Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Name that Chapel - Charlemagne's Chapel at Aachen

 Altar panel depicting the four most precious relics of Charlemagne's Chapel at Aachen

This chapel was built by Charlemagne and consecrated in 805 AD by Pope Leo III, the same pope who had crowned Charlemagne as the first Holy Roman Emperor five years before.   Charlemagne had visited an old Roman bath built over hot springs nearby, and liked it so much he decided to make this town in the Rhine valley his capital.   The richly decorated chapel is considered a masterpiece of Carolingian architecture, as well as an engineering marvel, as it was the tallest building to be built in Europe for many centuries.  Charlemagne is buried here, and his successors were crowned here for 600 years.

This is a very good year to visit Charlemagne's chapel for two big reasons.  2014 is the 1200th anniversary of Charlemagne's death, and there are lots of exhibitions in town to celebrate Charlemagne and Carolingian culture.  More importantly, 2014 is a "Heiligtumsfahrt" year.  Every seven years, the Cathedral which was built around Charlemagne's chapel takes its four most precious relics out of their reliquary for display.  This practice has been carried on for nearly 700 years, and from the beginning many people have been making a "Heiligtumsfahrt" or "holy pilgrimage" to view them.  The relics are the robe of Mary, the swaddling cloth of Jesus, the beheading cloth of St. John the Baptist, and Jesus' loincloth.  The holy relics will be displayed this year from June 20 - June 29.

If you go, please send me a postcard.

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