Aachen Cathedral, Germany 2017
On August 9th, 2017; I explored the Aachen Cathedral on the German and Belgium Border.
Aachen Cathedral was the very first site to be granted UNESCO World Heritage status in Germany, and with good reason: built in around 790 to 800, the cathedral is of world importance in terms of the history of art and architecture, and is one of the great examples of church architecture. The final resting place of Charlemagne, it was also where German emperors were crowned for 600 years.
Charlemagne’s ambition was to create a new Rome when he made Aachen the center of his empire in around 800. The imperial palace’s chapel – the oldest part of the cathedral today – was to be the religious center. The mighty octagonal domed building is now thought to have been built in a mere ten years or so. A unifying architectural masterpiece, it brought together forms from the eastern and western parts of the Holy Roman Empire. Charlemagne was buried in the Palatine chapel following his death in 814. His sarcophagus can be found in the Gothic chancel, near to the still-intact imperial throne.
Not many years ago, the German photographer Hermann Weisweiler discovered by accident some remarkable features in the cathedral at Aachen, west of Boon. Waiting for favorable sunlight to photograph the interior of the Octagon Chapel he was startled to notice a ray of sunlight suddenly burst in through a window. Intrigued, he made a closer study of the way that sunshine illuminated the interior of this historic chapel, pictured above, construction of which started in 786 AD on the orders of the great Frankish emperor Charlemagne. It was to be the sacred heart of his capital city.
The photographer found that on Summer Solstice sunlight entering through the eastern octagon window would light up the crowned head of the emperor as he sat up his throne, (shown below). At the equinoxes, sunbeams falling at other angles also bathed the throne in light, suggesting that the architects had employed sophisticated astronomical knowledge to stage-manage mystical lighting effects for their emperor. From this story, I had to visit “The Aachen Cathedral”.