On some 2000 square metres of floor space, the Kölnisches Stadtmuseum tells the history of the city from the Middle Ages right up to the recent past. Unusual exhibits on permanent display in the historic Zeughaus bring the political, social, economic, cultural and religious development of the city to life.
Right at the start of the exhibition, the visitor learns all sorts of useful things relating to typical ‘Kölsch’ things and inventions such as Klüngel (intrigue), Kölsch (beer), Karneval (that’s ‘carnival’ in German) and ‘Kölnisch Wasser’ (‘Cologne water’, i.e. eau-de-cologne). The subsequent tour of the ground floor focuses on the city’s political history and general development. Starting from the recent past, the trail leads deeper and deeper into the past.
In the Middle Ages, Cologne was for a time one of the largest cities north of the Alps, and one of the most popular pilgrimage destinations in Europe. Time and again conflicts between the citizens and the ruling archbishops led to violent confrontations. In 1288, finally, the city succeeded at the Battle of Worringen in shaking off the domination of the archbishop. In 1396, the craftsmen and merchants seized control of the city and drew up the ‘Verbundbrief’, a quasi-democratic guild-based constitution that was to remain in force until Cologne was occupied by the French revolutionary army in 1794. Some 20 years after the occupation, the city was assigned to Prussia at the Congress of Vienna, becoming a Prussian fortress and provincial centre. In 1848 the city became a focus of the revolution – Karl Marx was active as a journalist here. The next century, the twentieth, was also accompanied by major upheavals. The Kaiser’s Germany was followed by the Weimar Republic, the National Socialist period, the period of Allied occupation, reconstruction and democracy. The history of Cologne in this period is a microcosm of West German history generally.
The tour through the centuries leads visitors to exhibits symbolizing the city’s history – from the 3.50-metre-tall ‘Kölscher Boor’ – via the nineteenth-century cityscapes by Jakob Scheiner, and the huge model of the city showing Cologne as it was in 1571 – all the way to the above-mentioned ‘Verbundbrief’ of 1396 and the city’s great seal of 1268.
Following the overview of the city’s political history, the upper floor of the Zeughaus is arranged thematically. The exhibits here are devoted to areas of social, cultural and political history such as civic identity, transport and housing, business, religion, intellectual life and science. The collection of early physical apparatus and the early-sixteenth-century Vopelius globes from the collection of Ferdinand Franz Wallraf is unique, for example. The collection of Judaica with items illustrating Jewish life in Cologne is one of the highlights of the tour. The exhibits and displays on topics such as the workplace, industry, childhood and industry c. 1900 highlight the transition of civic society into the twentieth century. A prominent role within the thematic areas is also played by the Cathedral, whose completion – after centuries of standstill – was taken in hand in 1842: a building that – well beyond the confines of Cologne – left its mark on the period.
Tuesday: 10am – 8pm
Wednesday to Sunday: 10am – 5pm
Public holidays: 10am – 5pm
KölnTag: 10am – 10pm