COLOGNE AND ST. URSULA
It is a relief to get out of Holland and into a country nearer to hills. The people also seem more obliging. In Cologne, a brown-cheeked girl pointed us out the way without waiting for a kreuzer. Perhaps the women have more to busy themselves about in the cities, and are not so curious about passers-by. We rarely see a reflector to exhibit us to the occupants of the second-story windows. In all the cities of Belgium and Holland the ladies have small mirrors, with reflectors, fastened to their windows; so that they can see everybody who passes, without putting their heads out. I trust we are not inverted or thrown out of shape when we are thus caught up and cast into my lady’s chamber. Cologne has a cheerful look, for the Rhine here is wide and promising; and as for the “smells,” they are certainly not so many nor so vile as those at Mainz.
Our windows at the hotel looked out on the finest front of the cathedral. If the Devil really built it, he is to be credited with one good thing, and it is now likely to be finished, in spite of him. Large as it is, it is on the exterior not so impressive as that at Amiens; but within it has a magnificence born of a vast design and the most harmonious proportions, and the grand effect is not broken by any subdivision but that of the choir. Behind the altar and in front of the chapel, where lie the remains of the Wise Men of the East who came to worship the Child, or, as they are called, the Three Kings of Cologne, we walked over a stone in the pavement under which is the heart of Mary de Medicis: the remainder of her body is in St. Denis near Paris. The beadle in red clothes, who stalks about the cathedral like a converted flamingo, offered to open for us the chapel; but we declined a sight of the very bones of the Wise Men. It was difficult enough to believe they were there, without seeing them. One ought not to subject his faith to too great a strain at first in Europe. The bones of the Three Kings, by the way, made the fortune of the cathedral. They were the greatest religious card of the Middle Ages, and their fortunate possession brought a flood of wealth to this old Domkirche. The old feudal lords would swear by the Almighty Father, or the Son, or Holy Ghost, or by everything sacred on earth, and break their oaths as they would break a wisp of straw: but if you could get one of them to swear by the Three Kings of Cologne, he was fast; for that oath he dare not disregard.
The prosperity of the cathedral on these valuable bones set all the other churches in the neighborhood on the same track; and one can study right here in this city the growth of relic worship. But the most successful achievement was the collection of the bones of St. Ursula and the eleven thousand virgins, and their preservation in the church on the very spot where they suffered martyrdom. There is probably not so large a collection of the bones of virgins elsewhere