Zeichnung 1619

Painting Cologne Cathedral


History & Religion

>Period of prosperity  |  Cologne today  |  Timeline  |  City of faith

Cologne is the oldest of the major German cities. Its name goes back to the Romans, who gave their city the name of »Colonia« in 50 A.D.

Rome's imperial governor resided here and the city quickly developed into one of the empire's most important trade and manufacturing centres north of the Alps. The Romans also brought Christianity to Cologne and it quickly became a diocesan town.
Following the confusion of the transitional period in which the city came under the rule of the Franks, Charlemagne founded the archbishopric of Cologne in 785. The Archbishop of Cologne, one of the most important feudal lords in the Holy Roman Empire, became Chancellor for Italy (11th C.) and Elector (14th C.). In the Middle Ages the city experienced a new heyday; from around the 12th to the 15th Century it was the most populous and one of the richest cities in the German-speaking world.
Since 1288 and their military victory over the archbishop and ruler of the city, the citizens of Cologne took political and economic power into their own hands, even though Cologne's status as a free imperial city was only confirmed de jure in 1475. In 1388 the citizens established the first municipal university.

Period of prosperity

Cologne quickly played a leading role as a member of the Hanseatic League and a centre of commercial fairs.
Cologne's unique churches, the remains of its city walls and numerous civic buildings (town hall, Gürzenich, Overstolzenhaus and many more) as well as countless works of art are living proof of the riches and the devoutness of »Hilligen Köln« (Holy Cologne).
Following the discovery of the New World, the introduction of new forms of business and trade routes and the emergence of the nation states in Europe, Cologne experienced an economic decline lasting into the 19th Century. The city's political power also waned; in 1794 Cologne was occupied by French revolutionary troops and in 1815 became a part of the kingdom of Prussia. With the industrial revolution, the opportunities of which were quickly recognized and taken by the city, with the gradual incorporation of large parts of the region around it; with prudent communal politics under Prussia and later the German Reich, favoured by the newly-awakened national enthusiasm for Cologne's mediaeval past, a powerful new revival of the city began, a revival which continues today – despite the terrible consequences of two World Wars.


Cologne today

Cologne presents itself today, against the background of its long and chequered history, as

• an art and trade fair city of world class
• a key centre of transport and business in Western Europe

and last but not least, a vital, charming city in which its great past and the present, commerce and culture create a fascinating blend and where the people – not only at the famous Carnival – like to laugh and to live and let live.
It comes, therefore, as no surprise that the city regularly attracts more visitors: Cologne Cathedral is the most-visited building in Germany. The old Roman saying is confirmed once more:
»Anyone who has not seen Cologne, has not seen Germany«. Because there is an amazing amount to see in Cologne.




Gemälde Kölner Dom

City of Faith

Colonia Claudia ara Agrippinensium: the official founding name of the ancient city of Cologne. The suffix »ara« (lat. ­altar) ­already designates Cologne as a religious centre. On the Capitol Hill there was a temple for the Roman trio of Gods Jupiter, Juno and Minerva. (Now St. Maria in the Capitol).

Christianity arrived on the Rhine in the 3rd century. The first recorded Bishop of Cologne was Maternus in 313. Even in the high Middle Ages Cologne was already so called »holy Cologne« and was known as the largest trading centre that side of the Alps. Today around 40% of the inhabitants are Catholic, 20% Evangelical and 10% Muslim. The remaining 30% fall into Christian Free Churches (Methodists, Old Catholics, the Salvation Army, etc.) and other religions as well as residents with no professed religion.

The Catholic church has been established in the city for almost 1700 years, and it has characterised the city not merely architecturally through Cologne’s trademark, the Cathedral which, compared to other tourist sights in Germany, attracts the most visitors.
However, the city is regarded as being very liberal in religious matters.

Sales Guide:
Denominations in Cologne