|Cologne was founded by the Romans in 38 BC.
The Roman governor for Gallia, to which the Rhineland belonged at the
time, Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa, induced the construction of forts and
postal services to establish the Romans at the Rhineland.
The construction work, however, could not be done by the Romans alone. Therefore the Romans joined forces with the local teutonic tribe of the Ubier. The Ubier, happy about their liaison with the powerful Romans, chose Cologne's city area as the new capital of their tribe and lived in harmony with the Roman conquerors.
At that time, Cologne was named "oppidum Ubiorum" (which means something like "fortified settlement of the Ubier") and was a Roman colony for veterans. The Roman legionnaires had to serve Rome for 20 years before they were entitled to receive annuity. They had the choice between a monetary compensation or real estate.
The later was preferred by many soldiers, whereby a rich upper class of former Roman legionnaires and their ubian wifes was formed.
The famous Roman general Agrippa upgraded the city which was hardly recognizable until then to the metropolis of the Roman province Germania. One of his measures was to build a roman bathhouse, he thereby induced some southern hedonism to the rather harsh surroundings. The ground work of the bath house was found underneath Groß St.Martin and can still by visited.
Cologne's breakthrough was made possible by Agrippina, Agrippa's granddaughter.
It was her, who gave Cologne its name. At the age of thirteen, she was married for the first time in Rome and started a carreer through the beds of various romans, before, at 34, getting married to her uncle emperor Claudius. As a demonstration of her power she leveraged Cologne to the status of a legal Roman colony. In 50 BC the "fortified settlement of the Ubier" was named "Colonia Claudia Ara Agrippinensium" and served as the capital and trade center of the roman province.
Starting in 260 AD, Cologne was almost constantly besieged by the Franks, leading to the abandonment of Cologne by the Romans. The last Roman governor left Cologne in 425 AD.
Another important woman in Cologne's history is the holy Ursula. In the early Middle Ages Cologne was besieged by the huns who ceased from Cologne only after the holy Ursula returned, accompanied by 11.000 virgins (according to the legend), from a pilgrimage to Rome and freed Cologne once and for all from the huns. In commemoration St. Ursula was build, in which beautiful frecos tell her story.
The retreat of the Romans created a power vacuum, which the Catholic Church was able to fill. In 800 AD Cologne was declared archbishopric by Carl the Great, whereby the power of the Catholic Church in the city was manifested.
Therewith, the three major components of Cologne's history have been outlined: The mulicultural mix of Romans and Ubiers, the female influence and the Catholic Church.
In the Middle Ages Cologne was a city of merchants and pilgrims. On the occasion of a crusade to Milan, the relics of the Epiphany were being "transferred" to Cologne by the archbishop Reinald von Dassel. Cologne thereby received another attraction for pilgrims, leading to the foundation of the cathedral in 1248. The city's main source of income was its status as the "Rome of the North" and its unique "Stapelrecht". The "Stapelrecht" obliged all ships travelling the Rhine to store their merchandise in Cologne. Cologne's citizens then had the preemtive right on these goods.
Due to a dwindling of the pilgrims and a general recession of the city, the construction of the cathedral was stoped in 1560 for the next 282 years.
In the meantime, the French in 1794 seized the city, which belonged to France officially in 1801. The French encountered a desoltate Cologne. The glamour Cologne once possessed was gone. The Catholic Church owned two thirds of the land, the roman sewerage was gone, most of the population lived in poverty. The French took drastic measures. The immigration of prostestants and jews was allowed, the Catholic Church was expopriated, street lighting, sewerage and waste disposal established and a hospital opened.
In 1815 France turns Cologne over to Prussia. Under Prussian government the cathedral was finished in 1880, after another 38 years of construction work.
In the Second World War, 72 percent of the city was destroyed. In 1975, after long and intensive recontruction work, Cologne counted one million inhabitants for the first time in its history.