Probably the rights and duties of the Colognese and their civil and ecclesiastical ruler were never well defined

At a later period Cologne has been celebrated chiefly for its „monks and bones“ – the number of its ecclesiastics, and the relics of its churches. In 1646 a local historian, after mentioning the city wall, with its eighty-three towers and thirty-four gates, gives the following account: – „In Cologne there be eleven colleges of canona, twenty-seven monasteries, thirty-two nunneries, together with a great many convents of Beguines, and several houses for religious old ladies not professed; nineteen parish churches, ten churches attached to religious houses, thirty chapels; two great hospitals, or, more properly speaking, hostelries, for destitute travelers; two hospitals for the cure of the sick poor, and eight poor-houses for the permanent abode of those who possess no property of their own. There are also a foundling hospital and a lunatic asylum. It hath as many steeples as there be days in the year; and twenty-five thousand of its inhabitants are of the ecclesiastical condition.“ This unfortunate preponderance of one class has not been a fortunate ingredient. The archbishopric, together with the temporal principality, was bestowed, in 949, by Otho the Great, upon his brother, who was the first Elector of Cologne. Probably the rights and duties of the Colognese and their civil and ecclesiastical ruler were never well defined, but at any rate they seem scarcely ever to have been at peace with each other. The right of taxing the inhabitants was one of the disputed points. Each party had its faction, and intrigues and manoeuvres were practised, so that one faction might be played off against the other. Thus disunion was created between the patrician and plebeian classes, though cases sometimes occured when, for the sake of their common interests, they joined in opposing the pretensions of the archbishop-electors. It was chiefly at the instigation of the ecclesiastical population that the Jews were expelled in 1425, to the number, as it is said, of eighty thousand, but most probably much fewer. They carried their capital of habits of economy and preseverance to the commercial rivals of Cologne. Soon afterwards, after some disturbances in which they had taken part, the weavers were driven out, and nearly two thousand looms were burnt by the order and in the presence of the magistrates. The weavers transferred their industry principally to the Netherlands, and another source of the wealth of Cologne was undermined. In 1616 an explosion of religious fanaticism occured, and the Protestants were expelled. On this occasion fourteen hundred of the best houses in Cologne were left tenantless. Besides these successive shocks to its prosperity, the ordinary fluctuation of interests had ceased to run in its favour, though, from its position, it is still an important central mart of the Rhenish trade with the Netherlands, Germany, and Switzerland. The fame of its shrines and relics, which once procured for it the appellation of the „Holy City,“ no longer attracts pilgrims from every part of Christendom; and the bones of St. Ursula and her eleven thousand virgins, and of the three Magi, or Kings of Cologne, as they are called, have become objects of curiosity instead of faith and veneration.
Cologne extends rather more than two miles along the left bank of the Rhine in a semicircular shape, and stretches about a mile inland. It is enclosed by a lofty wall about six miles in circuit, with eighty-three towers rising out of the wall, which is surrounded on the land side by ramparts and deep ditches. Strong redoubts have been erected at the principal gates. About a third of the space comprised within the walls consists of the public squares, and gardens and vineyards which once belonged to the religious establishments. The city has a curious antique appearance, and is built in a very irregular manner. The streets are narrow, dark, and crooked, and paved with basalt, and are remarkable for their filthy state. The prevailing character of the architecture is Gothic. Only one edifice, the town-hall, is in the Grecian style. The principal structures are ecclesiastical. Though the number of its towers and spires is not so great as formerly, they give a rich, varied, and imposing aspect to the city when viewed from distance. One vast pile will not fail to arrest the attention. This is the Dom Church, or cathedral. It is unfinished, but its massiveness and the magnificent scale on which it is designed give it a noble and stately character; and even in its present state it is one of the grandest specimens of Gothic architecture. Six centuries have elapsed since the work was commenced. From 1248 to the end of the fifteenth century the builders now resumed and now laid aside their work. That iron crane, left on the summit of one of the unfinished towers when the scaffolding was removed, was perhaps intended to remind coming generations, living in more favourable times, that the grand fabric still awaited the last stone of the builder. Wars of politics and religion, usurpations and aggressions, and the bitter fruits which they bear, have hitherto left men no time to complete this temple of Christian peace. But at length the work is commenced, and in an ensuing number we shall enter more fully into the singular history of this edifice, and the means which are in progress for finishing it in a manner worthy of the original design.

(Text: The Penny Magazine, November 1842)


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