Many modern day visitors to Cologne Cathedral in Germany would assume that it was in the Middle Ages, and not in the late Nineteenth century. It should have been completed in the Medieval period but somehow never was. The project was a great undertaking and there were distractions that meant it was not fully completed until 1880.
There was a church on the site of the cathedral from as early as the Ninth century, a more modest building, which was badly damaged by the Normans when they attacked the city over two hundred years later. The damage was repaired yet thatrestored church did not last long as it was raised to the ground by a fire started accidentally during the year 1258.
The ambitious plan for the building of such an imposing cathedral, the one we know today was originally designed by the renowned architect Gerherd von Rile at the behest of Archbishop Conrad way backin 1248. Von Rile's design was so ambitious that many consecutive Archbishops of Cologne found it difficult to find enough resources to finish the building. The turbulence caused by the Reformation and conflicts such as the Thirty Years War did not help either.
When you consider the sheer size of the completed Cologne Cathedral it is not so surprising that it took 634 years of actual construction work to finish it. Between 1880 and 1889 Cologne Cathedral was actually the tallest building in the world.
Ironically it is the sheer size of this magnificent building that saved it from destruction during the Second World War. The cathedral was used by the navigators of RAF bombers to confirm that they were flying over Cologne so they decided not to destroy it.
Castleden R (2005) Events that changed the World, Time Warner Books, London