The Ursulines came from Liège, Beligum to Cologne in 1639 during the Thirty Years’ War. It was not until 1651 that they received approval to permanently reside in Cologne and build the first secondary school for girls in Germany. In 1671, they purchased a property in the Machabäerstrasse. The property bordered the medieval city border, today known as “Unter Krahnenbäumen” and opposite the Hochschule für Musik und Tanz Köln.
The foundation for the convent was laid in 1673, during which time the base of a roman sanctuary was uncovered as well as five alters consecrated to female deities. Construction on the abbey “ad cultum Divinum et honorem Venerabilis Sacramenti” first began at the beginning of the 18th century. Johann Wilhelm, the Duke of Berg and Elector Palatine, and his second wife, Anna Maria Luisa de’Medici from Tuscany, were devoted patrons of the Ursulines and granted them use of their palace architect, the Venetian Matteo Conte d’Alberti.
Save for the outer walls and the triumphal arch, the church was completely destroyed during the Second World War. Church services were finally resumed in 1954 after ten years of construction. In 1999, the Archdiocese of Cologne assumed control of the church from the Ursulines. Extensive restoration work immediately began. The recreation of the color scheme of the architecture on the inside and outside was done according to the original design by Matteo Alberti. The transfer of the Columba Baldachin Altar (1703) from St. Gereon to the Ursulinenkirche in 2003 significantly enhanced the effect of the room.
That same year, the Hochschule für Musik und Tanz Köln commissioned an organ by Jürgen Ahrend that was designed specifically for the church. It was a north German baroque style organ. The recreation of the organ using historic designs and the restoration of the church was the result of collaborative efforts by the Archdiocese General Viceroy, the Rector of the Ursuline School, and the Ministry for Science and Research in North Rhine-Westphalia.
Since the consecration of the organ on May 15, 2003, the Hochschule für Musik und Tanz Köln has used the church as an instruction and event venue. In addition to university professors, guests at the May concerts included Gustav Leonhardt, Jean-Claude Zehnder, and Harald Vogel.
Fronleichnamskirche der Ursulinen