Due to the generosity of my sponsors Modenus, Axor, Mr. Steam, DuVerre, Blanco, Miele and the NKBA; I was in Cologne a mere week ago. I’m beyond grateful for the sights and sounds this latest European adventure threw into my lap. I was in Germany to attend IMM, one of the world’s largest and most important trade shows.
I flew to Cologne with seven other people: Brandon Smith, Todd Vendituoli, Alexandra Williams, Lisa Smith, Carmen Christiansen, Kathy Sandler and Courtney Mullins-Price. I’d been to Cologne and to IMM before, so I was appointed the bus monitor for that group by Tim Bogan from Modenus. It was my job to get everybody through the Dusseldorf airport and onto a van for the short drive to Cologne.
We flew out of Newark on a 4:30pm flight that had us on the ground in Dusseldorf at 6am the following morning. It was around 7:30 that morning when we rolled into our hotel in Cologne. Too early to check in of course and despite the jet lag, we had some time to explore before the rest of our group arrived from points in North America, Europe and the UK.
After we’d settled into a hearty German breakfast, I announced that I was heading over to the Cologne Cathedral after breakfast and that anyone interested was welcome to join me. There was a 10am mass at the Cathedral that featured the grand organ and the men’s choir and I was determined to add that to my list of experiences over there. The whole group decided they were coming with me so it was off to the Cathedral we went.
The Cologne Cathedral is massive on a scale that’s difficult to describe. Construction of it started in the year 1248 and it took another 600 years to complete. Its spires rise to a height of more than 500 feet and it’s the tallest structure in Cologne. Despite its massive scale, the Cathedral itself doesn’t feel overwhelming.
If you find yourself in Cologne in the dead of winter, please note that the Cathedral is unheated and the degree of cold inside a Medieval stone building cannot be overstated.
We arrived at around 9am on an uncharacteristically sunny (though cold) morning. I’d been to the Cathedral twice before and on both occasions it was overcast and wet. On that morning however, the sun shown through the acres of stained glass and it made the grand building feel even lighter and more ethereal than it does usually. Despite the fact that my feet were frozen, it was a pretty moving sight to see.
It was a High Mass I’d dragged my travel-weary group to, many of whom had never attended a Catholic mass before, let alone a High one. No organization can pull off pomp and theater as well as the Roman Catholic Church does. The Mass was celebrated by the Archbishop and was concelebrated by at least ten monsignors and a full compliment of altar servers.
I’d never heard the Cathedral’s organ before and it was powerful to the point of being almost overwhelming. The chants were sublime and I spent most of the Mass with my eyes closed in something like an ecstatic state. It felt for all the world as if we’d been transported to the 14th Century or so.
After the Communion prayers were said the sun hit the right side of the Cathedral perfectly and beams of multi-colored light flooded the entire transept. The clouds of incense smoke caught the light perfectly and the effect was pure magic.
I have a great big place in my heart for old, sacred spaces and I love classical, liturgical music. Medieval Cathedrals deliver on both counts and I cannot walk past one without going inside. I see and feel the humanity of the people who built those structures on a very fundamental level. They represent the best that they were capable of and their fingerprints are everywhere if you know how to look.
Western Civilization stands on the shoulders of places like Der Kölner Dom and they’re as inspiring now as they were when they were built.
After mass, we walked along the Rhine until we found a warm cafe and I found a heaping serving of herring in cream sauce with boiled potatoes. Man, I love Germany.