A trip to Cologne, Germany usually means a trip to see the Kölner Dom, or Cologne Cathedral, and why not? It’s one of the most spectacular Cathedrals in Germany. However this post is not about the Cathedral, this post is about the modern-looking building right next door, the Römisch-Germanische Museum. If you’re wondering what’s so special about another museum, I’ll tell you. Most museums have to collect from all over the world to fill their shelves, but the artifacts in Romano-Germanic museum came from the Colonia Claudia Ara Agripinensium, or what is today most of lower Cologne, Germany. Almost everything in the museum came from under the feet of the tourist walking around Cologne. Even the land the museum sits on is sacred archaeological ground, since several intact Gothic graves were uncovered during the museum’s construction in 1979.
This museum houses the impressive collection of Roman glass and Gothic jewelry that I’ve ever seen. Two of the exhibits that stand out in my mind are a gold and garnet inlay crown from the 6th century (1 of only 2 in existence), and the grave-goods of a sixth-century warrior, excavated from right under the museum, with a sealed glass bottle of wine still corked. If you’ve ever wondered what wine would look like after 1,500 years in the ground, then look no further.
Another artifact unique to this museum is pair of late-Roman glass slippers, placed on the feet of a well-to-do woman as she was laid to rest. Until I saw these, I always thought that glass slippers were found only in Cinderella stories. It’s hard not to feel sadness while looking at those slippers. Glass was an expensive commodity, even in late Roman times, and the person who commissioned such a work of art to go into the ground must have loved this woman very much.
Two trips to this museum was hardly sufficient to take it all in. I would love to go back and read every informational card, and photograph every object. There are just so many beautiful artifacts that I would like to share in this post, but it would fill an encyclopedia. Also, I had a very basic digital camera when I was in Cologne, so many of the photos needed extensive editing. If you’re curious as to what I was using back then, it was a 2004 Kodak Easyshare, but before you laugh, back then that camera was hot stuff, it had its own special Kodak printer that printed out 3×5 photos on the spot. Also, I was only an underpaid Army Specialist to boot.
So even though I’m sharing five-year-old photographs taken with a nine-year-old camera, the museum is just too unique for everyone not to know about it. The photograph above is one of my favorites. The jewelry was was found in a grave near the museum. Inside the grave was an intact wooden jewelry box, with the jewelry still inside! That’s three things I’ve never seen in my life before, all at this museum, and all from the sixth century.
I’m really into old jewelry and glass, so that’s what I studied in the museum. However, if Latin inscriptions are your thing, or pottery, or even marble sculptures, you will not be disappointed. Once again I was fortunate enough to visit this museum when it was not very busy. I was able to wander around and let my imagination run wild. It’s hard not to try and imagine what the artist was thinking back then, or if they even considered themselves artists. The woman who owned that jewelry box, or the person who placed those glass slippers on the feet of their beloved deceased certainly couldn’t have imagined that we would be staring at their artifacts more than 1,500 years later. I’ve been to many famous museums around the world, but this one will always stand out as my absolute favorite.
The Romano-Germanic Museum is located at: Roncalliplatz 4, 50667 Cologne, Germany. The museum is open Tuesday – Sunday 10:00am – 5:00pm and admission is 8 Euros.