Friday, November 27, 2015

A Couple Days in Cologne

Happy (belated) Thanksgiving, y'all!

Using Corine's home in Hausen as a home base, I adventured to Cologne (Köln in German) a couple days in a row earlier this week!  As soon as you step out of the train station in Cologne, you are immediately greeted by the towering cathedral.  The thing is enormous!!  My favorite part of the entire cathedral was the stained glass windows.  So colorful and intricate, and they were glowing beautifully when I visited.  The cathedral was bustling with tourists because the Weinachtsmarkt (Christmas Market) is near the church, and everyone seemed as impressed by the windows and architecture as I was.

The ambulatory is only open to visitors at certain times, and I happen to be there about five minutes before it opened.  So I hung around a bit and then strolled around behind the main altar, peering into each chapel as I went.  Of course much is roped off now, but you can still catch glimpses of the shrines and altars through the gates.

After the cathedral, I walked through the Weinachtsmarkt and enjoyed the familiar sounds of Christmas music-- in English!  I even bought a somewhat expensive latte so I could have the Cologne Christmas Market commemorative mug.  I know.  I'm a sucker.

Aside from the grand cathedral, there are many other churches in Cologne.  It is impossible to visit them all in such a short visit, but I walked to as many as I could muster throughout the day.  One of my favorites was St. Gereon's.  None of the original stained glass remains, but the modern windows are brightly colored and beautiful.  The circular plan with several galleries and niches was definitely an impressive space!

After church surfing, I visited the Schnütgen Museum.  They have a great medieval collection, especially their wooden sculptures and reliquaries!  I also really liked a small beaded container, originally used to hold the Eucharist.  It was kind of crazy and messy, but also wildly detailed and skillfully done!
Wall of bust reliquaries at the Schnutgen
Arm reliquaries at the Schnutgen
Beaded host container at the Schnutgen
I returned home in the evening to a snowy white Hausen!  The next morning, I snapped a couple quick snow pics in front of Corine's house before heading back to Cologne where it was very cold and very wet!

I had an appointment at the Museum for Angewandte Kunst Köln (MAKK) which means Applied Arts Museum of Cologne.  The museum has a few medieval textiles, but they are all in storage now because they are focusing on more modern topics for their current exhibitions.

I got to go up to storage with the conservator to look at a tapestry that I have studied in the past.  The antependium (a horizontally-oriented cloth that hangs in front of an altar) was made and used in Nuremberg during the fifteenth century, and depicts seven virgin martyrs.  It is a gnarly and gruesome image, which makes it totally intriguing for a number of reasons.  The violence depicted far exceeds the textual legends of the saints and other depictions of their martyrdoms.  Not only that, but the tortures are carried out by these eerie disembodied hands!  Totally weird!  But it was awesome to see the tapestry in person after studying it for so long.  Once again, I was amazed by the fine quality and craftsmanship of the weaving.

After taking photos at the MAKK, I had lunch and then visited the old Diocesan Museum of Cologne.  The museum is built on top of some old church ruins of St. Kolumba, and you can go down and walk through the ruins as part of the exhibitions!  A totally cool space.  The museum combines medieval and modern art thematically throughout, which can be a bit exhausting to me.  But it was still a neat collection, and they had a couple nice textiles.
St. Kolumba ruins under the museum
A little old-meets-new in Cologne!
Little corporal cloth in the Diozesanmuseum in Cologne
Lastly, I went back to the Schnütgen to take more photographs-- this time with my tripod and macro lens.  I am always amazed at the level of detail I can see in these photos.  I often notice more in the photos than I did looking at the object!  Mega-thanks to Volker for loaning me his lenses and teaching me how to work my camera and edit my photos!

Macro lens with 1:1 adapter-- Beaded host vessel from the Schnutgen Museum
We have spent a couple relaxing days in Hausen now, and it's nice to slow down a bit after over a month of intense traveling and art historicizing!  On Tuesday 1 December, I will take a train up to Wolfenbüttel to begin my ten-month fellowship at the Herzog August Bibliothek.  Looking forward to really unpacking my bags and getting settled in there!


  1. This whole post is incredible. The cathedral is amazing. Your photos are exceptional. The Christmas Market looks like so much fun! I'm glad you splurged on a latte/mug. I would have done the same. Love the snowy pic of Corine's street. It just looks cozy.

  2. The virgin martyrs is pretty sweet too.