Inside the Cathedral there are ten or so chapels but I looked at just two of them. The Chapel of St.Nicholas and St.Michael is adjoining the western facade of the cathedral. It was built in the 15th century with a neo-Baroque altarpiece in the chancel. This chapel was formerly burial place of the canons of Aachen Cathedral. The chapel is richly decorated with Gothic elements, especially altar and the fine gallery above it. There is a beautiful wall grave plate of Johann and Jacob Brecht, carved in marble and alabaster and adorned with family coat of arms. Both Johann and his nephew Jacob were canons in the Aachen cathedral.
Next to it is a small and simple Chapel of All Saints and All Souls which preserve a number of ancient wall grave plates.
Fountain of Charlemagne
History of Europe remembers him as Carolus Magnus, Karl der Grosse or Charlemagne (747-814), he was a king of the Franks and since 800 the Emperor of the Holly Roman Empire. Charlemagne chose Aachen for his capital and built in it a magnificent palace, from which, unfortunately, little has been preserved.
The first of several war campaign Charlemagne started in 772 against Saxons, and the war lasted thirty years. That war was the Second Crusade, because it was led to suppress the local pagan religions. In this long campaign Franconian army suppressed the pagan "sacred tree", and thus proved the superiority of Christianity.
The second campaign was against the Lombards, lasted briefly and was very successful. This war Charlemagne actually led with a clear objective, to save the crown for his newborn son. The children of his uncle Carloman (who was ordained in Italy) lived with their mother, who was Princess of Lombardy, in the city of Pavia, which at that time was the seat of the Kingdom of Lombardy. Charlemagne ordered to kill them all.
In his third campaign Charlemagne was defeated. He attacked Spain and came all the way to Barcelona, however, the Basques were completely destroyed his army in the north, which was intended to protect the hinterland of the bulk of military forces and Charlemagne was forced to withdraw.
The last war was in 788, against the Avars, which his army completely defeated and after it Charlemagne rounded his kingdom from Danube to the Atlantic Ocean and from Barcelona to the Baltic Sea. Military and political successes have enabled Charlemagne to be declared the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire and thus made him the main patron of the Christianity in Europe. He had a dominant role in the Christian world, and were believed to have divine mission as the protector of the faith and the papacy.
Fountain of Charlemagne stands in the middle of Marktplatz, it was cast in Dinant/Belgium in 1620. Charlemagne is wearing knight's armor, crown, orb and sceptre.
Ponttor was built in the 14th century, as a part of the outer city walls, and along with Marchiertor represents the only surviving city gates, out of four gates as there used to be. It was constructed as three stock tower castle, possessed with army and ammunition that guarded the entrance into the "Free Imperial City of Aachen".
Ponttor features "portcullis" a heavy vertically-opening gate on its south side, a bridge passage with crenelations, spanned moat and was strengthened in the fore gate with two barbicans. The gate was protected by the by the free imperial city guards, referred by the locals as "Pennsoldaten. The inner arch of the fore gate is adorned with the statue of Mary, patron saint of the main gate.
Today Ponttor serves as hall of residence for students at the Catholic University of Applied Sciences of Aachen, and as the seat of German Scout Club Saint George.
There used to be two rings of the city walls around Aachen, first one built in 1172 at the behest of Emperor Barbarossa, while the outer ring began at the end of the 13th century. It is interesting that nowadays, in the same positions where used to stands the city walls, have been built two rings of roads surrounding the nuclear of the city core, with which the vehicles may enter into the city.
Ponttor actually means the gate on the bridge (Bridge Gate), which implies that there is a river, however, in its position today there is no water surface. Aachen has many rivers and streams but none are in the vicinity of the Ponttor. The name comes from the Latin word "pons" (bridge) and all that area was called Ponttor even before the gate was built.
Dom - Nartex
The Narthex is an architectural element that is often used in early Christian and Byzantine basilicas. It has a lobby which usually stands on the west side of the nave, the opposite of the altar. The uniqueness of narthex is in the fact that it is an integral part of the overall construction of a whole, but it alone is not part of the church.
The main purpose of narthex was to allow those not eligible for admittance into the congregation, particularly catechumens and penitents, to hear and partake in the service. Often in narthex was baptistery with the baptismal water, so that the rite of confirmation took place in this area.
In narthex of the Aachener Dom there are two sculptures, one representing She-wolf from 2nd century and a large Pinecone dating from 1000s, which may have decorated a fountain.
Pennsoldat - Schnitzender
By edict of Charlemagne, Aachen was a Free Imperial City and the city was protected by free imperial urban soldiers and urban militias. They protected both inner and outer walls and in particularly the four city gates. The locals colloquially but also affectionately called them "Pennsoldaten" or "Schnitzenders". The free imperial urban soldiers got the nickname Pennsoldaten because they used to enhance their salaries by carving wooden studs (pinnchen) for the soles and shoes.
In front of the Marching Gate was placed a bronze sculpture that reproduces the appearance of the former city guard, ie Pennsoldaten.
It was a coincidence that my taxi driver drove first to the wrong Ibis hotel and we casually stumbled around this old city gate in the southern part of the city center. I took the picture from the vehicle and remembered its position, which is pretty close to the railway station. The next morning I went there on foot and made other pictures.
The gate is called Marchiertor (Marching Gate) and is part of the outer city walls, built in the 13th century. The inner ring of the walls was built in 1172, at the behest of Emperor Barbarossa. Work of the outer walls began at the end of the 13th century. Marching Gate was built between 1257 and 1300 and was one of the four main gates, the south gate to the town of Aachen.
In WW II the gate was heavily damaged and was only partly repaired after the war ended. In 1964 it was built up for the carnival group "Oechner Penn" and since then is in service to the local carnival.
Dom - interior
A basic feature of the interior is octagonal plan of the nave and richly decorated walls, arches and the dome with the frescoes, which reminds to Byzantine style of interior decorations in the churches. It is known that the architect was inspired by the Church of San Vitale in Ravenna/Italy, but it is not the only reason that the church has octagonal plan.
Charlemagne placed special significance on the number eight. An octagon can me made by drawing two intersecting squares within a circle. We know that the circle represents God's eternity, while the square represents the secular world. Charlemagne saw the number eight as symbolizing the power of Franks and Roman Empire, the power of both the secular and religious world.
The Imperial Palatine Chapel, octagonal in shape, is a central part of the Cathedral surrounded by an aisle and tribunes above and roofed with a dome. During the mass the emperor was sitting in the gallery, which is facing the altar. On the west side of the gallery there is an atrium with a portico that leads to the imperial apartments.
St. Michael kirche
St.Michael's church was built in 1628 for the Jesuit Collegium of Aachen and after the order was abolished in 1773 it become a Catholic parish church. Today it is a church of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Germany, and it official name is Church of Archangel Michael - St.Dimitrios. The location of the church is in Jesuitenstrasse.
Jesuits came to Aachen in 1579, left the city in 1581 and came back again in 1600. The construction of the church began in 1618 and was completed in 1628. After dissolution of the Jesuit order the church was closed and converted into a granary, during the Napoleonic rule of the city. In 1987 the Greek Orthodox Community purchased the building . Due to a good acoustics the church is recently used for concerts of choirs and orchestras.
The building has typical basilica plan and is oriented to the northwest. It is built in Mannerist style and is attributed to Baroque architect Christoph Wamser , however, the facade remained unfinished until 1891. The niches at the front facade used to be adorned with small statues but they were stolen. Orthodox paintings in the interior were added in 1997 and 2002.
Granusturm dating from 788 and it is the oldest surviving section of the former Imperial palaces. Then the tower reached a height of 20 meters and had a total of four floors, two floors at the top were added in the 14th century, when the tower was incorporated in Rathaus. The tower spire has been repeatedly torn down, as a result of the war distractions or fire, the present one dates back to 1979.
Through the history the tower was called with various names, Turris Regia or Saltorn, because it was connected with King's Hall. From the Renaissance it is called Granus Tower because at that time it was thought that was built on the remains from Roman era on the site where was the house in which Granus Serenus lived (brother of Emperor Nero), who is regarded as the founder of the city of Aachen.
Tower has an extremely demanding construction, unique at that time, and today there is no similar towers that were built in the early Middle Ages. It is interesting that the tower is not mentioned in any of the surviving text from Charlemagne era, so it is widely speculated what was its purpose. Assumptions are that it is constructed as a defense, residental or treasury tower. From its highest windows can not be monitored the environment, the rooms in the tower were not lit and the doors not specifically secured, and all that leads to the question.
Through the history the tower served as the city archives, for the city guard and even for a prison. Today it is closed to the public.
Charlemagne was a big fan of Italian architecture, it is known that he was fascinated with Rome and when in 786 began building of Palatine Chapel, he actually started to realize dream of making Aachen a "new Rome". The job of design and construction of the cathedral he entrusted to Odo of Metz, who based it on the Byzantine church of San Viatle in Ravenna. The construction began in 793 and was completed in 810. Palatine Chapel makes the central nucleus of the cathedral which was consecrated in 805, to serve as the Imperial Church. By will of Pope Leo II in 800, Charlemagne was crowned in the Cathedral as "Imperator Romanorum", the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. Charlemagne. Regarded by many as the "Father of Modern Europe", Charlemagne died in 814 and was buried in the Cathedral.
Charlemagne actually built the entire complex of imperial palaces, which stretched from today's cathedral to the Rathaus (the City Hall)......
A very pleasant introduction to Aachen
I had just arrived in Aachen and it was my first return to Germany for a few years and so naturally a celebratory beer was called for. I decided upon the Cafe Bistro 33 for no better reason that it was the first place I set eyes on and it looked tidy enough from the outside.
I walked in and ordered a large beer in my absolutely appalling German and a bit of pointing but fortunately the very pleasant lady behind the bar spoke pretty good English. As the outside appearance and name suggested, the inside was clean and tidy and appeared to be part bar and part restaurant. About the only thing missing were patrons who numbered three guys sitting at the bar drinking beer. In fairness it was quite early on a midweek evening so maybe it gets busier at other times. Fortunately the gentleman sitting beside me spoke reasonable English and so we ended up having a pleasant conversation with the barmaid, all very convivial. The lovely lady even furnished me with local travel directions and a tip about getting a taxi from the station rather than flagging one down in the street as I was more likely to get ripped off that way. She even described the route he should take and roughly how much it should cost.
After a couple of beers it was time to go as I had a hotel to book into and a VT meet to go to and so I left fully intending to come back at some point in the weekend. Regrettably, that idea never actually came to fruition for various reasons but it shall certainly be my first port of call on my intended return to Aachen.
- Wine Tasting
- Food and Dining
- Beer Tasting
Elisenbrunnen (Elisabeth's well or fountain) is one of the most famous city sights of Aachen but to me it wasn't in particularly attractive. The fountain, built in 1820s, was named after Elisabeth Ludovika of Bavaria, who was married to the crown prince and later King of Prussia, Friedrich Wilhem IV.
At the front side of the pavilion there are several passages that leads to the back of which is a beautiful city park named Elisengarten.
Elisengarten (Elisabeth's Garden) is just around the pavilion, close to the cathedral, and it is a favorite meeting and relaxing place for the locals, who enjoy sitting or lying in its green environment. Thick greenery of tall trees, around the park, form a very pleasant and refreshing shade, especially on hot days. There is a bar, overlooking park, where one can enjoy in sipping cold drinks.
In the central part of the park there is construction of an metal pavilion that arched ruins from the ancient days of Aachen. Excavations are layered remains of buildings, some of which date back from two thousand years or even older age. Aachen is abundant with healing thermal waters so that the first settlement was built here five thousand years ago.
Aachen City Hall
The City of Aachen started building its City Hall at the beginning of the 14th century on the foundations of Charlemagne's old palace, which by that time was in ruins.
Ordinarily it is possible to visit the Coronation Hall, where German kings and queens used to be crowned in the medieval times, but I still have not managed to do this. During my 2009 visit the hall was closed for repairs, in 2012 I didn’t do much of anything in Aachen besides get off the bus and onto the train, and in 2015 I arrived too late in the day to see the Coronation Hall or the nearby museums.
- Historical Travel