The Trip
Bad Ems
Bad Kreuznach
Abtei St. Hildegard  Lennep  Remagen/Linz

Tracing Roman Germania 2002
Tracing Roman Germania 2003 in the works
Ancient Rome as seen in the year 2001


River God image - click here for more


colonia claudia ara agrippinensum

Should you select Cologne as basis for a few days of sightseeing in and around the city, be careful when you pick the dates. Cologne is a city of trade fairs, and when there's a fair, not only are hotel rooms scarce, they are also expensive. (And I myself had to rearrange my travel plans because of the G8 meeting in June.) Select a hotel in the center of town and you can walk almost everywhere – if you choose the Hyatt, keep in mind that it's across the river. I frequently stay at the Mondial Hotel, not only because of its central location, but also because it is across from the Philharmonic Hall so I can get last minute concert tickets without any effort. But no air-conditioning, alas……But there are a lot of smaller, less expensive hotels too.

Here are some links as to what's going on in Cologne. It has a lot of churches besides the Cathedral (see photos), plenty of museumsdon't omit the Chocolate Museum, The Imhoff-Stollwerck-Museumand of course all sorts of Biergärten and other restaurants as well as shopping opportunities. Now you can even get bagelsreal bagelsI saw them in the new shopping center at the Neumarkt subway station!

Addendum 2003: For German speakers, there is the CologneWeb. If you scroll down on the left, you will find a lot of information about the city and it monuments. – 2005: Here is the latest info version in English.

I found several sites on the Internet with photos: (a site with photos from the City Archive has disappeared), Kommentierte Photos aus der Stadt Köln (photos with text), Nicht kommentierte Photos aus der Stadt Köln (a collection of photos without text). And here are my own photos. My brother took me to the courtyard of the Farina Building (between City Hall and Hohe Strasse) to show me a funny little fountain that represents Cologne women through the ages, from a Ubian woman to today.

Claudius Varieties - click here for article

Claudius - courtesy of Doug Smith

A history of Cologne has disappeared from Internet as of 2005. Here's my summary: First, there was the oppidum Ubiorum, the capital of the Ubii, after Agrippa moved them to the West bank of the Rhine at their request in 38 BCE. In 9 BCE, the town received an altar (ara) for the Imperial cult of Rome and Augustus. Even before that, a double legionary fortress had been built as staging area for the conquest of the Germans. The remains of it were discovered in 1970, when a parking garage was built near the Cathedral. You may remember that Germanicus took up residence at the place in 13 CE, and that his daughter Agrippa was born there. In 49 CE, her uncle and husband Claudius raised the city to the status of colonia and named the new colony in Agrippina's honor Colonia Claudia Ara Agrippinensium. Eventually, there would be three coloniae in Germania, Cologne, Trier, also named by Claudius, and Xanten, by Trajan.

Soon the city grew to become a prosperous trade, agricultural, and manufacturing center, and it had all the amenities and luxuries the Romans liked. Fresh water was brought in by aqueduct, and waste was discharged through an elaborate sewage system. The City flourished into the 4th century. In 310 CE, Constantine the Great had built a castellum Castra Divitia on the East bank of the river to ward off invasions from the Germans—the name is still recognizable in today's suburb of Deutzand built a bridge across the Rhine. Here is a photo of a model of the late Roman colonia. The bridge lasted for many more centuries, but the castra could not hold off the invaders in 355 CE. Julian the Apostate was able to reconquer the city. Roman rule came finally to an end in 457/8 when a last effort by the general Aegidius to defend the city against the Franks failed.

Over the next centuries, Cologne became a center of the Roman Catholic Church. The 12th and 13th centuries saw growing conflict between church and burghers, and after the latter joined up with Duke John I of Brabant and defeated Archbishop Siegfried von Westerburg in the Battle of Worringen in 1288, absolute clerical rule came to an end. Cologne became a Reichsstadt, a free city that answered to the emperor only.

The city continued to be a center of trade and still is today, and its Albertus Magnus University dates back to 1389.

A short strollthrough downtown…


The archeological finds from the Roman era are too numerous to cite here. Especially after WWII, which had left Cologne largely in rubbles, construction had to be stopped frequently to assess and secure the discoveries. For German speaking travelers, there is now an excellent guidebook out: Das Römisch-Germanische Köln: Führer zu Museum und Stadt, ISBN: 3761613709. Update 2008: Colonia Claudia Ara Agrippinensium (German Wikipedia).

The cities largest archeological site is the Praetorium, which was discovered after the war, when a new city hall was to be built next to the old town hallwhich was very damaged but has since been restored. The walls were preserved and are now on view underneath the new City Hall, with a little museum attachedphotos. This prompted the title of the book Mit dem Fahrstuhl in die Römerzeit, By Elevator into Roman Times, by Rudolf Pörtner, 1967, about Roman Germania. Four construction periods were discovered, from a porticus villa in the first half of the 1st century CE to an imperial palace under Constantine the Great in the 4th century. It was here that Vitellius was proclaimed emperor. The Franks used it as Royal Palace, and it was finally destroyed under the Carolingians. In the Middle Ages, the City Hall was built on the same spot. Thus, the place has been a center of government for most of 2000 years! I have to say that to a lay person, the archeological structure looks very confusing! Update 2008: the excellent paper in German: Statthalterpaläste im Imperium Romanum is currently no longer available.

During the war, excavations for an air raid shelter next to the cathedral unearthed a mosaic floor, the Dionysos Mosaic. The site was secured, and after the war the mosaic was cleaned and restored, and for a number of years it was kept at its original location. When the new Romano-Germanic Museum was built next to the Cathedral in 1974, the mosaic was moved there.

Every time I'm in Cologne, I visit the above museum. (The German site is more extensive.) It's a beautifully constructed and organized institution. The site happens to be next to what once was the old harbor, and parts of the harbor street have been preservedphoto. The collection reaches from the stone age through Roman times, and similar to all other museums I visited, all aspects of daily life are covered. Follow me on a walk through the museumunfortunately, I didn't have much time this visit and never took photos before, so it's a little meager…

Addendum 9/3/2001: I just discovered an excellent site about Cologne: Dierk's page - Cologne, with many photo illustrations. – May 2002: A nice website about Roman Cologne from DR. J'S ILLUSTRATED GUIDE TO THE CLASSICAL WORLD.

Cologne 2002
Cologne 2003
Our photos

One more Roman place to visit, Xanten, and that's it for this year...

© Irene B. Hahn 1999

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