Charlemagne (Charles the Great) based his Carolingian empire in Aachen. He was an 8th century king who became the first Holy Roman Emperor on Christmas Day in the year 800. Charlemagne wanted to emulate the old Roman Emperors in artistic style and one of the ways he did that is by building what is today known as the Palatine Chapel. He based its octagonal design on San Vitale in Ravenna, Italy (part of the AP Art History 250 & a city I was able to visit while studying abroad).
But that is only part of the church’s story: there have been many additions over the centuries, most notably the late Gothic choir known as the “Aachen glass house.” This “glass house” is aptly named. Built from 1355-1414, this part of the church is filled with stained glass of dizzying height and design. Apparently thee are 1,000 square meters of glass (I didn’t count to verify).
In addition to superb architecture, the church is a known pilgrimage site because it contains the bones of Charlemagne and it was the coronation location of the German-Roman kings from 936-1531. There four major relics from the time of Christ are:
- Clothing of the Virgin Mary
- Swaddling-clothes of baby Jesus
- The loincloth of Christ
- Decapitation cloth of John the Baptist
If you’re in to that kind of thing they display their four major spiritual items out on display every 7 years. The next pilgrimage year is 2021.