Shutdown, The Style of Technology

Shutdown: Kölner Dom Revisited


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A few months back, I posted an article about the Cologne Cathedral (or Kölner Dom in Joiman) that looked at a little bit of the history of the magnificent edifice and the repairs that it underwent after WWII. I recently came across this hi-res photo of the cathedral’s façade that was taken in 2010 that allows you to take a reasonably close look at the building. If you click on the image above and view it in full resolution, you can see a lot of of details of its construction and make some guesses as to which areas have been repaired.

The cathedral was constructed using several different kinds of stone, the result of being built over the course of 700 some-odd years and the changing source of building materials over that time. Trachyte and andesite, igneous minerals rocks that are somewhat related to basalt (from what I can gather), were primarily used during its early construction (1248 to circa 1560), and starting in the 1800s the use of sandstone, limestone and basalt from various sources were used to complete the structure.

Looking at the hi-res image, you can easily spot the place where the various types of stone have been used in the original construction and later repairs. There are many places where light and dark stone are used alternately (limestone and basalt maybe?), such as the entrance arches, giving a somewhat of a checkerboard appearance that I find rather pleasant. The façade has a generally dark and scorched look to it, and the areas of lighter stone brighten up and highlight a lot of detail.

I find cathedrals to be very interesting pieces of architecture, what with all of the various styles and construction methods that have been used over the centuries, and Cologne remains one of my favourites.


Cologne Cathedral Wiki

The Cologne Cathedral – A Geological Point of View

Image credit: Tyler somebody whose site is now defunct

  • " Trachyte and andesite, igneous minerals that are somewhat related to basalt (from what I can gather)…."

    Yes, somewhat. I'm not enough of an igneous petrologist to grow particularly outraged by that loose association. My only objection is that these are rocks, not minerals. The discrete crystalline constituents within them are the minerals.

    I am, after all, a mineralogist.

    I have to wonder whether the people who made the repairs were assuming that weathering eventually will reduce the contrast in appearance between the various compositions of stone, long after the history of damage is no longer so immediate and shocking. It'll probably work.

    • The Professor

      Fixed minerals > rocks. I had rocks in first, then changed it to minerals. Now there's both.

      The repair work on a structure like that has to be tricky, especially with stone from so many different sites being used. I would imagine that they try to replace the damage with stone that's as close to the original as possible, and then let nature do its work. That's what I'd do, anyway.

      I suppose that they could paint it….

      • Not paint. Stucco is for the ages.

    • OA5599

      If I accused a mineralogist of having rocks in his head, would he consider that an insult or a compliment?

  • Deartháir

    Interesting trivia on these Gothic and post-Gothic cathedrals; many of the architects, such as they were, had a greater focus on interpreting the appropriate passages of the bible than on actually designing the cathedral; to that end, many buildings are beautiful places of worship, with amazing designs, that are actually only barely structurally stable.

    Many of the designers of these cathedrals didn't actually fully understand what they were doing. Basically, the flying buttresses that support the walls are transferring the weight of the stone off the wall itself and outwards to secondary support points. Some designers saw them as just props or kickstands to keep things from falling over, and as such didn't apply the mathematical principles of the arch correctly. Now, centuries later, we can see walls that are beginning to bow outwards, or arches that are gradually losing their curve.

    The solutions that some modern engineers have applied have been quite amazing in some cases; there have been ingenious solutions involving wrapping superheated steel bars along a weak spot of wall, then as they cool, the contraction of the metal cinches the sagging wall back into place without any unsightly visual clutter. Other solutions have involved some artistic interpretations of horizontal flying buttresses that transfer weight from one side of the cathedral over to the other side, and apply that weight onto the otherwise ineffective flying buttress there. The engineering that has gone into preserving some of these magnificent buildings is a testament to the advancement of our own understanding of the principles of construction, but also to the beauty and artistry that can be involved in that engineering when someone cares enough to spend the time to do it right.

    • The Professor

      I've read a bit about the poor (to be generous) engineering that was used on some cathedrals, but usually those buildings collapsed either while under construction (occasionally several times during construction) or within a decade or two after completion. The forces at work on those high, thin gothic walls won't stand for long if the buttresses (sounds nasty) aren't doing their jobs. If such a building lasted up to the modern era, I can see how it would give current engineers fits.
      Another place that the old 'engineers' got into trouble a lot was with the vaulted ceilings. Like you say, if you don't use the arch structure properly, you end up with a lot of rock on your head and many dead workers. I wish I could remember the names of the problem cathedrals that I'm thinking of, damned memory. It was two different French cathedrals, damn, I suppose I'll have to go hunt it down now….

      • Deartháir

        Yeah, likewise; it's going way back to my university days, and much of that time was spent distracted by Jenn sitting in the row in front of me in the painted-on jeans with the G-string peeking out, so my memory of specific details is hazy at best. Well, memory of the subject matter. I can still tell you the tiniest details about her G-string.

        I remember it was two huge Gothic cathedrals, in two neighbouring relatively-small French towns, which were competing to try and have the tallest and most ornate buildings, and rushing to have them built first. This was shortly after the first Gothic cathedrals had been completed in major centers — probably Paris? — and there wasn't a universal understanding on how, exactly, those first buildings had been constructed. They just had an idea of the style, and tried to emulate that.

        It's going to bother me, and maybe if I can find details I'll do up a proper post about them. For now, I'm tired.

        • "I can still tell you the tiniest details about her G-string. I remember it was two huge Gothic cathedrals, in two neighbouring relatively-small French towns"

          Let the buttress jokes commence!

          • The G-string is nice, but I'm definitely into her enormous Gothic cathedrals.

          • texlenin

            Nah, you're thinking of her groin vault….

  • highmileage_v1

    The cathedral in Zagreb is a smaller version of the Koln Dom. Both are spectacular.