2014). This can be very dangerous since the Cathedral is always surrounded by crowds of tourists.

    Summarizing it can be said that the Kölner Dom is an outstanding symbol for the city and it is well-integrated in the image and tourism of Cologne. Nevertheless, due to the size of the building and the city, the crowds, and also climatic changes the Cathedral needs a strong preservation and protection, which so far, does not seem to be perfectly managed by the city. Therewith the Cologne Cathedral is a good example for the often-discussed relation between the need of preserving the cultural heritage and the increasing tourism activity at the same time (Aas, Ladkin, Fletcher, 2005; Heldt Cassel, Pashkevich, 2011).



    Aas, C., Ladkin, A., Fletcher, J. (2005) Stakeholder Collaboration and Heritage Management. Annals of Tourism Research, 32 (1), pp. 28-48.

    Deutsche UNESCO-Komission e.V. (n.y.) Kölner Dom. [Online] Available from: [Accessed 14/11/07].

    Erdmenger, E. (2014) Personal experiences during six month residency and several visits of the city and the Cologne Cathedral. Contact info:

    Heldt Cassel S., Pashkevich A. (2011) Heritage Tourism and Inherited Institutional Structures: The Case of Falun Great Copper Mountain. Scandinavian Journal of Hospitality and Tourism, 11 (1), pp. 54-75.

    Heldt Cassel, S., Pashkevich, A. (2013) World heritage and Tourism Innovation: Institutional Frameworks and Local Adaptation. European Planning Studies. [Online] Available from: [Accessed 14/11/15].

    Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger (2014) Vermutlich brachte das milde Wetter die Lilie zum Absturz. [Online] Available from:,28934786.html [Accessed 14/11/15].

    Rhein-Zeitung (2013) Tourismus-Erfolg ist auch eine Frage des Titels. [Online] Available from: [Accessed 14/11/15].

    World Heritage Convention (2004) World Heritage Committee sounds the alarm for Cologne Cathedral. [Online] Available from: [Accessed 14/11/07].

    World Heritage Convention (2006) Cologne Cathedral (Germany), Djoudj Bird Sanctuary (Senegal), Ichkeul National Park (Tunisia), and Hampi (India) removed from List of World Heritage in Danger. [Online] Available from: [Accessed 14/11/07].

    World Heritage Convention (2014) Cologne Cathedral. [Online] Available from: [Accessed 14/11/07].



    Google Maps (2014) Köln. [Online] Available from: [Accessed 14/11/15].



    Kö (n.y.) Der Kölner Dom. [Online] Available from: [Accessed 14/11/15].

    World Heritage Convention (2004) World Heritage Committee sounds the alarm for Cologne Cathedral. [Online] Available from: [Accessed 14/11/07].



    Written by Eva Erdmenger

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    Comments (4)

    Viewing 4 of 4 comments: view all
    Hi Eva,

    I really like your text! It is very well written, informative and based on a great number of references. The challenges you describe seem very sound and I especially like the connection to tourism. The only think I can criticise is that I think that you should put titles below the pictures, in order to show the reader what he actually sees and also include a short in text reference next to the title.

    Besides this, great work, thank you for it ;)
    Merle edited 18:52, 16 Nov 2014
    Posted 18:51, 16 Nov 2014
    That is a very good idea, thank you Merle, I will change that :-)
    Posted 19:05, 16 Nov 2014
    Your text is very informative. I think the cathedral in Cologne, would not be the first association when people think about heritage. Therefore, your chosen place is interesting! Just one small comment. It seems that something went wrong with uploading the images?
    Posted 20:49, 24 Nov 2014
    Thank you Sanne. Very interesting that you think it would not be a first association, because from my point of view, it is so well known in Germany and so much the symbol of the city, that it can be questioned if the church even needs the UNESCO titel to be THE heritage of Cologne. For me, and I lived near the church for a few month, it is a fascinating building. It took so long to build it, the architecture is so amazing and the Dom is huuuge! It doesn't matter how often I see it - I always fall in love with it again.

    But really interesting to hear and realize, that I'm probably influences since I lived so nearby and my roots are from the city. Can you explain why it does not seem to be the fist association with heritage for you? Because it is just one of so many churches? Or because of the integration in the city/skyline? Very interesting - thank you for that viewpoint :-)
    Posted 21:59, 24 Nov 2014
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