Monday, 23 July 2012

Aachen - Charlemagne's domain

The medieval city of Aachen lies just over the border from Belgium into Germany. It was famous in the time of the Celts due to the hot springs which were transformed into thermal baths when the Romans arrived.
It came to further prominence when Charlemagne, the Holy Roman Emperor, made it the capital of his empire. It is also the International Equestrian Centre of Germany, we all know how very successful the German team are at dressage and jumping from seeing them at the Olympic Games. Another claim to fame is a special type of cake which looks like a biscuit known as Aachener Printen, made with honey and sold in many specialist shops.
One of the two remaining city gates
All of the German towns and cities we visited had lots of very impressive sculptures. This one is called the Circulation of Money. It shows beggars, bankers, moneylenders, a father teaching thriftiness - a topical subject for today. The water whirls around the pool where it then disappears down a hole in the centre.
Charlemagne's signature
These bronze buttons are all over the pavements in the town. When Charlemagne visited the Eastern Roman Empire, the Byzantine elites were amused by his rough barbarian dress and the stencil he used to sign his name.
Aachen Cathedral, church of Charlemagne, coronation church, pilgrimage church, UNESCO World Cultural Heritage.
The cathedral's present appearance has evolved over 1200 years. Around the year 800, the octagon with the cupola, the core building of the Palace Chapel was completed. In the 14th and 15th centuries, the gothic choir was erected. The Hungarian Chapel and the Portico were added in the 18th century.
Charlemagne's core building - the octagon. The first post-classical cupola to be constructed north of the Alps. The upper stories are decorated with classical pillars. 
The Barbarossa chandelier (c 1165) symbolises the New Jerusalem. Gifted from Emperor Frederick 1 Barbarossa and his wife Beatrix.
Beautiful mosaic work throughout the octagon, predominately using gold, blue and green.
Apart from the shrine of Charlemagne, the most important treasure in the church is this shrine of the Virgin Mary. A reliquary containing four significant relics which are all linked to biblical narratives: the apparel of the Virgin Mary, the so-called swaddling clothes, the loincloth of Christ, and the decapitation cloth of John the Baptist. Since 1239 the relics have been kept inside this shrine. They are taken out every 7 years, the next Aachen pilgrimage being in June 2014.
The Hungarian Chapel (Ungarische Kapelle) is for the use of Hungarian pilgrims and was endowed by King Louis 1 of Hungary and Poland; an inscription dates its consecration to 1367. However, today's baroque chapel dates back to 1767.
Statue of Charlemagne who apparently was very tall with red hair. His great success in battle was founded on the fact that he invented the stirrup. In battle his men were not knocked off their horses when they were attacked with a lance.

32 comments:

  1. Hello Rosemary:
    What a most welcome and beautifully written and illustrated post this is for it brings back, as if it were only yesterday, the visit we made to Aachen now many years ago. Since that time we have only skirted the edges on a Eurolines bus!

    It certainly is a most attractive city and one which contains a wealth of buildings and items of interest as you show here. We must return, and soon!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Jane and Lance - so pleased that this post should bring back memories of your own trip to Aachen.
      I must admit that we knew absolutely nothing at all about Aachen until our arrival, apart from it being at the centre of Charlemagne's empire. However, that is the joy of travelling and discovering new places.
      We found Germany so unexpected in many ways. We had no idea that their architecture, particularly with regard to their churches, was so magnificent.

      Delete
  2. Everything seems so beautifully kept there. That Barbarossa chandelier is very handsome; I think it would be easy to steal a few design ideas from it.

    I would love to go inside those city gates--it intrigues me to know what could be behind those windows, especially those rows of small red ones at the top. Is there any access to visitors?
    --Road to Parnassus

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We sat for a long time admiring the Barbarossa chandelier and the surrounding mosaics trying to take it all in.
      There were (11) 13th century gates built in the city walls. Originally it was a garrison so the top rooms in the roof would have been dormitories and storage for the guards. It is known as the Marching Gate (Marschiertor). It now belongs to a traditional carnival society, and it is used for festivities having room for 200 guests.

      Delete
  3. Replies
    1. Thank you - and glad you enjoyed it.

      Delete
  4. Dear Rosemary, Your beautiful photographs and accompanying text makes me realize how much we miss when we travel to Europe. Often, we don't stop to appreciate the many treasures we encounter.
    Thank you for the reminder to slow down a bit because it is the details that make this world a most special place. ox, Gina

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Gina - it always surprises me how many lovely places we encounter on our travels that beforehand we know so little about. Once discovered they become more like old friends. We were in Germany for such a short time really but discovered so much that was of great interest to us.

      Delete
  5. Such a fescinating description and wonderful photographs...it makes me regret not visiting Aachen when in Europe.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Isn't that always the case. We often do not know enough about the treasurers that are on our own doorstep. However, as I get older I find the need to know more about the world I live in becomes urgent. I want to know our history, and to understand it.

      Delete
  6. As always, wonderful photography and information about the places you visit. Thankyou for sharing this one. This is somewhere I have never been, and as often has happened with your posts, I now add it to my list. I hope you continue to have a good time on your travels. J.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Janice - sometimes it is difficult to sum a place up because there is so much history, art and architecture to see. The places we visited in Germany were all very interesting and had so much history attached to them that I wondered why it had taken us so long to visit.

      Delete
  7. Never new about the treasure's of Aachen. I was 15 when I visited it on a schoolholiday. When I visiting again I know now where to look for. Great blog Rosemary.
    Have a great evening.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Marijke - when we are young teenagers I guess that our interests are not quite the same as when we are older. Even so, I am sure that you will remember the charm of Aachen, it has such a very pleasant ambience.

      Delete
  8. I have been to Aachen a few times but it has been a while. Looking at your pictures, I will have to go back soon. It is very beautiful.

    Greetings,
    Filip

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Filip - I am sure that you too have fond memories of Aachen. There is so much to see that it really does require more visits in order to see all that is on offer. There was so much that we did not have time to do.

      Delete
  9. I did enjoy reading your post about Aaachen and the mosaic work looks amazing!
    Sarah x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you sarah - apparently the mosaics have been under wraps for years undergoing restoration, and only recently revealed, so we were fortunate to see the completed work.

      Delete
  10. Aachen seems like an important medieval city time did not forget. I love it's rich history and modern vibrancy. Did not know it is the International Equestrian Centre of Germany.....my riding friends will want to know this. Thanks for the sharing more of your trip, Rosemary.
    Cheers,
    Loi

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Loi- with its strong link to Charlemagne, a name in itself which conjures up joisting medieval knights, it has a very long and illustrious history. Although damaged during the war, Germany has repaired and renewed itself to exactly as it was previously.

      Delete
  11. The octagon does look very Byzantine, and every time I see mosaics of this sort, I get a strong itch to do some mosaics too. Despite his attire, Charlemagne sounds as though he would have been a pretty impressive sight

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am sure that he was an impressive sight Mark, which no doubt helped him control his huge empire. He conquered France down to the Pyrenees and into northern Spain. He crossed the Rhine and conquered Germany, Switzerland and Austria, even into modern Hungary. To the north he conquered Belgium, and also the Lombards in northern Italy. He was considered a barbarian but he established a real court at his palace in Aachen with a palace school, and built lots of buildings such as the wonderful cathedral.

      Delete
  12. Very interesting, thanks for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. European history never ceases to amaze me, you are never done learning about new things. Glad you found it interesting.

      Delete
  13. I had no idea Aken(Aachen) and Karel de Grote(Charlemagne) had so much to do with another. I had never see his statue either. Funny to see those bronze buttons. They did somehow look familiar but it was only by reading further that I realized: We have the same buttons on the pavements here but they have hopbells on them, not Charlemagnes signature ;-)
    Bye,
    Marian

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am sure that you are much more familiar with Charlemagne than I am. He did take Belgium into his empire. It is interesting that you have bronze buttons on your pavements - what is the significance of the hopbells on them. Is it anything to do with making beer?

      Delete
  14. Always a visual feast, Rosemary. Just exquisite. So often it is like popping into a favourite museum for a different perspective, and here I am, considering Charlemagne. Hmmmm. Thank you, as always, for a fabulous post.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Last month I knew very little about Charlemagne, now I know a bit more. I know even less about his vast empire. There is always tomorrow.

      Delete
  15. A stunningly illustrated and very interesting post, Rosemary. Aachan was always just somewhere I went through on the train from Ostend to Hamburg, but I now see I should try to visit it one day.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Perpetua - that is exactly the same experience of Aachen that H had in his youth. He said he had no idea what a wonderful city it was as he passed through on the train. I knew nothing about Aachen either apart from the Charlemagne link, so we were both delighted with our discovery.

      Delete
  16. Rosemary, your post was so interesting to me as i have not visited the same places as you. it's always an adventure to see/learn about our world through this magnificent internet!! thank you for sharing your travels!
    ^)^ linda (knitter/retired band director from Iowa/USA)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Linda - thank you for your visit and I am so pleased that you enjoyed reading about Aachen. It was our first visit and we were charmed by it. You are right we can learn so much from other bloggers and the internet.

      Delete

❖PLEASE NOTE❖ Comments made by those who hide their identity will be deleted

“You can't stay in your corner of the forest waiting for others to come to you - you have to go to them sometimes”
― A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh