Meet the Syrian refugee who spent 5,000 hours carving an incredible model of Cologne Cathedral

Fadel Alkhudr from Syria poses beside his wooden model of the word heritage Cologne Cathedral
Fadel Alkhudr from Syria poses beside his wooden model of the word heritage Cologne Cathedral Copyright Martin Meissner/AP
Copyright Martin Meissner/AP
By Theo Farrant with AP
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Fadel Alkhudr arrived in Cologne in 2015, having fled the war in Syria. Four years later he began carving a model of the city's cathedral in his small basement.

To mark Refugee Week 2022, Euronews Culture is telling the stories of refugee artists and performers in Europe.


When Syrian refugee Fadel Alkhudr arrived in Cologne in 2015, the first thing he saw when he stepped out of the train was the city's majestic cathedral.

Alkhudr, 42, became so fascinated by the historic Gothic cathedral he spent hours looking at the landmark, taking photos and drawing sketches. Eventually, he decided to carve an intricate wooden replica. 

For 5,000 hours over two years, Alkhudr worked on creating a two-metre (6.5ft) model of the cathedral in his small basement, turned studio, in Cologne's Kalk neighbourhood. 

Fleeing war

Martin Meissner/AP
Alkhudr poses in front of the word heritage Cologne Cathedral in Cologne, GermanyMartin Meissner/AP

Alkhudr learned the art of wood carving from his father at the age of 13. 

He was forced to flee his hometown of Aleppo after his family's wood-carving business was destroyed in the war in Syria

Alkhudr is one of more than 1.6 million people, mainly from the Middle East and Africa, who have sought asylum in Germany since 2014, according to Reuters. 

After arriving in the western German city of Cologne, Alkhudr worked various odd jobs to make a living, bringing his family over in 2017. 

Since 2019, he has focused on creating his spectacular cathedral, hoping that in the future he can make a living as an art carver in Germany. 

The model cathedral was built using hard beech wood, with Alkhudr using 50-year-old tools from Syria that his father had passed on to him. 

Alkhudr's spectacular work of art is currently on display at the cathedral's visitor centre just across from the original building, which is 152 metres (500ft) tall and took more than 600 years – from 1248 to 1880 – to complete.

The Syrian hopes that in the coming years he can present his woodwork in other cities. Alkhudr wants to spread the message of what he sees as the cathedral's unifying symbolism elsewhere.

"For me, the cathedral is a home for all people," he said.

Check out the video above to see how Alkhudr made his incredible cathedral model

Video editor • Theo Farrant

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