Sculptures in Cologne Cathedral

Curious examples of imaginative stone carving

Footballers, dancers, frogs, turkeys, tradespeople, actors, wives, bagpipers - the external façade of the cathedral is graced by a whole host of stone sculptures, whose presence is not necessarily what one would expect to see on a house of God. When the city started to restore the badly damaged cathedral after the war, master builder Willy Weyres gave the craftsmen on the north façade a "fairly free hand" in the selection of their decorative motifs. Some of the curious examples of imaginative stone carving can even be seen with the naked eye from the Domplatte (Cathedral square). On the railway side of the cathedral, for example, above the Bonifatius gate, directly next to the new treasury. On the gable above the church door, figures are arranged as if on a staircase. At the top on the right, a man stands with an open book - a trade union official with a collective agreement. On the bottom right, a women's head, where one of the sculptors set up a monument to his wife.  If you go up two steps to the right and stand between the two church portals you find yourself in front of a smaller gable. On the right of the third from above, the figure is said to be Till Eugenspiegel. And two figures further down, a man with an umbrella and a bowler hat is looking down to the ground below. With an umbrella and a bowler hat? Back in the 60s wasn’t there a cult TV series called “The Avengers”? Exactly - there is John Steed on the cathedral, the gentleman who, with his exciting assistant, Emma Peel, fought against the evil villains in the world. If you scan the area above the slightly higher parapet with binoculars, you can make out the former cathedral builder Arnold Wolff, with glasses, bow-tie and camera by his side - and long sideburns, the height of fashion in the 1970s. Under his leadership, says Meid, the craftsmen had to rein their imaginations in again.

Go back a few metres and under the roof between the two kiosks beyond the treasury, you will see something that was hidden – deliberately - for a long time: a waterspout in the form of a young topless woman. Too sexy, was the verdict of the persons responsible for the cathedral at the time, and they put the gargoyle, which the sculptor had based on his wife, out of sight. Times changed, and when a new gargoyle was urgently needed, it was finally installed. High up and out of sight of passers-by, a couple lounges under palm trees. He has a bottle at his mouth, she is smoking a joint. They are symbols of vice, created by sculptor Karl Hölzl.


Source: (Status: 15.02.2002), "The many faces of the Cathedral"
Author: Matthias Pesch


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