Cologne

The construction of Cologne Cathedral had started in the thirteenth century but was interrupted in the sixteenth, at which time only the choir and a portion of the western towers were completed, marking the full extent of the building. The choir was closed with a blank wall toward the unbuilt transept, and in the nave area there was a temporary construction to satisfy the needs of worship. Many travellers over the centuries had admired the enormously tall interior of the choir, and had expressed the wish to continue and complete this cathedral, which would have become the grandest in Germany (Forster, 1791; Bayer, 1912). Sulpiz Boisseree initiated action towards the completion of the cathedral. In 1807 he convinced the local authorities to share the expenses for urgent repairs, and in 1810 he wrote to Goethe for his support. Although Goethe, after his Italian tours, was more a

Figure 5.5 The construction of the mediaeval cathedral of Cologne was interrupted in the sixteenth century, and was only completed in 1840-80 under the direction of F. Zwirner supporter of Classicism, he became instrumental in obtaining the blessing of the highest authorities. He visited the site personally in 1815, proposing the establishment of an organization for the maintenance of the building and emphasizing the need not only for funds but also for the revival of crafts.

In September 1811, the structure was inspected by Baurath Georg Möller (1784-1852), an architect and historian from Darmstadt, who found its condition alarming; the choir walls were out of plumb, and the roof structures were worm-eaten with loose joints. Some emergency action was taken. In 1814, Crown Prince Friedrich Wilhelm of Prussia visited the cathedral, promising government funds for the repair and showing interest in the completion of the building. In the same year, a mediaeval drawing of the west front was found in the Cologne archives; later another drawing was found in Paris and a ground plan in Vienna. On the basis of these, drawings were prepared to illustrate the cathedral in its complete state. In November, Johann Joseph Görres (17761848), the powerful writer and freedom fighter, published a strong manifesto advocating the completion of the cathedral in his journal Rheinische Merkur, which Napoleon had called 'The Fifth Great Power'. Boisserée published his magnificent drawings in 1823, and ten years later these were followed Möller's important work on the history of German architecture, Denkmäler der deutschen Baukunst (1815-21).

In August 1816, Schinkel came and surveyed the cathedral, admiring the boldness of the structure. Like the architects who consolidated the Colosseum in Rome some ten years earlier, he considered it a privilege to work on such a great structure, and reported that:

artistic undertakings such as this, through which alone true art can exist, are totally missing in our time. Past generations have left us with too much property everywhere, and for the last half a century we have now been working on the destruction of this heritage with such systematic barbarism that in great emulation we have left the unplanned barbarism of the time of Attila behind us long ago ... In this situation, man's worthiest determination seems to be to conserve with all care and respect what the efforts of past generations have left to us.22

In the five years since the last inspection, the situation had become even worse, partly due to the earlier repairs, and Schinkel helped Boisseree to approach the government for the funds necessary for restoration. In 1821, the archbishopric was brought back to Cologne, and the king promised to cover the cost of maintenance of the fabric. In 1823 the restoration finally started, first slowly but, from the 1830s, with greater force. In the process, decayed elements had to be replaced systematically, and most of the buttress system was rebuilt. In 1829, Schinkel suggested that the nave should be constructed in a partial way by completing the interior up to the vault level, and leaving the exterior only as a plain structure with the ornaments worked en bloc. The towers could be left unbuilt. One would thus gain 'the beautiful and unique effect' of the interior, the whole building would be statically safe, and the expense would not be too great (Schinkel to Boisseree, 8 August 1829, Ennen, 1880:121).

In July 1833, a new surveyor was employed on the site. Ernst Friedrich Zwirner (180261), a Gothic Revival architect and former student of Schinkel, prepared the plans for the completion together with Schinkel, and brought a new spirit to the work. He revived the mediaeval traditions and restored the Dombauhütte, the traditional cathedral workshop. His ambitions differed from Schinkel's; he aimed at completing the building in all its details, and gradually he was able to persuade his master, who visited the cathedral in 1838 for the last time. When Friedrich Wilhelm IV succeeded to the Prussian throne in 1840, he also gave more concrete form to his interest in historic buildings, already shown while he was crown prince. In December 1841 the order was given to continue and complete the construction work according to the mediaeval project as elaborated by Schinkel and Zwirner. A special foundation, Dombauverein, was established to collect funds, which would be matched by the state. Many heads of state contributed, including Ludwig I of Bavaria, Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria, Queen Victoria of England, King Villem of the Netherlands, and Crown Prince Umberto of Italy. On 4 September 1842, thousands were present when Friedrich Wilhelm IV and

Figure 5.6 The question of the design of the exterior of Cologne Cathedral went through a long debate. At the end, it was decided to produce the architecture in full detail. Stonework at the southern entrance, in a photo of 1983, showing also restoration after the Second World War

Archbishop Johannes von Geissel laid the first stone of the building's continuation. The mediaeval crane that had waited almost three centuries was used to lift it in position, and to start the construction of this 'eternal memorial of piety, concord and faith of the united families of German nation on the holy site'.23 This was almost the last chance to start the work, as it was soon to be accepted that Gothic was not necessarily a German product. The patriotic fervour calmed down, and when this great monument was finally complete in 1880, the event passed with little notice. Nevertheless, the work had importance in the restoration world; a large number of restoration architects, technicians and craftsmen who were trained on the site worked throughout the Germanic countries, Austria, Switzerland and northern Italy. One of them was Friedrich von Schmidt (1825-91), the chief exponent of the Gothic Revival in Austria, who worked in Cologne in 1843, on Milan Cathedral in 1857-8, and was nominated surveyor of the Stephanskirche in Vienna in 1863. In Germany, numerous other churches were restored or completed in a similar manner, including the cathedrals of Bamberg, Regensburg and Speier by Friedrich von Gärtner (1792-1847), the well-known classical architect of Bavaria, as well as the churches of Dinkelsbühl, Nörd-lingen and Rothenburg by Carl Alexander von Heidelöff (1789-1865). Apart from repairing eventual defects in the structures, the restorations generally meant removal of all baroque features and reconstruction of the 'originally intended form'.

Was this article helpful?

0 0

Post a comment