Gross St. Martin is one of twelve Romanesque churches in Cologne. Thanks to its massive tower, the church is also one of the most imposing, and until the completion of the cathedral, it was one of the most important symbols of Cologne.A first church was built here in the 10th century, founded by the archbishop of Cologne, Bruno the Great. The church was built at the Rheinvorstadt, a small island in the Rhine that was shortly after joined to the mainland when a tributary of the Rhine was filled in.
The current building, dedicated to Saint Martinus, was constructed between 1150 and 1250 for the Benedictine order, after the earlier church was destroyed by a fire that ravaged the whole neighborhood. In the 15th century the original spire was replaced by a taller version.
Like most of Cologne, the church was heavily damaged during World War II. It was rebuilt shortly after the war, but it was not until 1985 before its reconstruction was fully completed.