Aachen has a place of Pilgrimage and Royal Coronations

Aachen cathedral Dom

Staying near Bonn, we decided to take an hour’s drive to the Aachen Cathedral or Dom, which was founded 800 a.D. by Charlemagne “Charles the Great” and is today a UNESCO World Heritage site.

This historic and glamorous building is an emblem of Aachen and a landmark in occidental architecture

Aachener Dom mit Pfalzkapelle, Nordseite (per Wikimedia)

Around 800 AD., Charlemagne built a major imperial palace in Aachen with the Palatine chapel with today’s Aachen Cathedral as its center. The cathedral was inspired by the churches of the Eastern part of the Holy Empire and was greatly enlarged in the Middle Ages.

The interior of the Aachen Cathedral is punctuated on the lower level by round arches set on eight pillars, and on the upper level by a gallery with eight Carolingian bronze gates.

The Chapel is embellished by antique columns that Charlemagne probably ordered to be brought from Rome and Ravenna. Despite the subsequent additions, the Palatine Chapel constitutes a homogeneous nucleus.

Aachen Cathedral lay-out (per Wikimedia)
Aachen Cathedral lay-out (per Wikimedia)

Due to its great significance for history of both art and architecture, Aachen cathedral was the first German historical monument admitted to the UNESCO World Heritage List of cultural values in 1978.

The high Dome gathers light from eight open-arched windows. It was originally mostly covered with a large mosaic depicting Christ Enthroned, in purple robes and surrounded by the Elders of the Apocalypse. Today’s mosaic dates back to 1880/1881

In the year 2000, the cathedrals 1200th anniversary commemorated the completion of this church a s a place of pilgrimage and royal coronations, as an emblem of the city and a landmark in occidental architecture. Read more about the history of the Aachen Cathedral on the UNESCO Heritage website

Karlschrein, Charlemagne casket from 1182 and 1215 (photo by Wikimedia)

Karlschrein, Charlemagne shrine with parts of his skeleton (1182 and 1215)

The Legend of the Devil and the Maiden

At the time of the construction of the Aachen Cathedral, the citizens of Aachen were in trouble paying for the church, so they turned to the devil. In exchange for money to the complete of the church, they exchanged the soul of the first person that entered the cathedral.

But the citizens were not people who carelessly dealt with human life, so the first thing they had enter the cathedral was a wolf. The devil, who did not know this, took the soul from the wolf and left the cathedral angry and raging.

Aachen Cathedral Wolfstür

Since he slammed the door of the cathedral very violently, he tore off one of his fingers. It is said that this finger has remained on the right door in front of the cathedral to this day. After this incident, the devil decided to take sand from the north and thus bury the city of Aachen

When he paused on his way back from the North, he met an old woman and asked her: “Is it still far to Aachen?” The woman replied: “Have a look at my shoes. I put the new shoes on when I left Aachen and they are already worn out. Aachen is very far away”

The devil, who then thought Aachen is so far away, thought it would be dumb to carry the sand any further. He unloaded it there and walked away. In reality however, Aachen was only a stone’s throw away.

The elder woman had noticed that the man who she talked to had a horse’s foot (a special characteristic of the devil) and therefore told a lie. The place where the devil dumped the sand was called Lousberg, and it became a hill that is still popular with the people of Aachen.

The devil and a maiden in Aachen (per Wikimedia)

Today there is a bronze statue that shows the old woman and the devil, that reminds you of the wisdom of the woman who protected Aachen. Footprints of horse hooves are left on the sidewalk.

Adress and visiting hours:

Aachener Dom, Domhof 1, 52062 Aachen
April – Dezember: 7:00 – 19:00 Uhr
Januar – März: 7:00 – 18:00 Uhr