Aachen Cathedral is not only the Episcopal Church of Aachen, but also the city's landmark. As the first German cultural monument, the cathedral was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978. The cathedral is already over 1200 years old and in the course of time it has been influenced by different stylistic epochs. The patron saint of the church is Mary, the Mother of God.
Many believers come to Aachen every year to visit the bones of Charlemagne, the builder of the church, and the Aachen shrines. The cathedral treasury is also worth a visit. There, ecclesiastical cultural treasures from different eras, an arm relic of Charlemagne and a golden bust are on display. In contrast to the rest of the cathedral, you have to pay an entrance fee for the cathedral treasury. The guided tours are also subject to a fee.
Charlemagne wanted to create an image of the Heavenly Jerusalem with the church in Aachen in the 8th century. After about 20 years of construction, the cathedral was completed in 803. In the course of the centuries some additions and alterations were made. For example, the Pala d'Óro, which is still visible today, dates back to the early 11th century. These are plates of gold plate that decorate the main altar with their artistic relief. The impressive Barbarossa chandelier with its eight corners was added around 1165, when Frederick I, also known as Barbarossa, had Charlemagne canonised.
The Charlemagne shrine and the four Aachen shrines
The 13th century then saw the peak of Charlemagne's canonization. In 1215, the golden Charlemagne shrine was completed. It contains the bones of the emperor and can still be seen in the cathedral today. In 1239 the shrine of the Virgin Mary was erected. The four Aachen shrines are kept there: Mary's dress from the Holy Night, the napkin of Jesus, John the Baptist's beheading cloth and Jesus' loincloth. Because the shrines in particular brought more and more believers and pilgrims to Aachen over the years, the cathedral became a pilgrimage church.
The Glass House of Aachen
In the 15th century, chapels were built around the structure. The choir hall is the largest and is also called the "Glass House of Aachen" because of its many colourful stained glass windows. On the upper floor of the church is the throne, better known as Charlemagne's Throne. Between 936 and 1531, Roman-German emperors were crowned there and appointed successors to Charlemagne.
Severe destruction during the city fire
In 1656, St. Mary's Church was heavily destroyed in the city fire. In the 18th century, the age of baroque, the cathedral was then changed. Instead of mosaics, the church was painted white. It was not until the middle of the next century that attempts were made to restore the original appearance. In 1930 the church became a cathedral and Aachen became a diocese again. During the 2nd World War the church was hardly destroyed, thanks to the young people from Aachen. They joined together to form a fire brigade just for the cathedral and thus prevented worse.
How to get there
You can reach the city centre in about 15 minutes via all Aachen motorways. The car parks in the city centre are signposted. The parking garage at the cathedral is only about 3 minutes away from the main entrance of the cathedral and costs about 2 euros per hour. The parking garage at the Annastrasse is about 5 minutes away from the cathedral and a bit cheaper.