Aachen Cathedral

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Aachen Cathedral*
UNESCO World Heritage Site
The Cathedral in 2005.
State Party Flag of Germany Germany
Type Cultural
Criteria i, ii, iv, vi
Reference 3
Region Europe and North America
Inscription History
Inscription 1978  (2nd Session)
* Name as inscribed on World Heritage List.
Region as classified by UNESCO.

The Aachen Cathedral, frequently referred to as the "Imperial Cathedral" (in German: Kaiserdom) is a Roman catholic church in Aachen, western Germany. The church is the oldest cathedral in northern Europe and was known as the "Royal Church of St. Mary at Aachen" during the middle ages. For 600 years, from 936 to 1531, the Aachen cathedral was the church of coronation for 30 German kings and 12 queens.

The church became an episcopal seat in 1802 and remained so until 1825. In 1930 the diocese was reestablished.


[edit] Structure

Charlemagne began the construction of the Palatine Chapel in 786.

Floorplan of Charlemagne's palace chapel
Floorplan of Charlemagne's palace chapel

The cathedral obtained its present shape in the course of more than a millennium. The core of the Aachen cathedral is the Palatine Chapel; being surprisingly small in comparison to the later additions, at the time of its construction it was the largest dome north of the Alps. Its fascinating architecture with Classical, Byzantine and Germanic-Franconian elements is the essence of a monumental building of great importance.

In order to bear the enormous flow of pilgrims in the Gothic period a choir hall was built: a two-part Capella vitrea (glass chapel) which was consecrated on the 600th anniversary of Charlemagne's death. Ever since, the magnificent architecture of the "glass house" of Aachen has never stopped being admired. In 1978, it was one of the first 12 items to make the entry into the UNESCO list of world heritage sites, as the first German and one of the first three European historical ensembles.

[edit] Treasury

The Aachen cathedral treasury displays sacral masterpieces of the late Classical, Carolingian, Ottonian and Staufian period - among them there are some unique exhibits like the "Cross of Lothair" the "Bust of Charlemagne" and the "Persephone sarcophagus". The Cathedral Treasury in Aachen is regarded as one of the most important ecclesiastical treasuries in northern Europe.

[edit] Final Resting Place of Charlemagne

When he died in 814, he was buried in a vault in the cathedral.

In 1000, Otto III had Charlemagne's vault opened. It is said that the body was found in a remarkable state of preservation, seated on a marble throne, dressed in his imperial robes, with his crown on his head, the Gospels lying open in his lap, and his sceptre in his hand. A large picture representing Otto and his nobles gazing on the dead Emperor was painted on the wall of the great room in the Town Hall.

In 1165, Emperor Frederick Barbarossa again opened the vault and placed the remains in a sculptured sarcophagus made of Parian marble, said to have been the one in which Augustus Caesar was buried. The bones lay in this until 1215, when Frederick II had them put in a casket of gold and silver.

[edit] Shrine of the Virgin Mary

The Shrine of St Mary rests in the choir of the church and dates from 1220-1239. Adorned with the figures of Christ, Mary, Charlemagne, Pope Leo III and the Twelve Apostles, the shrine contains the four great Aachen relics: St. Mary's cloak, Christ's swaddling clothes, St. John the Baptist's beheading cloth and Christ's loincloth. Following a custom begun in 1349, every seven years the relics are taken out of the shrine and put on display during the Great Aachen Pilgrimage. This pilgrimage most recently took place during June 2007.

[edit] External links

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Coordinates: 50°46′29″N, 6°05′04″E

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