The Cologne City Hall is one of the oldest Rathauses in Germany. Documents that mention the City Hall date back as far as the mid-12th century referring to a “House of the citizens”. In the 14th century, the current city hall was built on its foundation.
In the early 15th Century, a tower resembling a church steeple was added. The 5 story tower of the Rathaus is decorated with 124 figures of emperors, kings, popes, honorary citizens of Cologne and patron saints of the city. Due to a poor choice of building materials the figures deteriorated over several centuries and were restored several times.
When standing in the square, take a look back at the city hall tower. Watch the clock every hour when it chimes. When the clock strikes, the bearded head beneath it shows tongue and starts teasing passerbys.
As you’re looking at the carved figures, pay special attention to what they are standing on. You will see a number of monkeys, musicians and hidden under a larger statue of Archbishop Konrad von Hochstaden, there is a man giving oral sex to himself. Dating back to 1410, the obscene carving was a popular motif in the Middle Ages. It literally represents showing one’s backside to the authorities. The carvers wanted to show that they don’t care about the morals or the public appearance of the authority figures.
Konrad von Hochstaden was the Archbishop of Cologne from 1238 – 1261. His position as one of the seven elector seats of the Holy Roman Empire made him quite powerful. Kings throughout Europe beseeched him for his approval before their coronation. In addition to laying the foundation stone for the Koln Cathedral, it’s also thought he used his authority to implement a tax on beer. Probably a very poor decison given the number of breweries in the city.
If you want more information or plan a visit The Rathaus follow this link.