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Illumination on Cologne Cathedral
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/R. Vennenbernd

Cologne Cathedral illuminated for peace

Gaby Reucher als
September 26, 2018

The Cologne Cathedral will be illuminated the next few days in a special way as a stance against hatred. Messages will be projected onto the sides of the cathedral to recall the end of the First World War 100 years ago.


"Peace" and "Never again!" are just some of the messages that will be lighting up the southern facade of the Cologne Cathedral. Not year round, but certainly for the next few days.

Based on the slogan "Dona Nobis Pacem" (Give Us Peace), the Cologne Cathedral pilgrimage is taking place from September 27-30. The cathedral itself is a world cultural heritage site.

Remembering World War I: the cathedral with crosses from the soldiers' gravesImage: Hartung & Trenz

The cathedral's official days of pilgrimage this year recall the end of World War I 100 years ago. It will not just be commemorated with masses and prayer services, but with a light installation on the walls of the cathedral.

"We want to use the prominence of the cathedral and its importance as Germany's most famous place of worship during these days of the pilgrimage," said cathedral provost Gerd Bachner. "We want to send a clear message to the world: Germany takes a stand against hatred."

Cologne Cathedral inspires reflection

The two media artists, Detlef Hartung and Georg Trenz, have designed the large moving-image illumination. They have already staged other light art installations on numerous well-known buildings.

In Cologne, 19 video projectors will illuminate the cathedral with messages in a 15-minute loop each evening from Sept. 26-30 beginning at 8 p.m.

Messages on the southern facade of the Cologne Cathedral
Messages on the southern facade of the Cologne CathedralImage: picture-alliance/dpa/R. Vennenbernd

Both artists view their installation as a kind of open dialogue with architecture, light and typography about war and peace.

They have taken a modest approach with the cathedral. "This building certainly has more to say to us than we do to it," said Detlev Hartung. "But we are very confident that this combination of space, light and sound will create images that will inspire further thought."

The first part of the installation deals with the senselessness of war; the second is about hope for peace, with corresponding appeals to the viewer. "With the theme 'peace' we are setting the right impulse at the right time," says cathedral provost Gerd Bacher. "Looking at current media reports, we should be alarmed that hatred and agitation are once again setting the tone in some parts of Germany."

Peace, not hatred

The projection will be accompanied musically by excerpts from Luigi Cherubini's Requiem No. 1 in C minor and the "Dona nobis pacem" from Johann Sebastian Bach's Mass in B minor.

The concept of peace will also be addressed in numerous other program events, such as in the "Night of Mysticism" during which the Liverpool Cathedral choir will sing, and in exhibitions like "1918: The end of the war in Cologne."

Visitors can also light candles at 12 different "peace sculptures" on the platform around the cathedral.

The First World War saw some 17 million people die. Forty different nations were involved, together sending 70 million people to war to fight. Germany used chlorine gas systematically as a chemical weapon for the first time.

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