Cologne’s cathedral crane was a wooden slewing crane, which stood on the construction site of the south tower of Cologne cathedral from the 14th century. The crane, which was more than 25 metres high, was in use for about 50 years, but it was a major feature of the Cologne skyline for more than 500 years. Furthermore, it was a symbol for the Cologne population that work on the cathedral was not abandoned, but merely interrupted. This also explains the protests of the citizens of Cologne when in 1816 the Prussian decree came that the apparently still operational crane was to have its outriggers removed.
The crane was a part of everyday life for the citizens. The people of Cologne looked at the cathedral crane to read the wind direction; when the crane turned in the wind during the night, its distinctive sound was heard by the entire city. A contemporary witness complained after the dismantling of the cathedral crane that no longer being able to see it during the day was bad enough, but no longer being able to hear it during the night was unbearable. Even the document marking the completion of the cathedral on 15th October, 1880, which was inserted in the final stone of the finial of the south tower with the signatures of the Emperor and numerous other princes and secular worthies, made reference to the cathedral crane: Abandoned and left to rot, for three centuries the cathedral crane, the former landmark of Cologne, towered over the miraculous building as it fell into ruins. On the following day, a historic festival procession took place. A large number of decorated floats and citizens dressed in historical costumes paraded through the cathedral courtyard past the Emperor. One of the festival floats carried a replica of the cathedral crane.