St. Maria im Kapitol (St. Mary's in the Capitol) is a Romanesque church located in Cologne's Kapitol-Viertel. It is the largest of the famous "ring of churches"--destroyed in World War II and rebuilt in the decades since-- that has shaped Cologne's cityscape since the 12th century. Consecrated in 1065, this Roman Catholic church is considered the most important work of German church architecture of the medieval Salian dynasty.
The layout of St. Maria im Kapitol follows the exact dimensions of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. It was built on the site of a 1st-century Roman temple; the foundations of the Roman structure and of a previous church dating from the 7th century can be visited in the church's crypt. A magnificent wooden door is carved with one of the most detailed series of scenes from the story of The Magi and Herod in existence, signifying the importance of The Magi as patrons of the city of Cologne. It was through a portal outside St. Maria im Kapitol that the relics of The Magi were brought into the city in 1164.
The Colonia Romanica of Cologne are less frequented than the magnificent Cathedral (Dom), but no less evocative. My steps echoed on stone, as I made my solitary way through St. Maria im Kapitol, tracing the path of pilgrims. It was a perfect complement to the much-touristed Dom, and a window onto a pivotal time in the city's history.