Kolumba Museum in Cologne
Church, museum, architectural masterpiece: the Kolumba Art Museum of the Archdiocese of Cologne is no ordinary building, but a sophisticated structure with historical significance.
The Kolumba Art Museum of the Archdiocese of Cologne takes its unusual name from a late Gothic period church. The Church of St. Columba (Sankt Kolumba), which was home to Cologne’s largest parish in the Middle Ages, was destroyed in the Second World War; the site of the former church now houses the Kolumba Museum. The new museum building, a true architectural masterpiece, was designed by Swiss architect and Pritzker Prize winner Peter Zumthor and has won several architectural awards, including the DAM Award for Architecture in Germany in 2008 and the NRW Architecture Award in 2011.
The museum, which opened its doors in 2007, was built on the site of the destroyed church, including the remaining ruins of St. Columba. It combines the old and the new by integrating Gottfried Böhm’s “Madonna of the Ruins” chapel from 1950 and the ruins of the Church of St. Columba into the new building. On the ground floor, visitors can also visit the archaeological excavations from the 1970s by walking over the excavation site on bridges. There, visitors can see the remains of Roman residential development as well as fragments of church buildings from the Carolingian, Romanesque and Gothic periods. The new large excavation area itself has a sacred quality to it with its slender columns and the subtle play of light generated by countless small openings in the upper walled area.
Both the interior and exterior of the new Kolumba Museum are framed by uncomplicated architecture. The predominantly closed façade consists of warm grey brick, lending a sense of vibrancy to the large wall surfaces with its fragmented structure. Inside, a small number of carefully matched materials and minimalist details in the open spaces create an elegant and reserved atmosphere that lends space to the artworks on display.
In mid-September of each year, a new annual exhibition is presented from the museum’s own collection of art. The collection of the Diocesan Museum Cologne, founded in 1853, ranges from early Christianity to the present day, with an emphasis on Christian art.