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Der Kölner Dom Von Western

Musée National, Suisse © Swiss National Museum

Karl Georg Enslen

(1792 - 1866)

Date : 1839 | Medium : Oil on canvas

Even though it seems to be a detailed description of the monument, this view of the Cathedral of Cologne realized in 1839 by the German artist Karl Georg Enslen is not the accurate description of the building. And for a good reason! In 1839, the Cathedral was still in construction and only the bottom part of its façade was erected.

The Cologne Cathedral history is pretty peculiar. Its construction started at the beginning of the 13th century and slowly progresses until the 16th century when, due to a lack of money, the construction has to be put on hold. In three centuries, only half of the monument has been built and the unachieved cathedral will overhang the city for centuries. In 1814-16, the original plans are found. This finding generates a strong public enthusiasm which led the King of Prussia to order the resumption of the construction in 1842. This last construction phase will last until 1883. It took six centuries to achieve the cathedral’s construction. Let us remember that until 1870, Germany did not exist as a united nation: it was divided between Prussia, Bavaria and several territories. In this context, the erection of the Cathedral of Cologne was seen as a symbol of the construction of the German unity. This Cathedral was more of a politic symbol than a religious edifice. Proof is: most of the money raised end the construction came from a predominantly protestant population.

3 years before the construction resumed, Enslen painted an imaginary description of what the Cathedral will look like upon completion. Bathed in light, the cathedral embodies an idealized patriotism, a wish: the unification of Germany.



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