#27 Cologne’s Churches in the late Merovingian Period

#27 Cologne's Churches in the late Merovingian Period The History of Cologne

These next few moments will take us back to a time when Christianity in Cologne was just taking off, and we'll explore the first churches that existed at this point. We start with an adventurous incident from 1959 involving Cologne Cathedral. For SEO: St. Kunibert, St. Cäcilien, St. Ursula, St. Gereon, St. Pantaleon, St. Maria im Kapitol, St. Kolumba, Kolumba, St. Severin, Köln, Germany

These next few moments will take us back to a time when Christianity in Cologne was just taking off, and we’ll explore the first churches that existed at this point. We start with an adventurous incident from 1959 involving Cologne Cathedral.

We will take a look at: St. Kunibert, St. Cäcilien, St. Ursula, St. Gereon, St. Pantaleon, St. Maria im Kapitol, St. Kolumba, Kolumba, St. Severin.

Grave goods from the Frankish grave under Cologne Cathedral

click on the pictures to enlarge them.

Bishops Church

Bishop’s Church in the 6th century right at the border of the northern Roman city wall. On the ground you can see the outlines of today’s gothic Cologne Cathedral. And yes, they overlap the Roman city wall.

The voiceover is in German but the images speak forthemselves. “Jahrhundert” means century in German. The predecessor builduings of Cologne Cathedral. 1. Roman luxury villas. 2. At 1:48 Min. the first Bishop’s church in the 5th century. 3. At 2:13 Min. you can see the Bishop’s church in Merovingian times with the baptistery in the right top corner. 4. At 3:09 Min. you can see the Bishop’s church growth over the centuries up until the 8th century in lenght. This church existed up until Charlemagne in the year 800. As you can see, the baptistery was now integrated with the rest of the church building.

Archaeological Zone right beneath Cologne Cathedral. Yes, the giant gothic cathedral is right over my head here. The prestressed concrete ceiling prevents the floor in the cathedral from falling on my head. 😀

The stones and all the stuff you see here is from the 9th century “old” Cologne Cathedral, that we will discover in the next episode.

Below the choir of Cologne Cathedral you can still find the Baptistery of the Bishops church from the 7th century. Behind these closed bars. Unfortunately they were closed. Thank you very much (not!), Covid-19 pandemic.

St. Kunibert (St. Clemens)

Eastern side of St. Kunibert to the Rhine river with a giant apse. The church building, however, is a new construction from the 13th century, which replaced the 7th century church built by Kunibert. Which makes it still 800 years old.

Western side of St. Kunibert with main entrance.

Apse on the Eastern side of St. Kunibert
Nave of St. Kunibert
Altar room with the shrine of Kunibert on the right
You just gotta love those cross vaults!
Nave with the choir in the east in the background.

St. Kunibert Monastery

Only street signs like these remind you, that St. Kunibert was once in the High and Late Middle Ages a powerful monastery in the Rhineland. “Kloster” is German for monastery.
A segment of the monastery wall that is till there.

Kunibert’s well

Ok, I fooled you. This is not Kunibert’s well but a well that was built there in the 20th century dedicated to St. Clemens.

Kunibert’s Well is hidden beneath this plate in the ground. And due to parts of the church closed during the Covid-Pandemic, I was not able to go to the crypt of the church.

St. Severin

Nave of St. Severin without church banks. Von © Raimond Spekking / CC BY-SA 4.0 (via Wikimedia Commons), CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=82232771

St. Severin already existed in late Roman times as a so called “cella memoriae.” As burial church on a Roman graveyard. Over the centuries the church building was expanded and became a powerful monastery in the Rhineland.

St. Gereon

I don’t need to write a lot about St. Gereon or post pictures of it. We have done this several times before in earlier companion posts. Check them out.

St. Ursula

We have dedicated a single episode about the young woman who died as a martyr killed by no one else than Attila the Hun himself. But I haven’t had the chance to visit the church up until now. So here are some pictures. Unfortunately. Only the entrance section of the church was open on this day. But I tried my best. Sad, that I could not go into the “Schreckenskammer” The room with all those thousands of bones of St. Ursula and her companions. According to legend though.

Narrow streets in downtown Cologne? That must mean something. This place here is very old…
Also on a Roman graveyard, this church was built in late Roman times, aprox. 4-5th century. But the present day church building is a new construction from the 12th century. Still makes it nearly 900 years old!
Information board for St. Ursula in German and English. Click on the image to enlarge!
As I said, only the entrance hall was open to public this day…
…but I tried my best to at least take a picture of the nave of St. Ursula.
In the background you can see a ship from the 4th century that may have been the type of ship that Ursula had used for her travel on the Rhine river. According to legend, of course.

Golden Chamber of all the supposedly bones from the holy virgin martyrs in St. Ursula

Click on the images to enlarge them

Viventia’s tomb in St. Ursula

St. Pantaleon

Church of St. Pantaleon at night.

Here, too, the church building was rebuilt in the 10th century, replacing its Merovingian predecessor. But that also makes this church building over 1,000 years old! As one of the few churches in Cologne’s city center, the church grounds of St. Pantaleon still convey quite the air of the Middle Ages. The monastery walls are completely preserved and separate the dense development of the city center in favor of wide lawns and natural areas within the former Benedictine monastery grounds. (red circle) Sorry for the blurry picture. But taking photos out of a flying airplane ain’t easy. 😉

A baptismal font in St. Pantaleon

Unfortunately, I failed to take more pictures. This was probably because I lived right around the corner for many years and figured I could always come back. I really need to go back there!

St. Cäcilien

The church of St. Cäcilien (St. Cecile). The present church building was built as a successor between 1130 and 1160 as a church for a ladies’ convent.


For centuries, St. Kolumba was one of the largest parish churches in Cologne. Unlike the churches described here so far, it was not a collegiate church or belonged to a monastery. The church building in its last form was documented since the 10th century. The predecessor building probably originated from Frankish times. This made it one of the oldest still continuously preserved church buildings in Cologne with over 1,000 years of history. In 1943 it was completely destroyed in the course of the Second World War. Its destruction was so severe that it was decided not to rebuild. Furthermore, the destroyed church in the heart of Cologne was considered a memorial against war in general. Only a small chapel was built in its ruins. The site was archaeologically researched and integrated into the new art museum of the Archbishopric of Cologne in 2007. I must say I was thrilled at how well the remains of the ruins were merged with the new building here. But see for yourself. Care has been taken to use the same building material as was once used for the church. But have a look at the pictures yourself.

Main entrance of the Kolumba Museum. In the right corner you can see an archway of the former church of St. Kolumba
Fragment of the southern nave aisle of the former church of St. Kolumba
A gargoyle as she-bear on the facade of the former church of St. Kolumba. They were put there to scare away demons and evil ghosts.
For me one of the examples how medieval and modern architecture can fit perfectly together. Walls of the former church of St. Kolumba interconects with the 21st century museum building.
Inside the archaeological zone of the former church of St. Kolumba. Fragment of the northern nave aisle.
You know, I am no architect but what you can see here on the ground are the ceilings of the catacombs below. Right in front you can see the foundation for a pillar.
As I said, I am no archaeologist. So what are these? Roof tiles? Parts of columns? Tell me in the comments. 🙂
More ceilings of catacombs and pillar foundations.
Hey, don’t ask me what this is. I am no archaeologist.
Standing in the middle, looking to the east, this must have been the choir of the church.
Post war chapel from 1947. Chapel “Madonna in den Trümmern” (Madonna in the ruins)
Southwest corner of the former church of St. Kolumba.
View to the north. Chapel on the left (west), the choir on the right (east)
Probably floor tiles or mosaic parts of the destroyed church
Remaining part of the church in the southeast of the building under the open sky.

St. Maria im Kapitol

We will get to this beauty and more pictures about her in the next episode. 😉 Stay tuned.


This is the place where the “Margarethenkloster” (Margarete’s monestary) used to be. Built by Bishop Kunibert in the 7th century it was one of the oldest monasteries Cologne had. But it was more like a retirement home for older priest than rather a busy monestary. It was dissolved in 1803 and demolished in 1815. Nowadays it is still in posession of the Archbishopric of Cologne.
Only the street name and this plate reminds passer-bys that there was once a monestary here. Sadly, this sign is only in German. Which suprises me because most of these signs are always bi-lingual at least. Sometimes also tri-lingual with French.


Carl Dietmar u. Marcus Trier, Colonia. Stadt der Franken. Köln vom 5. bis 10. Jahrhundert, 2011 Köln.

Carl Dietmar, Das mittelalterliche Köln. Der historische Stadtführer, 2004 Köln.

2 thoughts on “#27 Cologne’s Churches in the late Merovingian Period

  1. I finally found some time to listen to this longer episode. It was worth the wait. It’s really great that you mentioned your baptismal church, Pentaleon. The occasional personal touch adds a lot of depth to your work. Thanks for all the great pictures. Such a great effort! Sehr gut gemacht!

    Liked by 1 person

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