The Cologne Cathedral stands only a few hundred feet away from Cologne Germany’s main train station the Hauptbahnof. Words cannot describe the visual experience of stepping out of the Hauptbahnof station and seeing the Cologne Cathedral for the first time. After having stepped off a modern high-speed ICE train and walking though a beautiful 20th century rail hub, the experience of stepping outside that station and being greeted by the Cologne Cathedral is like taking a trip through a time tunnel. So much of Europe is like that. You can be walking down a modern street in Rome and come to a street corner and there is the Roman Colosseum that is thousands of years old standing right in front of you. It happens in every country. However, the experience of seeing the Cologne Cathedral for the first time may top everything. The Cologne Cathedral’s gothic architecture and size is so overwhelming upon first sight, it takes the senses a few minutes to adjust to what they are seeing and feeling. There is so much detail and depth to the Cologne Cathedral, it becomes impossible to capture the experience on film. Even the best photographers face the impossible in trying to depict the Cathedral in a simple photograph. It just can’t be done.
It is much easier to write about the experience of seeing the Cologne Cathedral than presenting it through photographs. Any professional photographer will agree that brilliant photography is all about the utilization of lighting. The Cologne Cathedral’s appearance changes dramatically depending on the Sun’s location in the sky. The Cologne Cathedral can appear dark, mysterious and somewhat portentous when it’s in the shadows of the Sun. When the light of the Sun is shining directly on the face of the Cathedral, the depth of the architecture and design shines brilliantly revealing the incredible workmanship that went into the building of the Cathedral. It stands in the Sun with open inviting arms. These alternate views of the Cologne Cathedral happen from all four sides but have more of a distinctive effect from both the east and west sides of the Cologne Cathedral.
Below are two photographs of the western side of the Cologne Cathedral when the Cathedral was facing the sun and later on when it was in the shadows of the Sun.
The changing views of the Cologne Cathedral exterior through the day due to the Sun’s location presents a great argument that people visiting the Cologne Cathedral should spend an entire day at the site. Obviously in the morning, the Cologne Cathedral’s western side which stands as the front entrance is in the shadows of the rising Sun in the east. The morning is a perfect time to view the Cologne Cathedral from the Cologne Bridge which stands on the eastern side of the Cologne Cathedral. The views of the Cologne Cathedral from the southern side of the Cologne Bridge are spectacular. We recommend that you walk all the way across the Cologne Bridge and use the concrete terrace on the other side of the Rhine River to view the Cologne Cathedral. Spend some time and take it all in. You can climb the steps down to the river bank and sit on a bench and just enjoy the combination of natural and man-made beauty.
On the eastern side of the Cologne Cathedral side, there are large open spaces behind the Ludwig Museum that was built next to the Cologne Cathedral. There is not much space directly behind the Cologne Cathedral. You will need a wide-angle lens to photograph the Cologne Cathedral. So, if you want to photograph the east side of the Cologne Cathedral, you will have to walk behind the Ludwig Museum. Below is a picture taken from the east side of the Cologne Cathedral from behind the Ludwig Museum. The Modern Art Museum is also a great place to visit as it displays the works of Picasso.
Once you have viewed the Cologne Cathedral from the Cologne Bridge and then walked past the Modern Art Museum towards the east end by the Cathedral you will come upon The Roncalliplatz Plaza. The Plaza is a wide open space built on the south side of the Cologne Cathedral. From the large plaza, you can get some great shots. There is so much to shoot from on the south side. Your only limitations are your creativity.
The front entrance of the Cologne Cathedral is on the western end. There is a large plaza in front of the Cologne Cathedral where most people photograph the Cathedral. The Cologne Cathedral is so tall and wide, it can become very difficult to get the entire Cathedral in one shot. It all depends on the lens you are using. Most cell phone cameras will not be able to get the Cologne Cathedral in one shot. There is a Burgmaruer street in front of the Cologne Cathedral that you can walk down that will help set up a great photograph of the entire Cologne Cathedral.
There is so much detail carved in to the front of the Cologne Cathedral. One can take hundreds of shots exploring the exterior of the west end. To really take advantage of these glorious photographic opportunities, it’s important to visit the west end in the morning and then afternoon to take advantage of the difference in light which will really impact the up-close shots.
The Domplatte Domvorplatz is the wide-open plaza that surrounds the front entrance of the Cologne Cathedral. On the far north west corner of the Domplatte Domvorplatz is a shaded area that is lined with benches that are situated under a small grouping of trees. It is a great area to just sit, relax and enjoy one of the most majestic views in Europe.
The Cologne Cathedral offers some of the most spectacular visuals in all of Europe. It is the most visited site in Germany. While the outside offers so many stunning photographic opportunities, the inside depicts an entirely different world. The issues of respecting the house of worship and distinguishing it from a tourist attraction will be the subject of our next article on Germany’s Cologne Cathedral.
Exploring The Cologne Cathedral Exterior Gallery
All photos by Brian Kachejian ©2018 All Rights Reserved.