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Cologne Cathedral at night
Cologne Cathedral at night
Flag of Cologne
Coat of arms of Cologne
Cologne is located in Germany
Coordinates 50°57′N 6°58′E / 50.95°N 6.96667°E / 50.95; 6.96667
Country Germany
State North Rhine-Westphalia
Admin. region Cologne
District Urban district
Lord Mayor Jürgen Roters (SPD)
Basic statistics
Area 405.15 km2
Elevation 37 m  (121 ft)
Population 998,105 (31 December 2009)[1]
 - Density 2,464 /km2 (6,381 /sq mi)
Founded 38 BC
Other information
Time zone CET/CEST (UTC+1/+2)
Licence plate K
Postal codes 50441–51149
Area codes 0221, 02203 (Porz)
Squadron Commander Spenser Grey awarded DSO for flying over Cologne and bombing a military railway station on 8 October 1914[2]
Cologne city centre with cathedral and railway station May 1945.
Part of the remains of Cologne-Düren in 1946.

Cologne (German: Köln; from 1857 to 1919 officially written Cöln) is Germany's fourth-largest city (after Berlin, Hamburg and Munich), and is the largest city both in the German Federal State of North Rhine-Westphalia and within the Rhine-Ruhr Metropolitan Area, one of the major European metropolitan areas with more than ten million inhabitants. It is one of the oldest cities in Germany, having been founded by the Romans in the year 38 BC. The name is derived from that of the Roman settlement, Colonia Claudia Ara Agrippinensium.

Cologne lies on the River Rhine. The city's famous Cologne Cathedral (Kölner Dom), founded in 1248, is the seat of the Roman Catholic Church's Archbishop of Cologne. The University of Cologne (Universität zu Köln) is one of Europe's oldest universities.

In 1950, the population of Cologne was 597,725; in February 2024 the population is estimated at 1,149,014.[3]

Cologne is a major cultural center of the Rhineland and has a vibrant arts scene. Cologne is home to more than 30 museums and hundreds of galleries. Exhibitions range from local ancient Roman archeological sites to contemporary graphics and sculpture. The Cologne Trade Fair hosts a number of trade shows such as Art Cologne, the International Furniture Fair (IMM) and the Photokina.

Within Germany, Cologne is known as an important media center. Several radio and television stations, including Westdeutscher Rundfunk (WDR), RTL Television and VOX TV channel, have their headquarters in the city. Both Pro7 and Sat.1 also produce TV shows in Cologne. Further, the city hosts the Cologne Comedy Festival, which is considered to be the largest comedy festival in mainland Europe.[4]


Cologne was founded and established in Germanic Ubii territory in the 1st century AD as the Roman Colonia Claudia Ara Agrippinensium. It was taken by the Franks in the 5th century and became an important city of Medieval Germany, the seat of an Archbishop and a Prince-Elector.

Cologne’s 2000 years of history begin in 57 AD, when Julius Caesar, during the Gallic Wars, conquered the territories on the left bank of the River Rhine. The Rhine formed the border between the Roman Empire on the western bank and the Germanic area on the eastern bank. In 50 AD, Cologne received its city charter and the name Colonia Claudia Ara Agrippinensium (CCAA). In the late 1st century, Cologne was made capital of the Roman province of Lower Germania. In the mid-5th century, it was conquered by the Franks. From the 10th to the 16th century, Cologne developed into Germany’s largest and wealthiest city. A population of circa 40,000 lived in an area of 4 square kilometres (about 2.5 sq. miles). It was said of Cologne that it had as many churches as there are days in a year, and the people of Cologne wanted to cap this by building what was meant to be the largest church in the world. In 1248, the foundation stone to the cathedral was laid, but work was slow and dependent upon finances and 300 years later, in 1560, the construction was discontinued and the building was left only partially finished. The colonization of America made travel routes move further towards the Atlantic Ocean and Cologne lost its economic power. In 1794, French troops occupied the city. The Congress of Vienna allotted the Rhineland to Prussia. In the age of industrialization, Cologne again developed into one of Germany’s leading economic centres.
The earliest traces of settlement in the Cologne region date back to the Palaeolithic age. About 4500 BC, the mild climate and the fertile soil attracted tillers from the Danube region. There also are clues to settlements of the Linear Pottery culture in the late 5th and early 4th millennium BC. The Roman Period in Cologne lasted for about 500 years, from the 1 st century BC until the mid-5 th century AD. In ca. 57 BC, Julius Caesar conquered Gaul and extended the borders of the Roman Empire to the River Rhine. The Eburonian tribe, which settled in the area between the rivers Rhine and Meuse and the Ardennes, was extinguished. The Romans then resettled the Ubian tribe, originally located on the eastern bank of the Rhine, to the former Eburonian area. The Ubians collaborated with the Romans, which earned them the other Germanic tribes’ hostility. The first nucleus of population in Cologne was called Oppidum Ubiorum (Ubian Settlement). A remainder of this earliest period of Cologne urban history is the so-called Ubian Monument, Germany’s second-eldest stone-masonry construction, dating back to 5 or 6 AD. Between 9 BC and 9 AD, the Roman commanders Drusus, Tiberius and Varus frequently attempted to extend the Roman Empire to the eastern bank of the Rhine. However, in 9 AD they suffered a disastrous defeat in the Clades Variana (Varian Disaster) in the Teutoburg Forest. The Roman army lost two entire legions, between 10,000 and 20,000 soldiers. It was one of the greatest catastrophes in Roman military history.
In 50 AD, Cologne received its city charter. It is one of Germany’s oldest cities. With its status as a colonia, Cologne had almost as many privileges as the city of Rome itself. Henceforth, the city was called Colonia Claudia Ara Agrippinensium (CCAA): City of Roman law, founded under Emperor Claudius, with the altar (Ara) of the Agrippinensians (Agrippinensium). The citizens called themselves Agrippinensians in honour of Empress Agrippina the Younger. Born in Cologne, she was a daughter of General Germanicus and a granddaughter of Emperor Augustus. In 50 AD, she married (as her third marriage) the Emperor Claudius, her uncle. It was she who requested from the Emperor to award her birthplace the status of a colonia. Across the entire Roman Empire there were only 200 cities holding this distinguished legal status. However, no other referred to a woman in its name. Events of global importance took place in Roman Cologne. In 69 AD, during the confusion following the death of Emperor Nero, General Vitellius was proclaimed Emperor here. His reign, however, lasted for less than a year before he was overthrown again by his successor, Emperor Vespasian. It was also in Cologne that Governor Trajan, in 98 AD, was informed by his kinsman Hadrian that his adoptive father, Emperor Nerva, had died in Rome and that he now was Emperor. Trajan remained in Cologne for some months and ruled the Empire from here. Remainders of his palace can be visited in the Praetorium. In 89 AD, Cologne became capital of the Roman province of Germania Inferior (Lower Germania). With an area of about one square kilometre (ca. 0, 6 sq. mi.) and a population of 15,000 – 20, 000, it was a quite large city. Remainders of some of its building still can be seen: city walls and a city gate, the Praetorium, remainders of the aqueduct, a sewer channel and remains of a bridge which was built under Emperor Constantine in the 4th century. As early as the 4th century, the existence of a Christian Bishop, Maternus, is verifiable. Since the second half of the 4th century, Cologne was under frequent attack by the Franks. In 454 AD the Franks eventually conquered the city and the Roman Period ended.
In the Migration Period, Europe was constantly in motion and regions underwent permanent changes. Roman cities and Roman infrastructure fell into disrepair. However, the Franks made use of some of the Roman structure in Cologne, for instance, of the Praetorium, which they used as their royal residence. During the 6 th century, Cologne was under constant attack by several tribes. Permanent dispute in the Merovingian Royal family caused their power to dwindle, while their Mayors of the Palace increasingly ran the affairs of state. One of the most powerful of the Mayors of the Palace was Pepin of Herstal. His wife, Plectrude, founded a church in the former Roman Capitoline temple in Cologne, now the Romanesque church St.Mary’s in the Capitol. After Pepin’s death in 714, Plectrude tried to secure the power for her grandson. She was, however, challenged by Pepin’s illegitime son, Charles Martel, who took over power in 751 and relocated the Frankish royal court from Cologne to Aachen. Charles Martel’s grandson was to be one of the most outstanding emperors in European history: Charlemagne (748 – 814). In the Frankish period, the power of the bishops of Cologne increased. One of the most important was Bishop Cunibert, who was buried in a church which later was called after him: today’s Romanesque church of St. Cunibert’s. In the late 8th century (ca.795), Charlemagne appointed Cologne an archbishop’s see. The Frankish cathedral was replaced by a Carolingian building.[5]


As the war progressed, many European cities were attacked by the various Zeppelin ports. Both the German and the English side were aware of the danger. The commander of the airship LZ 17 "Sachsen" Ernst Lehmann, stationed in Cologne (since 1815 a part of the Kingdom of Prussia) – who was to die on 7 May 1937 with the airship LZ 129 Hindenburg (Luftschiff Zeppelin 129 „Hindenburg“) – had a net stretched over the airship hangar in Cöln-Bickendorf (Luftschiffhafen Cöln) in order to intercept bombs already above the roof. However, it had to be determined by test drops that the test bombs fell through the net. For this reason, active anti-aircraft defense was adopted by stationing anti-aircraft guns around the airship hangar, but also on the roof. Guards with machine guns were stationed on the halls.

On the other side of the Channel in London, the "First Lord of the Admiralty" Winston Churchill was also thinking about repelling and eliminating the German Zeppelins. After the first attacks, he stationed a special squadron in Belgium in a 100 km radius around the Zeppelin ports. Attacks on the airship hangars in Cologne and Düsseldorf were also planned. On 11 September 1914, the first attack should start. However, a storm destroyed the provided aircraft within minutes.

Under the leadership of Lieutenant Colonel Charles Rumney Samson of the Eastchurch Squadron of the RNAS (Royal Naval Air Service), a second air raid on the two airship hangars in Cologne and Düsseldorf was carried out from Antwerp on 22 September 1914. This air raid was unsuccessful, however, the pilots could not find the targets because of fog.

By early October, German troops had almost captured the city of Antwerp. Heavy artillery (30.5 cm and 42 cm mortars) pounded the outer ring of fortifications around Antwerp and fell. Now the Imperial German Army units attacked the inner ring of fortresses. Squadron Commander D. A. Spenser Gray and Flight Lieutenant L. G. Marix were to launch a third attack before Antwerp airfield became inoperable due to capture. Great haste was required. Although almost all troops had already left the city, some mechanics and getaway vehicles were left behind for this purpose to bring the pilots to safety when they returned. The ready-to-run machines were almost severely damaged or even destroyed by the heavy artillery fire.

On 8 October 1914, Great Britain's Royal Naval Air Service flew for the first time an attack on Cologne. The attack planned for the early morning had to be postponed because of heavy fog in the Antwerp area. At around 1:30 p.m., Commander Spenser Gray took off against Cologne. On 18 May 1918 (Pentecost Saturday), British bombers of the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) bombed the city; 41 people died, including 19 children, c. 100 people were injured.[6]


During World War II the city was almost completely destroyed (90%) by British RAF bombings. Cologne was bombed in 262 separate air raids[7]. A total of 34,711 long tons of bombs were dropped on the city by the RAF. The first bombing took place on 12 May 1940. The 30/31 May 1942 attack on Cologne was the first 1,000 bomber raid. Over 20,000 civilians died during the war in Cologne due to aerial bombardments. By contrast the vast industrial complexes, including Bayer, on the western side of the Rhine opposite the city were hardly damaged.

The post-war reconstruction proceeded rapidly and without much urban planning. Today, Cologne is Germany’s fourth largest city, with an area of 405 square kilometres (ca. 250 sq. mi.)

Flood of asylum seekers (21st century)

On 28 October, 2014, Third World immigrants thanked Germany for all their free welfare benfits by holding a huge race riot in Cologne.[8] Ten days later on November 7th, Germany rewarded them for their criminal activity by agreeing to let them live free in a seven-million-Euros motel with all expenses (food, shopping, etc.) paid for. This goes on while many real German people live homeless. It also resulted in some German citizens working at the hotel lose their jobs. Despite living like royality in hotel suites, Maruf, a Somali, said "We live like animals, not like people", notwithstanding that in Somalia people live in extreme poverty and this is just a classic example of ungrateful economic immigrants. Another Somali, Mubarak, admitted, "The people in Germany are good to us, but we need more help" meaning more free handouts, and more taking of jobs from Germans. He added: "I wanted to get to a place where I could start a different life, but I don’t believe in Germany any more", despite getting endless free handouts. A third Somali, Hussein, said: "I don’t know where else to go. It’s not like I can go back home." No explanations is given to the German people by their government as to why these negroes cannot be deported back to their natural homes.[9][10]

Further reading

  • Mario Kramp: 1914. Vom Traum zum Albtraum – Köln und der Beginn des Bombenkriegs in Europa [in German], Greven, Köln 2014

External links