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Visiting the Gross Sankt-Martin Church, Cologne, Germany: Medieval monumentality by the Rhine River

Updated on September 4, 2013
Flag of Germany
Flag of Germany | Source
Gross Sankt-Martin Chuch, Cologne, seen from the Rhine
Gross Sankt-Martin Chuch, Cologne, seen from the Rhine | Source
The Market Place and Gross Sankt-Martin in 1946
The Market Place and Gross Sankt-Martin in 1946 | Source

Recalling the flow of history

Close to the historic Rhine (German: Rhein) River, the Great Saint Martin (German: Gross Sankt Martin) church is an ancient building, the tower of which is centuries older that the twin towers of the famous Cathedral in Cologne (German: Koeln), Germany.

The monumentality of its Romanesque design has been a feature of its locality since the 12th and 13th centuries; the tower in particular dates from 1150-1250 (albeit rebuilt in the 20th century). The original church building is said to date from 960AD.

Interestingly, in the Middle Ages there was a number of Irish Benedictine monks who were resident here; these personages proved to be unpopular with the local archbishop, however, and the monks were said to have had their welcome rescinded.

French Revolutionaries and aerial bombers

Two important events — among others — in the life of Cologne marked the history of this building: the French Revolution and aerial bombing in World War Two. The conspicuous tower of Gross Sankt Martin was badly damaged during World War Two, and not repaired until years later (1). It might be argued, however, that the culmulative effect of French, secularist ideology upon the position of Gross Sankt Martin — and more broadly the extent of ecclesiastical power in Germany — was even more influential from an historical perspective. A prominent monastery at Gross Sankt Martin, closed at the French Revolution, was eventually reopened.

The church building itself was originally situated on an island in the Rhine River. In time, the western channel of the Rhine around the island was drained and the building eventually found itself upon the western river bank. Interestingly, it is thought that this former island upon which the church building was situated was the location of a pre-Christian temple in Roman times.

The street address of this church building is simplicity itself: An Gross Sankt Martin 9-11, Koeln.

September 4, 2013


(1) In fact, repairs were not complete until 40 years after the end of World War Two, in 1985. Many of Germany's major cities, including Cologne, Berlin, Hamburg and Dresden, suffered very severe war damage in World War Two, with whole suburbs containing historic buildings being completely destroyed.

Map location of Cologne, Germany
Map location of Cologne, Germany | Source

Also worth seeing

Bonn (distance: 29 kilometres); Germany's former Federal Capital, in which many Federal ministries continue to be situated; the city is particularly known for the house which was the birthplace of Beethoven.

Duesseldorf (distance: 41 kilometres); various visitor attractions include its old city hall and the Rhine Tower (German: Rheinturm).


How to get there: Lufthansa flies from New York Newark to Cologne/Bonn Airport (Flughafen Koeln/Bonn ), where car rental is available. The S-Bahn operates a railroad service from Cologne/Bonn airport to Downtown Cologne railroad station. Some facilities may be withdrawn, without notice. For visa requirements, please refer to consular sources. For up to date information, please check with the airline or your travel agent.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.

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