Lustrous Middle Ages
In the fifth century after Christ, the city came under Franconian rule and was included in the Great Franconian Empire by Chlodwig in the year 510.
About 200 years later, Charlemagne founded the Archdiocese of Cologne in 785 and appointed Hildebold, the most important clergyman at the court, as the first archbishop. The Archbishop of Cologne was for a long time one of the most powerful feudal men in the Holy Roman Empire.
The administration, education, trade and transport for the Lower Rhine and large areas east of the Rhine were concentrated here now, in the metropolis of Cologne. Cologne thus developed into one of the most significant cities in Europe. When the Archbishop Hildebold died in 818, he had had the construction of the Cathedral commenced and this was finally completed and consecrated in 870.
In the two following centuries, the city blossomed in particular under the influence of the bishops Bruno and Anno. Numerous monasteries and convents were founded and renewed, and further churches built. The cathedral was also extended and now had five naves, a worthy witness to the holy Cologne.
However, the power of the Archbishop was not undisputed and, in 1074, Archbishop Anno had to flee from an uprising of the citizens of the city. Shortly afterwards, he returned and his revenge on the rebellious burghers was hard. In spite of this first defeat of the citizens, the confrontations had begun which only ended with the defeat of the Archbishop Siegfried in 1288 at the Battle of Worringen.
The richest citizens had attempted again and again to take over rule in Cologne themselves. In the first half of the 12th century a “sworn association” of burghers emerged in the defence of their freedom, a coniuratio pro libertate. This alliance put citizenship on a level as an official instance alongside the Archbishop, the Emperor, the barons and the dukes.
The actual symbol of citizenship became their seal from the 13th century, the first city seal anywhere which generally stood however with its inscription still in the tradition of rule: sancta colonia dei gratia romanae ecclesiae fidelis filia - Holy Cologne, through God’s mercy faithful daughter of the Roman Church.
A council of the citizenship had managed the city’s business since 1216. It had its seat in the Town Hall which was erected before the middle of the 12th century. It was thus the first town hall on German soil.
Extensive building took place in the centre of the city again in the period between about 1160 and 1240. From the splendid burgher houses of the period only the Overstolzenhaus has been preserved. From the glory of the, at one time, over one hundred churches and chapels, there are today still around one dozen Romanesque churches still left.
With this splendour of the Middle Ages and the variety of churches, the old cathedral, in the construction of which nothing had been altered since the 10th century, appeared to be modest and small now. Since 1164, the bones of the holy three kings were kept safely in the cathedral and were the goal of numerous droves of pilgrims. They had been brought by Chancellor Friedrich Barbarossa, the Archbishop Rainald von Dassel from the conquered Milan to Cologne.
Through the growth and the blossoming of the city as a whole, considerations were kindled now for the new construction of a bigger and more splendid cathedral. The architect, Konrad von Hochstaden, finally laid the foundation stone in 1248 for the new Gothic construction of the Cologne Cathedral.
The biggest church in history was commenced with tremendous courage. An architect had been selected whose plan superseded everything in brilliance and perfection which had been seen in cathedrals up to then.
In 1322, the choir was completed but work on the construction continued until 1533 and only the 19th century experienced in1880 the completion of the Cologne Cathedral as we know it today.