Amazing Aachen!

June 8, 2012 at 3:35 pm 1 comment

Aachen has over 2000 years of history preserved in its architecture, its churches, its city plan, and in its historical records. It was wonderful to “walk in the footsteps” of Aachen’s pilgrims and early inhabitants. Tall ornate houses spanning centuries, many of which survived the various wars unscathed, standing next to modern buildings, which in turn stood adjacent to the ruins of a Roman bath. I could easily imagine the narrow winding streets filled with vendors and shoppers from the by-gone eras.

Aachen’s cathedral, a city jewel throughout the ages, stems from the time of Charlemagne and dominates the city square with its grandeur. While it has undergone centuries of renovations, several original structures, such as the inner octagon, columns and inner grill works, have survived since Charlemagne first commissioned the building. A cherished surviving artifact is the throne Charlemagne had built in anticipation of the second coming. A simple throne, but one of great significance as it was built from the marble slabs from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Prior to 1948 fewer than 50 people sat on the throne—30 kings of Germany and a few notables such as Napoleon and Josephine. Then shortly after the war, millions took their turn on the throne, a practice that was halted fifteen years ago when experts determined the wear and tear would destroy the throne within a couple of decades. So we had to be satisfied with having our picture taken a mere two feet from this historical (and to many, sacred) relic.

The cathedral’s latest glorious renovation occurred about 130 years ago and took 33 years to complete. Gold gilded mosaics adds a golden shimmer to the vaulted ceilings; frescos, statues, icons, and shrines are found everywhere throughout the cathedral. The shrine of Charlemagne (1182-1215) is a masterpiece of gold and silver reliefs depicting saints, scenes of his life, and he himself sits below Christ giving a blessing. This shrine holds the numerous bones of Charlemagne, who was elevated to sainthood shortly after his death. A second shrine, the Shrine of St. Mary (1220-1239) is reputed to hold four great relics including Christ’s loin loth, Christ’s swaddling clothes, as well as a decapitation cloth from John the Baptist. These shrines sit behind the alter for all to see and were (are) critical symbols of faith ensuring that Aachen’s cathedral remained a “must see” destination for devout believers throughout the ages. The cathedral and its treasurers were spectacular and awe-inspiring—I can fully understand how its splendor, its sheer size, and its symbols of faith offered centuries of believers hope for life everlasting. When standing beneath the vaulted ceiling and gazing at the alter, I wondered what symbols our generations will leave behind that will continue to inspire awe and will provide hints into our lives and beliefs.

Aachen is also home to a series of sulfur hot springs that has produced warm water since the time of Charlemagne. The city is dotted with numerous fountains, big, small, simple and elaborate, with some dating back to ancient times, others feature modern scenes or depict industry or life styles typical of the regional.  We visited the site of ancient baths and fountains where notables such as Handel, and King Pipin, (who visited in the year 753) came to Aachen to take the waters, dipping our hands into the warm water.

Aachen is where three countries come together—Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands—a modern city steeped in history, a must see for anyone visiting this area of Europe.

Aachen- the place where three countries come together.

Burkhard Gronwald testing the water in Aachen.


St. Charlemagne’s Shrine, Aachen


Cathedral Dome – Aachen









Entry filed under: Team Blog.

Kontrast Communications Danke schoen Willich

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. billrobson1  |  June 8, 2012 at 6:29 pm

    Wow, Marie. All your expectations seem to be coming to fruition.
    I am so happy for you.


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