03.04.2010 - 04.04.2010 45 °F
Since I always like to be a "good Catholic" and attend church on Christmas, Mother's Day, and Easter...I thought it might be a fantastic excuse to go see the cathedral in Cologne. I had plans on Easter to go to Belgium with friends, so at the last minute I decided to check out the midnight mass (starting at 10:30pm). It is about a 25-35 minute drive into Cologne from Bonn. Of course, I hadn't been to Cologne yet so what a better time to try to find your way to a new city but the middle of the night! (Sometimes I do these things to myself)
Getting to the city of Cologne was fairly easy. Reaching the cathedral was a whole different story. Luckily I had given myself about a 45 minute cushion to settle in and make it to church on time. Thank goodness I did, because I needed almost every minute. The most frustrating part is that you could see the church from everywhere, but getting close to it was the challenge. After driving around for 20 minutes I finally stopped into a hotel valet parking and thankfully found a very helpful guy who spoke English and it turns out the best thing I could do was park right around the corner and walk the last 5 minutes. Perfect.
So, the hard part was out of the way. I hoofed it up to the church and was amazed by the size and beauty of the building. Here are a couple of links that provide much better details than I can give. Check them out, some of the pictures and images are amazing.
Official Website (at the bottom of the page there is a link that switches the site to English)
Architecture Site - Has some amazing historical pictures and information.
So once inside I was given a 12" tapered candle and a program, but as expected the seating was already full. I was again struck by the amazing size and beauty of the inside of the cathedral. It must have been 150 feet tall inside and probably as long as a football field (or close to it). Seating was focused on the center of the hall, but there were massive hallways on both sides that allowed for plenty of standing room. The massive columns were perfect places to settle in for people who would be standing for the next 90 minutes or more. So I found my spot and waited as the endless people continued to shuffle in well into the ceremony. After a short wait, all of the lights went out in the entire building. The only light was provided by the street lamps outside streaming through the massive stained glass windows. For probably 10 minutes the crowd waited anxiously and quietly in anticipation of the start of the ceremony. People began to shuffle uncomfortably and impatiently. Almost on cue, from the back of the church a small flame began to grow into what I can only describe from my vantage point as a small bonfire. Then, as the procession of church officials started down the center aisle, people began passing the flames via their candles. Slowly the shared flames began to light the entire church, everyone holding a candle and providing the light for this massive structure.
The mass began with a familiar tempo and pace, but in an unfamiliar language. Everything was in German as I assumed, but it was amazing how familiar the ceremony still was in another language (besides Latin of course). The structure of the mass was exactly the same as every other Easter mass I had been to, but the scene was divine.
To add to the amazing scenery, a children's choir of 100+ kids in flowing white robes shuffled in about 30 feet from where I was standing. I can only describe the sounds as amazing (I know I have been using that same word a lot, but in this case it was warranted) As you can imagine the acoustics were tremendous.
So, in the culmination of the Easter story during the mass the massive organ began to play and the lights from one end of the cathedral began to turn on. The lights continued to turn on from the back to the front and the wave of sound and light swept over the entire crowd. The effect was quite moving. You could see the astonishment and joy on the people's faces in the crowd. It is something I will not soon forget.
After an experience like that the rest of the evening was pretty tame. Managed to make it back to my apartment in Bonn close to 1am, tired but a smile on my face.