Talking to Gargoyles

I had to walk in and out of the Cologne Cathedral two or three times before I felt I could psychologically take it on. Even so, I know I could only take in a fraction of all that it was, all that it is, and even though I took hundreds of pictures, in and outside the cathedral, none of them do it justice for how amazing and awesome it it.

It could take you a day just to examine the outside of the cathedral. There’s a small graveyard, and almost every wall, every nook, and every column has an immense degree of detail.


This is just a small portion of the mantel over one of the doors.

And once you get inside, oh, my. There are pilgrims, such as these people lighting candles and praying at the Jewelery Madonna shrine:


All through the cathedral there were men in red robes, and often they carried a box with them that said “for the cathedral,” and you could put some money in there. I spoke to this guy:


I asked him if he was a priest. “No, I’m a gargoyle,” he said. Well, ok, that’s how I understood it. Just the day before, I had seen a little girl point at the watchtower (with a gargoyle on it) outside the Chocolate Museum use exactly the same word while pointing at the gargoyle. The word wasn’t in my German-English dictionary, nor was the word “gargoyle” and though I tried to get Germans to tell me how to say gargoyle in German, no one knew how to say it either. Back home, I got it straightened out. He’s not a gargoyle, but actually a watchman or a guard, but it would be fitting for the Cologne Cathedral to have gargoyles keeping watch over it, too.

I picked up a little 1-euro pamphlet to guide me through the cathedral, and as thin as that pamphlet was it still took me hours for me to try to take it in. It was like an all-out religious art and history extravaganza.

Incredible original mosaic floor after incredible original mosaic floor!


This one shows a picture of the church as it looked around the year 800.

Mind-blowing stained glass window after mind-blowing stained-glass window.


This is just the bottom row detail of one of the many, many massive stained glass windows. I tried to buy a book on the windows, but I could only get a small book on some of them (the Bible story windows), there are so many to document.

Medievial shrine after medieval shrine:


I think this was the oldest depiction of the crucifixion that exists in Europe.

Catholic religious symbolism galore, most of which I probably didn’t get.


This one at least was in the pamphlets. The number of golden rods signify the number of years the current archbishop has been in his seat.

Ceiling frescoes in ancient subterranean chapels:


Carvings on the tall, tall columns among the rows and rows of pews in the cathedral above:


And plenty of crypts, some creepier than others:


Lest you not forget, these are the people who invented Goth:


And if that’s not Goth enough for you, you can go into the cathedral’s treasury and see the bones of saints which were (and maybe still are) brought on on special days for veneration. I was a little happy that some of the bones (like a skull or two) were safely hidden inside their reliquaries, but I’m sure if you’re a priest or better, you can touch them if you really want to.

It struck me that the most Goth thing a German can do is become a Catholic priest. The Sisters of Mercy is probably easy listening for the Pope.

All I could say, over and over, was “This is awesome, this is so awesome.” The gargoyle nodded at me and said “That’s what we try to be.” They certainly succeeded.

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