The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary







Cologne (German: Köln [kœln] ) is, in terms of population, the fourth largest city in Germany and largest city of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia. It is one of the most important German inland ports, and considered the economic, cultural, and historic capital of the Rhineland. It is the 16th largest city in the European Union. At the end of 2003, Cologne's population was 965,954, using the standard method of counting only those whose primary residence (German: Hauptwohnsitz) was the city. The city of Cologne adds those with non-primary residences (German: Nebenwohnsitz), raising the figure to 1,020,603.

Its location at the intersection of the Rhine (German Rhein) river with one of the major trade routes between eastern and western Europe was the foundation of Cologne's commercial importance. In the Middle Ages it also became an ecclesiastical center of significance and an important center of art and learning. Cologne was badly damaged during World War II.

Cologne has one university, which has around 49,000 students (autumn semester 2004/2005) and is renowned for its economics faculty. Cologne also has a Roman Catholic archbishopric. Cologne cathedral (German Kölner Dom), a Gothic church, was designated a World Heritage site in 1996; it is the city's major landmark and unofficial symbol. The city is 43% Roman Catholic, 18% Protestant and 39% other religions. Until World War II and the following stream of refugees arriving from eastern Germany, Roman Catholicism had a wide majority in Cologne.

Cologne has 31 museums. In addition to the university, it has 3 colleges. Fachhochschule Köln (The University of Applied Sciences of Cologne) is, with 18,000 students, the biggest college in Germany. A total of 65,000 students study in Cologne.

20% of Cologne's population is non-German. 40% of these are Turkish.

Cologne is well known for its beer, called "Kölsch". Kölsch is also the dialect of Cologne. It is jocularly said that Kölsch is the only language you can drink.

This year, Cologne will be witness to one of the largest meetings of the Catholic youth. The XX World Youth Day will take place from Monday, August 15, till Sunday, August 21.



The city covers about 405.15 km² (about 156 miles²), is located at , and is between 37.5 and 118.04 m above sea level. Its car registration prefix is K.

Coat of arms of Cologne
Coat of arms of Cologne

The Coat of Arms of Cologne

The three crowns symbolise the Magi or Three Kings whose bones are said to be kept in a golden sarcophagus in the Cathedral (see Shrine of the Three Kings at Cologne Cathedral). The eleven flames are a reminder of the Britannic princess St. Ursula and her legendary 11,000 virgin companions who were supposedly martyred at Cologne for their Christian faith by Attila the Hun in 383 A.D. In reality it was probably just 11 companions.


Cologne cathedral
Cologne cathedral

Main article: History of Cologne

Cologne became a city in 50 A.D, had a bishop as early as 313, and, in 785, became the seat of an archbishop. The Archbishop of Cologne was one of the seven Electors of the Holy Roman Empire. He ruled a large area as a secular lord in the Middle Ages, but in 1288 he was defeated by the Cologne citizens and forced to move to Bonn. Cologne was a member of the Hanseatic League, but became a free city officially only by 1475.

Cologne lost its free status, and regained its archbishopric during the French period, and, in 1815, at the Congress of Vienna was made part of the kingdom of Prussia. Cologne became an industrial city, and the cathedral, started in 1248 but abandoned in the mid-1500s, was eventually finished in 1880.

During the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Cologne incorporated numerous surrounding towns, and by the time of World War I had already grown to 600,000 inhabitants. In World War II, it was repeatedly bombed, and much of the city was in ruins. It took some time to rebuild the city, but afterwards it grew again, and, in 1975, reached 1 million inhabitants for about one year.

Buildings and places of interest in Cologne


Cologne is the only city in Germany with an explicit tax on prostitution and other sex businesses. See the article on prostitution in Germany for details.

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