The Shrine of the Magi is the largest, most artistically significant, and, in terms of its content, most ambitious reliquary of the Middle Ages. The relics were brought to Cologne from Milan in 1164. From about 1190 to 1220 a number of artisans worked on the shrine in the workshop of the goldsmith Nicholas of Verdun and in workshops in Cologne and along the river Meuse that continued his work. Ornamentation on the shrine includes gold- and silver-embossed, fire-gilded figures, filigree panels set with precious and semi-precious stones, intaglios, and cameos, and columns, arches and profiles trimmed with enamels. The images depicted on the shrine include scenes from the history of salvation from the dawning of time to the Last Judgment. Although the shrine was shortened by one axis after being hidden from French revolutionary troops in 1794, it was largely restored to its original shape during the most recent period of restoration, which lasted from 1961 to 1973. The intention in the Middle Ages was that the shrine would be placed in the crossing. Today, however, it rises above the medieval high altar at the back of the inner choir, making this area the main focus of the Gothic cathedral, which was built as a stone reliquary for this precious shrine.
Cologne Cathedral (German: Kölner Dom, officially Hohe Domkirche St. Peter und Maria, English: High Cathedral of Sts. Peter and Mary) is a Roman Catholic church in Cologne, Germany. It is the seat of the Archbishop of Cologne and the administration of the Archdiocese of Cologne. It is a renowned monument of German Catholicism and Gothic architecture and is a World Heritage Site. It is Germany's most visited landmark, attracting an average of 20,000 people a day.
Cologne Cathedral was commenced in 1248 and left unfinished in 1473. Work recommenced in the 19th century and was completed, to the original plan, in 1880. It is 144.5 metres (474 ft) long, 86.5 m (284 ft) wide and its towers are approximately 157 m (515 ft) tall. The cathedral is the largest Gothic church in Northern Europe and has the second-tallest spires and largest façade of any church in the world. The choir has the largest height to width ratio, 3.6:1, of any medieval church.
Cologne's medieval builders had planned a grand structure to house the reliquary of the Three Kings and fit its role as a place of worship for the Holy Roman Emperor. Despite having been left incomplete during the medieval period, Cologne Cathedral eventually became unified as "a masterpiece of exceptional intrinsic value" and "a powerful testimony to the strength and persistence of Christian belief in medieval and modern Europe".
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