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5 buildings that took more than 500 years to build

Antje Binder / egSeptember 12, 2017

Perfectionism, disinterest, extensions: There are many reasons why some buildings take longer than planned to get completed - sometimes even centuries. Here are five impressive examples.

Cologne Cathedral, Copyright: picture-alliance/dpa/C. Baeck
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/C. Baeck

Stress is so unnecessary, according to the most fundamental unwritten law in the Kölsch dialect: "Et kütt wie et kütt!" - it comes the way it comes, the saying goes. And people in the Cologne region tend to apply this literally.

One of the best demonstrations of this is the construction of the Cologne Cathedral. The second-tallest church of Europe is the pride of the city. Over 500 years were needed to complete the prestigious building.

Big and modern

Construction began in 1248 in a euphoric mood. The cathedral was to become the largest building north of the Alps. It was not only to be imposing - 145 meters long and 157 meter tall (475 by 515 feet) - but also a contemporary building in the then modern Gothic style. Some 70 years later, the choir was inaugurated. It was very quickly built, for the time.

Yet the inhabitants of Cologne gradually lost interest in their cathedral. In the 16th century, the Gothic style wasn't as popular. It was the age of the Renaissance and the Reformation, of fractures between the Church and the bourgeoisie. There were fewer pilgrims, which meant less money to continue building the cathedral. In 1560, its construction was stopped.

For the next three centuries, the Cologne Cathedral stood incomplete in the center of the city. The ruin, with its medieval construction crane, became the involuntary landmark of the city.

During the 18th century, the building was even used by French revolutionary troops as a horse stable.

632 years of construction

Finally, like all outdated trends, Gothic came back in style. During the Romantic period, Cologne's inhabitants looked back to the Middle Ages, rekindling their interest for not only the building, but also for its old architectural plans.

In 1880, the Cologne Cathedral was finally completed, 632 years after the corner stone was laid.

Instead of discretely concealing this fact, Cologne proudly underlined it in the cathedral's official document: "To the eternal memory of the largest German cathedral, happily completed after six centuries," it read.

The people along the Rhine aren't the only ones to have taken their time in their building projects, as this week's High Five shows. Click through the gallery above to discover more of these slow-paced developments.