St. Mary in the Capitol

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St. Maria in the Capitol in Cologne, three icon complex and sculpture Die Mrauerbe
Ostkonche with choir screens
Limburg Madonna

St. Maria im Kapitol is an early Romanesque Catholic church in Cologne and the largest Romanesque church in the city, 100 m long and 40 m wide. It is one of the twelve Romanesque basilicas in Cologne's old town, the preservation of which is supported by the Association of Roman Churches in Cologne . The addition to the name in the Capitol refers to the Roman temple complex that was previously located there.


Building history


Plectrudis, grave slab around 1160

At the site of today's church of St. Maria im Kapitol, a small elevation near the Rhine on the southern edge of the city at that time, a temple for the Capitoline Triassic Jupiter , Juno and Agrippinensium was built in the 1st century AD in the former Colonia Claudia Ara Minerva , the three most important Roman deities . The reason for the construction was the elevation to Colonia under Roman law . Unlike usual, this main temple of the Colonia Claudia Ara Agrippinensium was not at the city's forum , but above the Rhine in the immediate vicinity of the city wall. The temple, accessible via a staircase in the east, had an area of ​​33 m × 29.5 m and was surrounded by a 97 m × 69 m large, slab-lined temple courtyard. The building had foundations 4 m deep and inside was divided into three cellae for the images of the gods. Through its masonry, which used the later churches as a foundation, it has its architectural dimensions and the width of the ships specified.

Early Middle Ages

After the Franks conquered Cologne in the middle of the 5th century , public property from Roman times passed into the hands of the Franconian kings and their surroundings. In the area of ​​the Capitol Hill, the Franconian housekeepers presumably had their headquarters in Cologne. So also Pippin the Middle , who was considered to be the real ruler in the empire after he had united the caretaker offices of the different parts of the empire in 687. He lived in Cologne for a long time. His wife, from a powerful noble family of Austrasia entstammende Plectrude donated, before her death, according to sources from the 12th century on the ruins of the Capitol, a private church . It was probably an elongated hall church with a rectangular floor plan of approximately 10 × 32 m, for the construction of which remains of the temple were used. Plectrudis was buried here and soon venerated. After the Second World War , their sand-lime brick sarcophagus was found in the middle of the largely destroyed church.

High and late Middle Ages

In the winter of 881/882 the Normans advanced as far as Bonn during one of their raids on the Rhine . According to historical reports, when the city was sacked, St. Maria burned down in the Capitol. So far there are no archaeological findings for the reported major destruction in Cologne.

In the middle of the 11th century, the Archbishop of Cologne, Hermann II, and his sister, Abbess Ida of the women's monastery of St. Maria im Kapitol , initiated the construction of a new church, the construction program of which reflects the political ambitions of the archbishop. The cross altar and nave of the new building were built in 1049 by Pope Leo IX. in the presence of Emperor Heinrich III. consecrated, the final consecration was donated by Archbishop Anno II in 1065.

Modern times

In the Middle Ages, the church also had a westwork , culminating in three towers, which were not rebuilt after their collapse in the 17th and 18th centuries; only the basement floors of the two flank towers have been preserved.

After 1804 the preserved Gothic tower of the nearby parish church of Klein St. Martin served as a bell tower. This tower burned down in the night of May 30th to 31st, 1942 and the low-pitched, 5-ton triple bell from 1836 (strikes: a 0 , c sharp 1 and e 1 ) was destroyed. The tower was rebuilt, but the bell was not replaced.

During the Second World War, every Saturday evening in St. Maria in the Capitol, the members of the Catholic youth associations who were dissolved by the National Socialists met in Cologne for the "German Compline".

St. Maria in the Capitol was very badly damaged in World War II: the north cone , parts of the crossing , the Gothic nave vaults and large parts of the west building were destroyed; in June 1948 the unsecured Ostkonche collapsed. Until 1956, the church could initially be used for worship in the separated western part, closed with a gently sloping wooden ceiling, and from Christmas 1984 in the largely reconstructed eastern part.

Women pen


The time when the Frauenstift was founded is not known. Later sources attribute this to Plectrudis, wife of Pippin the Middle. It was reserved for aristocratic women in the Middle Ages and early modern times and was dissolved with the secularization after the French Revolution in 1792.

Known members


St. Maria in the Capitol played a prominent role in Cologne. It was the main church after the cathedral . The Archbishop always celebrated the first Christmas mass in St. Maria in the Capitol, the second in St. Cäcilien , the third in the cathedral. The council also moved from St. Mary to the cathedral on Epiphany in the procession in honor of the Three Kings , the city saint of Cologne . The official church celebrations of the council and the exequies for archbishops, emperors and mayors also took place here. The city bell for storm and fire , called: Bramglocke , was rung here.

After Pippin's death, the wife of Pippin the Middle, Plectrudis, imprisoned Karl Martell , his illegitimate son, in Cologne from 714 to 716 in order to keep him away from his successor as a caretaker and to give this office to her six-year-old grandson Theudoald . Her own two sons had already died. Theudoald could not prevail against the resistance in Neustria , so that 716 Raganfrid stood with his troops in front of Cologne and forced von Plektrudis to surrender part of the Frankish imperial treasure. After Karl Martell was released around this time and had prevailed against his competitors, he banished Plectrudis into exile in Cologne, where, according to sources from the 12th century, they had the church built on the remains of the Capitol.

In the 10th century, Archbishop Brun of Cologne transferred canons living in the adjoining monastery to St. Andreas and founded a monastery for St. Maria .

On November 21, 1371, the council informed the citizens that the not yet caught convict weavers of the Cologne weavers' revolt were allowed to leave the city unhindered as long as the bells of St. Maria in the Capitol were ringing.


Church floor plan

The church follows in its current, z. T. reconstructed the design of the 11th century. What is remarkable about the church are the west building, the choir closure as the earliest occidental three-corner complex , the crypt and the remains of the medieval furnishings. Striking and unusual for the time are the three conches that follow the floor plan of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. The crypt under the church is almost the size of the Speyer Cathedral .


Wooden door, mid-11th century
Fork cross (1304)
Old confessional
stalls and Zint Märjensrepp

In addition to the reconstructed three-icon complex - inside and outside - the following are also worth seeing :

wooden door

The wooden door of St. Maria im Kapitol exhibited in the south aisle is one of the most important wooden doors in art history . It dates from the time the church was completed around 1060 and was not brought into the interior until the 1930s. The two door leaves closed the portal of the Nordkonche for almost 900 years and are still in excellent condition and even show remains of paint. The door leaves show 26 reliefs with scenes from the life of Jesus . The model for this door are the early Christian wooden doors, for example from Santa Sabina in Rome or Sant'Ambrogio in Milan. With their structure of framed reliefs, the door leaves follow the tradition of late antiquity . The left door wing shows the childhood of Jesus according to Matthew , the right the passion of Jesus and his resurrection .

Fork cross, Pietà

In the northeastern chapel of the Trikonchos hangs the forked cross (Crucifixus dolorosus) with a body length of 150 cm of Christ from the early 14th century, which is one of the most expressive crucifixes of the Gothic. The process of so-called "disembodiment", which was beginning in Strasbourg Cathedral and before that in France, quickly led to inventions in Germany that are in sharp contrast to both the abundance of plastic forms and the possibilities of cultivated elegance and beauty. The wooden forked crucifix represents the crucified Christ in a form that has never been seen before, which, due to its ugliness and cruelty, makes any 'aesthetic pleasure' impossible. It is the expression of a mystical piety which around and after 1300 seized many people who fervently immersed themselves in the Passion of Christ in order to fully understand and experience the suffering of the Son of Man. This wave of an intensely 'human' religiousness led at the same time to the invention of the Vesper image ( Pietà ), the body of Christ on the “lap of Mary”, with an identical emphasis on cruelty, ugliness and pain, but also to the invention of the devotional group Christ and John .

Rood screen

The Renaissance lettner stood on the border between the nave and the west building from the 18th century until the 1980s. Since the renovation in 1985, it has been moved back to its roughly original location in front of the western crossing piers and set one meter higher. This rood screen is Cologne's earliest Renaissance work. It was in 1524 on behalf of five Cologne patrician -families in Mechelen made. When the order was placed, however, it was not taken into account at the time that the length of the foot was very different in different regions. This made the rood screen much larger than intended. Today he carries the organ.

The architectural structure is made of black marble , the architectural sculpture and the sculpture jewelery made of white limestone . The artist is identified as the master builder Konrad Kuene van der Hallen . Here, too, the medallions depict scenes from the youth of Christ and scenes from the Old and New Testaments . The statues depict saints and prophets. The decorative parts already show pure Renaissance shapes, on the other hand the reliefs look like stage cases from late Gothic carved altars and the figures are still determined by the canon of forms of the late Gothic. A certain serenity is at work here, an emphasis on civil virtues in the magnificent helmets and a clear quotation of ancient forms in some of the capitals . Significantly, this rood screen was not donated by a church group, but by the wealthy Hackeney family from Cologne, who generally made a great contribution to Cologne's art history.

More Attractions

  • The grave slab of St. Plectrudis from 1160/70. Plectrudis is dressed in a long belted robe and a veil tied around his head. The right hand is raised in the so-called adoration gesture, in the left it carries a tape with a prayer. This strict type of folding points to Byzantine models.
  • The Limburg Madonna (13th century) is an Upper Rhine wooden sculpture from the Limburg an der Haardt Monastery.
  • a winged altar ascribed to Hans von Aachen and a panel painting by a Hans Baldung Grien student (both paintings around 1600)
  • the epitaph of the abbess Anna Adriana Wolff von Metternich zur Gracht († 1698)
  • The bronze baptismal font in the vicinity of the northern cooks was made in 1594 in the workshop of the gunsmith Heinrich Wickrath for the parish church of Klein St. Martin , which is part of the Capitol .
  • The archaic Madonna around 1200 on the west end wall of the north aisle embodies the type of Nikopoia . She is enthroned over a lion and presents the child sitting frontally on her lap and blessing.
  • In 1636 Johann Wilhelm I von der Rennen created a very beautiful chalice from the church treasury.
  • The church treasure also includes a portable altar from 1170 in the "Hirtzkapelle", which was named after the mayor of the same name . On the lid Abraham and Melchizedek , on the long sides Christ and Mary between the apostles, on the narrow sides prophets.

Also worth seeing are the bones hanging in the south aisle of an Ice Age bowhead whale , which probably got lost in an arm of the Rhine and died there. The bones were discovered centuries ago during construction work and displayed hanging on a chain above a confessional . In Cologne it is known as "Zint Märjensrepp" ("Rib of St. Mary").

There is a statue of the Virgin Mary in the choir of the church. The legend tells that a boy named Hermann Joseph prayed daily in front of the image of Mary and offered him an apple. One day the statue smiled at the boy in thanks. Another version reports that the statue gave the boy a hiding place in thanks, where he found a small bag of money for his school expenses every day . As a reminder, fresh apples lie in front of the relief every day to this day.


Klais organ on the rood screen

An earlier, not preserved organ came from Christian Ludwig König . The current organ on the rood screen was built in 1991 by Johannes Klais (Bonn). It has 35 registers on three manuals and a pedal . The disposition is as follows:

I main work C – f 3
01. Drone 16 ′
02. Principal 08th'
03. flute 08th'
04th Octave 04 ′
05. recorder 04 ′
06th Fifth 02 23
07th Super octave 02 ′
08th. Mixture IV 01 13
09. Cornet V 0
10. Trumpet 08th'
II Positive C – f 3
11. Transverse flute 0 8th'
12. Dumped 8th'
13. Praestant 4 ′
14th Reed flute 4 ′
15th Nasard 2 23
16. Principal 2 ′
17th third 1 35
18th Cymbel IV 1'
19th Cromorne 8th'
III Swell C – f 3
20th Bourdon 08th'
21st Gamba 08th'
22nd Vox Coelestis 08th'
23. Principal 04 ′
24. Transverse flute 04 ′
25th Flageolet 02 ′
26th Larigot 01 13
27. Dulcian 16 ′
28. Hautbois 08th'
Pedal C – f 1
29 Violon 16 ′
30th Sub-bass 16 ′
31. Octave 08th'
32. Capstan flute 08th'
33. Tenor octave 0 04 ′
34. trombone 16 ′
35. Trumpet 08th'
  • Coupling : II / I, III / I, III / II, I / P, II / P, III / P


The modest peal consists of three bells, all of which were cast by Hans Hüesker (Gescher) in 1957. The southwest stair tower has served as a bell tower since then . In the roof turret of Hard Rath chapel , a fourth bell hangs.

No. Surname Diameter
(16th note)
1 Maria 700 210 of 2 -1 "Sancta Maria + per virginem matrem concedat nobis Dominus salutem et pacem"
2 Plectrudis 630 150 it 2 +1 "Sancta Plectrudis + decus Germaniae gaudium Coloniae praesidium nostrum"
3 Hermann Joseph 510 080 ges 2 +2 "Sanctus Hermannus Josephus + deus docuisti me a iuventute mea: et usque nunc annuntio mirabilia tu"
- 440 065 b 2 +2 "Vox facta ipsum audite"


The Church in Fiction

St. Maria im Kapitol is the first church that the narrator in Ulla Hahn's novel We Are Expected enters after the death of her fiancé Hugo Breidenbach.


The Dreikönigenpförtchen in its function as an immunity gate was only built in its current form in 1460 in place of the no longer preserved gate . To commemorate the dead of the war, the city of Cologne had the sculpture The Mourning Gerhard Marcks (1949) erected in the Lichhof (Leichenhof / Friedhof ), the square in front of the three icon complex.


  • Hiltrud Kier : The Romanesque churches in Cologne: Guide to history and furnishings. Second edition. J. P. Bachem, Cologne 2014, ISBN 978-3-7616-2842-3 , pp. 118-133.
  • Jürgen Kaiser (text), Florian Monheim (photos): The large Romanesque churches in Cologne. Greven Verlag, Cologne 2013, ISBN 978-3-7743-0615-8 , pp. 100-113.
  • Richard W. Gassen: St. Mary in the Capitol . In: Medieval churches in Cologne . Michael Imhof Verlag, Petersberg 2010, ISBN 978-3-86568-539-1 , p. 118-131 .
  • Förderverein Romanische Kirchen Köln (ed.): Interdisciplinary contributions to St. Maria in the Capitol of Cologne. Scientific Colloquium 23.-24. March 2007 (=  Colonia Romanica. Yearbook of the Förderverein Romanische Kirchen Köln , Vol. 24). Greven Verlag, Cologne 2009, ISBN 978-3-7743-0464-2 .
  • Clemens Kosch: St. Maria in the Capitol . In: Cologne's Romanesque Churches. Architecture and Liturgy in the High Middle Ages . 2nd Edition. Schnell & Steiner, Regensburg 2005, ISBN 3-7954-1264-1 , chap. 10 , p. 64-73 .
  • Lucie Hagendorf-Nussbaum: St. Maria in the Capitol, Cologne. Schnell & Steiner publishing house, Regensburg 2014, ISBN 978-3-7954-6974-0 .
  • Hiltrud Kier , Ulrich Krings (Hrsg.): Cologne: The Roman churches. From the beginnings to the Second World War (=  city ​​traces - monuments in Cologne. Vol. 1). J. P. Bachem, Cologne 1984, ISBN 3-7616-0761-X , therein:
    • Stefan Neu: (St. Maria in the Capitol). The excavations , pp. 331–344.
    • Ulrich Krings: (St. Maria in the Capitol). The building activity of the Middle Ages and modern times , pp. 345–380.

Web links

Commons : St. Maria im Kapitol (Cologne)  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Werner Schäfke : St. Maria in the Capitol . Ed .: Catholic parish of St. Maria in the Capitol. S. 3 (information booklet, can be purchased at church).
  2. Werner Schäfke : St. Maria in the Capitol . Ed .: Catholic parish of St. Maria in the Capitol. S. 4 (information booklet, can be purchased at church).
  3. St. Maria in the Capitol: Building history. In: web presence. Förderverein Romanische Kirchen Köln e. V., accessed on August 19, 2012 .
  4. ^ Rudolf Schieffer:  Plectrum. In: New German Biography (NDB). Volume 20, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 2001, ISBN 3-428-00201-6 , p. 527 f. ( Digitized version ).
  6. a b Konrad Bund: The peal of St. Mary's Basilica in Cologne . In: Konrad Bund u. a .: Yearbook for Bells . Vol. 13/14, MRV, Brühl 2002, pp. 75-81.
  7. ^ A b Gerhard Hoffs (ed.): Bell music of Catholic churches in Cologne. Pp. 122-124.
  8. ^ Karl-Theodor Schleicher / Heinrich Walle (eds.), From field post letters from young Christians 1939-1945. A contribution to the history of Catholic youth in the field. Stuttgart 2005. p. 413.
  9. ^ Ulrich Krings, Otmar Schwab: Cologne: The Roman churches. Destruction and restoration (series Stadtspuren - Monuments in Cologne, Vol. 2). JP Bachem, Cologne 2007, ISBN 978-3-7616-1964-3 .
  10. Gisela Mülhens-Matthes: To move the rood screen back between the western crossing pillars. In: Hiltrud Kier , Ulrich Krings (eds.): Cologne: The Romanesque Churches in Discussion 1946/47 and 1985 (series Stadtspuren - Monuments in Cologne, Vol. 4). JP Bachem, Cologne 1986, ISBN 3-7616-0822-5 , pp. 239, 250.
  11. ^ Paul-Georg Custodis: The goldsmiths of the von der races family in Cologne and Danzig . In: Rheinischer Verein für Denkmalpflege und Landschaftsschutz (Hrsg.): Rheinische Heimatpflege . No. 4 . Cologne 2012, p. 273 .
  12. Information on the organ
  13. Munich 2017, pp. 92–94.

Coordinates: 50 ° 56 ′ 4.7 ″  N , 6 ° 57 ′ 31 ″  E