Thursday, February 4, 2016

Aachen Cathedral - 30 Jan 2016

Interior of the Aachen Imperial Cathedral ceiling
We spent this Saturday in Aachen with 4 other senior couples. The Hemingways are military relations missionaries and were in Aachen to complete missionary apartment inspections Friday and spent the night so that they could join us. We all met at the Lindt Chocolate Factory outlet store (more about that in a bit). Aachen is an ancient city on the western border of Germany. In fact, there is a park about 20 minutes from the city center where you can stand on a spot where Belgium, the Netherlands, and Germany meet. Elder Newman was severely disappointed that we didn't make it there for a photo. Perhaps we can do that in better weather on another trip.

Other than the chocolate and cookie shopping, we really only saw the cathedral. That was okay. It is magnificent. Charles the Great or Charlemagne (742/748-814 AD) fancied himself the successor to the Roman emperors. He forged together a substantial sphere of influence and rule that is known to history as the Holy Roman Empire. In 768 he was crowned king of Franconia and Emperor of Rome in 800. He instituted reforms that helped stabilize and modernize the fading Roman Empire. Charles the Great built the octagonal cathedral in the 8th century. We didn't get a good picture of the exterior, but the octagonal "chapel" was completed around 800 AD. A large Gothic choir hall was added in 1414 that is now called Aachen's house of glass or something like that. It is beautiful inside, but suffered some bomb damage during World War II. A copper roof was added to the original Octagon Chapel in 1644. Smaller chapels were added at various times, and a tall tower was built in 1884.

We joined an English speaking tour. Our guide was a university student and had lots of information and was more than willing to answer questions. The major benefit of the tour was access to areas otherwise closed to visitors.
Model in the visitor's center

From left to right, tower, octagon, choir
It rained all day and was cold
Bronze entry doors more than 1200 years old

Close up of lion head door handle. Lion (representing the emperor or Christ as you please with a bone in its mouth -- supposed to belong to Satan
Octagon Chapel floor from balcony

Image of Mary and Christ child - 14th century and decorated with gifts, crowns and nearly 40 garments
The main altar has a gold altar piece from about 1020 AD that depicts the passion of Christ (immediate foreground)
Madonna suspended above the choir floor (1524)
13th century paintings on the wall of the choir are faded. They cannot be restored because this is a UNESCO world heritage site and rules forbid altering whatever remains - preservation but not restoration

Other bits of painting from the 1400s
Chandelier in the Octagon from about 1165 meant to symbolize the New Jerusalem
The golden ambo called the Pulpit of Emperor Henry II (before 1014)
Interior of the choir doesn't do the stained glass justice
Ceiling of the octagon depicts Christ coming again in glory- notice the red robe (Rev. 19:13)
Shrine of Mary
A few words about the Shrine shown above. It contains 4 relics that are supposed to be the "diaper" of the baby Jesus, the loin cloth Jesus wore when He washed the feet of His disciples, the dress of Mary, and the decapitation cloth of John the Baptist. The Shrine is an important work of goldsmith art from about 1200. Sister Kirk asked the tour guide if she had seen the relics. They are on display every 7 years, and in 2014 during the last pilgrimage year, 400,000 visitors passed by them. Janet asked the guide what she thought -- did she think the relics are authentic. The guide's first comment was "they stink." Then she said they are absolutely not authentic and have been dated to the 13th century. Well, many people nevertheless think they are significant.
Shrine of Charles the Great contains human bones believed to be Charlemagne's. He is bigger sitting than Pope Leo II and the Bishop or Rheims who are standing. Christ is above the emperor with His hand extended in blessing. The shrine was a political statement -- the secular rulers are bigger than the church.
The main level is fascinating and beautiful, but the gallery on the level above the Octagon was really interesting. The mosaics are beautiful, and it is the location of Charlemagne's throne. It is built of unadorned marble slabs held together with bronze clamps. The slabs were take from the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. It was originally built for the King of Heaven who will one day come down in glory. It is placed below where Christ is depicted descending on the ceiling of the dome. It is up 6 marble steps meant to be like Solomon's throne. From 936 to 1531, all legitimate kings and queens sat on this throne for their coronation. Jeff is overly fascinated by all of this history, but Janet just loves to see the artwork and architecture.
The throne with original Carolingian flooring surrounding it

Scratching on one side mark a game board for a game popular among Roman soldiers

Pillars create a space where visitors crawled under the throne to show their subservience to the king and to Christ
Mosaic work in the gallery

Mosaic in the gallery vault above the throne

Ceiling in a small chapel near the throne
The throne is very plain in comparison to the rest of the cathedral
We mentioned a visit to the Leibniz cookie factory outlet and the Lindt Chocolate Factory outlet store. They are across the street from each other. Hard to believe, but we came away with about $70 worth of cookies and chocolate. Most will be given away, but we will certainly eat some, too.
A busy place on a Saturday
We all got to pose with the golden Lindt horse

Elder and Sister Hemingway

Elder and Sister Stevens

Elder and Sister Jarrard
Aachen streets have lots of fountains
Printen is a type of Lebkuchen (similar to gingerbread)

Store windows were decorated for Fasnacht (Carneval)

This stuff is delicious. We may be sending some home for Christmas this year.
By Sven Teschke - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0 de,


  1. Is that a chocolate horse?! Yum!

    1. Unfortunately, the horse was fiberglass. But you could buy large chocolate rabbits wrapped in gold foil. They wouldn't let us take pictures in the store area where all the good stuff was on display.

  2. The chapel and stained glass are beautiful!

  3. The chapel and stained glass are beautiful!

    1. The pictures just don't do it justice. We would go back to visit with you guys.