Cologne City Hall and the glass pyramide housing a Mikwe, a Jewish ritual bath. Photos: Günther Ventur / Stadt Köln

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Germany
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City Mayors reports news from towns and cities around the world. Worldwide | Elections | North America | Latin America | Europe | Asia | Africa |


City Mayors ranks the world’s largest, best as well as richest cities and urban areas. It also ranks the cities in individual countries, and provides a list of the capital cities of some 200 sovereign countries. More


City Mayors profiles city leaders from around the world. More


City Mayors describes the history, architecture and politics of the greatest city halls in the world. More


Mayors from The Americas, Europe. Asia, Australia and Africa compete for the World Mayor Award. More


Use
Mayor Monitor to rate the performance of mayors from across the world More


In your opinion: Praise Criticise. Write


City Mayors reports political events, analyses the issues and depicts the main players. More


City Mayors describes and explains the structures and workings of local government in Europe, The Americas, Asia, Australia and Africa. More


City Mayors deals with economic and investment issues affecting towns and cities. More


City Mayors describes and explains financial issues affecting local government. More


City Mayors reports urban environmental developments and examines the challenges faced by cities worldwide. More


City Mayors reports on and discusses urban development issues in developed and developing countries. More


City Mayors reports on developments in urban society and behaviour and reviews relevant research. More


City Mayors invites readers to write about the people in their cities. More


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City Mayors lists and features urban events, conferences and conventions aimed at urban decision makers and those with an interst in cities worldwide. More



City Mayors deals with urban transport issues in developed and developing countries and features the world’s greatest metro systems. More


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City Mayors investigates health issues affecting urban areas with an emphasis on health in cities in developing countries. More


City Mayors reports on how business developments impact on cities and examines cooperation between cities and the private sector. More


City Mayors examines the contributions history and culture make to urban society and environment. More


City Mayors examines the importance of urban tourism to city economies. More


City Mayors questions those who govern the world’s cities and talks to men and women who contribute to urban society and environment. More


City Mayors profiles national and international organisations representing cities as well as those dealing with urban issues. More


City Mayors reports on major national and international sporting events and their impact on cities. More


City Mayors lists cities and city organisations, profiles individual mayors and provides information on hundreds of urban events. More


Cologne City Hall
By Gregor Gosciniak, German Editor

19 March 2005: Visually, the German Rhine metropolis of Cologne is dominated by its gothic cathedral. The magnitude of the cathedral (Kölner Dom), one of the world’s most photographed monuments and Germany’s number one tourist attraction, often lets one forget that the city is also home to many more historical buildings. One of them is the Cologne City Hall (Kölner Rathaus).

Cologne City Hall is Germany’s oldest city hall. It was first mentioned between 1135 and 1152. The City Hall was then located next to the city’s medieval Jewish quarter. In the 14th century a new City Hall was build on the foundations of the old one. In 1367 a fire in the Jewish quarter caused severe damage to the building.

As often, the Rhineland people turned a mishap into an opportunity for improvements. After the fire, the square in front of City Hall (Rathaus Platz) was enlarged and the City Hall itself expanded. At the same time, work started on the first vestibule. The City Hall’s impressive gothic tower was added between 1407 and 1414. The tower is 61 meters high and it is built right over the City Hall’s former wine cellar. The wine cellar, which to the sorrow of some is not lined with racks of vintage bottles anymore, is these days used for wedding ceremonies.

In 1424, Cologne’s Jewish community, one of the oldest in Europe, was expelled from the City. Two years after the expulsion their synagogue was turned into the chapel of the City Hall. More council buildings for different purposes where built around City Hall Square in the following years and decades. Between 1569 and 1573 a beautiful loggia was build to replace an older one. The loggia, the main entrance of today’s City Hall, has been carefully renovated and preserved. In 1794 the French revolutionary army invaded Cologne and the City Hall became property of the French government. The Rhineland was passed to Prussia in 1815. Between 1860 and 1890 the City Hall was restored. There were some plans to erect a completely new building, but Prussian patriotism allowed the old building to survive.

In 1943, at the height of World War II, the City Hall was hit by bombs and set on fire. During further bombing raids in 1944, the City Hall, together with most of Cologne’s central district, was destroyed. Only the loggia survived.

After the war the tower was the first part of City Hall to be rebuilt. In 1955 the City Council decided to rebuild the tower’s original ornamental facade, a task, which kept craftsmen occupied until 1975. In 1988 work began on the 124 sculptures, which decorate the tower - the last one was finished and re-erected in 1995.

In 1968 the Council choose local architect Karl Band to rebuild the main building – and finally, in 1972, the new Cologne City Hall was opened. Today it is officially called the ‘Historical City Hall of Cologne’. Opposite the historical City Hall, the 1956-built ‘Spanish Building’ houses the Council Hall and the administrative offices of the City Council. The building is a unique example of 1950s administrative architecture. The cellar of the building provides access to Cologne’s Roman history including the walls of the Roman Praetorian, which was excavated in 1953.

Council meetings take place in Council Hall. Today, 90 councillors represent the four big political parties (Christian Democrats (CDU) 29 members, Social Democrats (SPD) 28 members, Green Party 15 members and Free Democrats (FDP) 7 members). Also represented are six smaller political parties and groups with 11 council members. Cologne’s Mayor Fritz Schramma is a member of the CDU. It is Mayor Schramma´s second term as Mayor. In the state of Northrhine-Westfalia, the Mayor is directly elected. During local election citizens have three votes: One for a district representative, one for a local councillor who will be sent to the city council and one for a candidate running for Mayor.

The Historical City Hall houses the Mayor’s Office and is used for a variety of public events such as receptions and other official meetings. It is also a very popular place to get married. Mayor Fritz Schramma and the City Council are keen for the City Hall to be used by the people of Cologne. The building is open to the public and hosts numerous public and private events throughout the year.

One of the highlights of Cologne City Hall was in 1998, when the G8-Summit, the EU-Summit as well as the meeting of EU foreign ministers took place in Cologne. Guests who visited the City Hall during that that year included former US President Bill Clinton, French President Jacques Chirac, UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and Japan’s Prime Minister Kaizo Obuchi as well as many other heads of states.

In front of the City Hall, inside a glass pyramid a Mikwe, a Jewish ritual bath is preserved as a reminder that the municipal building is situated next to the city’s former Jewish quarter. According to Jewish religious practise, the Jewish community needed a bath, which allowed its members to use ground water. So the Mikwe was built as a bathing shaft, which is 16 meters deep and incorporates an internal staircase to reach ground water level. The fascinating structure dates back to the middle of the 12th century.



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