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The Cologne Cathedral’s founding stone was lain in August 1248 by Archbishop Konrad von Hochstaden. Building continued until 1530, when a lack of funds and interest halted the project. When French troops marched into Cologne in 1794, the archbishop and cathedral chapter fled and the building was subsequently used for everything from a meeting place to a warehouse until 1801, when it was once again consecrated as a church. In 1880, the building’s two towers were finished.
During World War II, though Cologne was heavily bombed, the cathedral did not collapse. Hints of that damage still remains, and pollution and weather continue to wear on the building. In 2013, a new underground rail line shook the building and caused a controversy. Work is constantly being done to ensure that the building remains intact, and it has accordingly been dubbed an “eternal construction site.”
In 1996, the cathedral was added to the UNESCO World Heritage list, an honor created in order to help identify, protect, and preserve cultural and natural sites worldwide that are “considered to be of outstanding value to humanity.” The UNESCO committee chose the Cologne Cathedral for this honor because it is “an exceptional work of human creative genius…and a powerful testimony to the strength and persistence of Christian believe in medieval and modern Europe.” (Source)
The cathedral remains the second highest building in the city (the telecommunications tower holds first place), and thousands of tourists visit it annually. Tourists are invited to climb the towers’ 509 stone steps, or view treasures such as the black marble High Altar and the Shrine of the Three Kings. Religious services are held regularly.