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St. Maria im Kapitol
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Quick Facts on St. Maria im Kapitol

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St. Maria im Kapitol St. Maria im Kapitol, Cologne St. Mary's at the Capitol
Kasinostrasse 6 Cologne, North Rhine-Westphalia50676
Cologne  locality
Germany  country
Europe  continent
Main date(s)
50.934600° N, 6.958380° E
Opening hours
Mon-Sat 9-6; Sun 11:30-5
(0221) 214615

Historical Timeline of St. Maria im Kapitol

Shortly after Cologne (Colonia) becomes a Roman city, a Roman temple is built to the Capitoline Triad: Jupiter, Juno and Minerva. The temple was roughly square-shaped, 30m on a side, and had three cella. It has been replaced by the church of St. Maria im Kapitol, but some of the foundations survive today.
The first version of St. Maria im Kapitol is constructed in Cologne on the site of a temple dedicated to the Capitoline Triad. Sponsored by Plektrudis (d. 717), it no longer survives but seems to have been a long hall church with rectangular foundations, probably incorporating remnants of the temple. It was likely intended as a private foundation, and Plektrudis herself was buried there.
In Cologne, construction begins on the present form of St. Maria im Kapitol. The work is sponsored by Abbess Ida (d. 1060), granddaughter of Otto II and Theophanu. Incorporating the west wall and foundations of Bruno's church, the new building has a gallery in the west end, adopting the imperial design of the Palatine Chapel in Aachen.
Pope Leo IX consecrates the altar of St. Maria im Kapitol, Cologne, in the presence of numerous bishops (72 according to tradition).
Renovation of St. Maria im Kapitol in Cologne. The upper walls of the north and south apse are rebuilt, a dome is added over the transept crossing, and a porch is added to the south apse.
The upper parts of the west towers are extended.
Addition of the gate around the east apse.

Description of St. Maria im Kapitol

The best view of St. Maria im Kapitol is from an open plaza on the east, but entrance is via the west door after passing the cloisters. Inside, an iron gate opens into the Romanesque nave. The view to the apse is unfortunately interrupted by a large choir screen (of the Renaissance era), but the overall impression is still of great size and spaciousness.

The nave is supported by strong rectangular pillars and narrow round striped arches, with decorative clustered columns above. The vault is covered with a modern flat wooden ceiling.

The choir in the east end has a harmonius trefoil shape of three apses, which was he first of its kind in Germany and echoes the exact dimensions of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. The only departure is the continuation of the side aisles around the apses. This close imitation reflects the importance of the Crusades and Middle East pilgrimages during this period. By modeling her church on the one in Bethlehem, Ida brought a bit of the Holy Land to Germany.

In the east end, columns with plain capitals and narrow striped arches support a clerestory level with round-headed windows. Pointed blind arches around the clerestory windows are the only non-Romanesque feature. Chapels fill the niches between the apses, which are usually protected by locked iron gates.

Holly Hayes
July 16, 2011

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