Aquae Grannie was the name the Romans gave to the thermal baths. These very springs are the reason the Romans
founded a military camp here. Prior to
the Romans, the Celts had already appreciated the springs. Charlemagne was so delighted with the baths
that he made Aachen the capital of his empire and with the Cathedral/Palace
Chapel gave to the Occident one of its most important monuments.
The real treasure of Aachen is the hot springs. According to legend, Charlemagne himself
came upon the ruins of a Roman bath.
After returning from a gruelling battle, he found the waters so
refreshing that he decided to make the place his favourite residence. The decision resulted in Aachen becoming one
of the most important cities of the Occident, since the King of the Franks was
the sole ruler of central Europe. His
coronation was considered to be the restoration of the Western Roman Empire and
he was viewed as God’s representative on earth.
The Aachen Cathedral was one of the first buildings to be listed in the
UNESCO Heritage Site Register in 1978, and the first German site. More or less successful attempts are made to
find adjectives to express the beauty of the Cathedral. These efforts are not necessary – it is
quite enough just to imagine what the impression was at the time it was built,
surrounded by houses barely taller than a human being. Charlemagne recruited architects from Italy,
because at the time practically no one north of the Alps had ever seen such a
magnificent building. The true beauty
of the Cathedral is to be seen from the interior. Awaiting the visitor is a mystical atmosphere which will
transport him to time long gone. You
can almost sense the breath of the most powerful European of all times. The architecture of the cathedral gives
evidence to Charlemagne’s self-image as
the legitimate successor to the Byzantine Emperor. The models for the Aachen Cathedral were obviously the sacral
buildings in Rome, Ravenna and Istanbul.
Entering the building the visitor is overwhelmed by the thick
columns. The massive pillars give the
visitor the feeling that he is small and unimportant. It takes time to comprehend the number of columns and to realize
that their positioning is of central importance. As in Rome and Ravenna, the columns of the dome are arranged in
an octagon in order to replicate the ideal circle of the early Christians and
Muslims. The effect is increased by an
encircling aisle which doubles the angles and the columns to 16.
After the canonization of Charlemagne in 1165, the circular building was
enlarged in the east/west axis. On the
east side, a gothic choir and a new entrance were erected; on the west side
opposite, the high choir. Here you will
find the throne and a glass shrine with the venerable relics of
Charlemagne. Whoever was in possession
of Charlemagne’s throne ruled the kingdom.
It was thus no coincidence that for over 600 years 30 German kings took
their places on this throne. Friedrich
Barbarossa had Charlemagne canonized and thus the Cathedral of Aachen became a
pilgrimage site for Christians.
The late canonization of Charlemagne was not entirely unselfish. It was intended to reinforce the rights of
his successors to the throne as emperors of the Roman Empire. Thus Barbarossa placed himself in the line
of successors. A huge chandelier which
fits like a glove into the symmetry of the dome symbolizes to this very day his
claim to power. The form of the
chandelier reminds one of the towers and gates of a city wall – and for good
reason, as it is meant to represent the Kingdom of God, a fortress under the
dome-shaped heavens. The archangel Michael guards over the whole area from his
position on one of the chains supporting the chandelier. In reality, as in the entire building,
every detail is well thought out. All
the numbers and measurements are part of the cosmic system of numbers.
Although Friedrich Barbarossa’s claim to power – as with all other
rulers crowned in Aachen – could not be extended to what had been the kingdom
of Charlemagne, his aspirations are still visible in the engraving on the
chandelier. There it says: “Friedrich, the Emperor of the Holy Roman
Empire”. All in all, this part of the
cathedral is considered to be a perfect symmetrical construction, and the later
additions break the symmetry and would not have met Charlemagne’s approval.
Besides the Cathedral Treasure with its magnificent
collection of ecclesiastical works of art you should see the 700-year-old City
Hall, an impressive building from the mediaeval times. In the Emperor’s Court, many rulers were
crowned and participated in festive dinners.
In immediate vicinity of the Cathedral Treasure you find the two oldest preserved dwellings of
Aachen. The houses called
'Eulenspiegel' and 'Postwagen' orginate from 1657. Modern Aachen is famous for its universities and research
institutes and above all for the equitation.
The best reputed showjumping in the world takes place in Aachen and is
visited from many well-off Arab guests.
The Elise Fountain and the Baths in Art Deco style are symbols for the
fact that the healing springs never lost their attraction over all the
years. Aachen was the place to be in
the time of Kaiser Wilhelm. Earlier,
Casanova came here as did the kings of Prussia and the last Kaiser of Germany,
Wilhelm. The period of “cures” was
followed by the medicinal baths of the 21st century.
The medicinal spas in Burtscheid, the spa area of Monheimsallee, the
Carolus thermal baths and the Quellenhof spa complement the bath houses
constructed in the style of classicism and attract more than 10,000 patient to
the spas and healing waters yearly, a place already esteemed by the Romans and
Celts suffering from rheumatism and seeking to recover from endless marches.
For further informations contact:
Aachen Tourist Service
Postfach 10 22 51