The Cathedral of Aachen is one of the most famous examples of occidental architecture. It is the coronation church of more than 30 German kings, burial site of Charlemagne, major pilgrimage church and cathedral church of the Aachen diocese since 1930. In 1978 it was the first German building to be included in the UNESCO World Heritage list.
When the Emperor Charlemagne built his representative “Pfalz”, the Palace, before 800, he started to make his dream of Aachen as a “new Rome” come true. The centrepiece of the Palace complex is its church, which was designed as an octagon according to the example of Byzantine palace churches. The height of its interior of more than 31 meters is a unique architectural achievement. Until the High Romanic period nobody managed to exceed this bold construction.
The Palace Chapel became the burial place of Charlemagne. From 936 onwards the Chapel has been used as the coronation place for the German kings for the following 600 years.
In 1002 the Emperor Otto III was also buried in Charlemagne’s Chapel. Since the Gothic period every seven years large numbers of pilgrims have come to Aachen for the occasion of the “Heiligtumsfahrt” (Holy Pilgrimage), in order to pay reverence to the four sacred relics.
From 1355 to 1414 the Gothic Choir Hall was built and added to Charlemagne’s construction. It was also called the “Glass House” of Aachen because of its huge glass windows. The Glass House forms the luminous shell for Charlemagne’s Shrine. Charlemagne had been canonised and his mortal remains have been contained in the Shrine.
During the 15th century most of the chapels that surround the central building were built. The Western Tower was another addition that was built during the late 19th century. For the first time under Napoleon’s rule Aachen becomes an Episcopal town. In modern times it has its own bishop since 1930.
Because it is the location of Charlemagne’s grave, the coronation place of the German kings and the destination of the Holy Pilgrimage, the Aachener “Marienkirche” (St Mary’s Church) has been appreciated and revered for many centuries. This clearly shows when you look at the large number of exhibits. The Cathedral Treasury is a unique witness of the venerable history of Charlemagne’s Palace Chapel. As ecclesiastical treasure the Cathedral Treasure has no equal apart from the Italian relics.References:
The Church of Our Lady before Týn is a dominant feature of the Old Town of Prague and has been the main church of this part of the city since the 14th century. The church's towers are 80 m high and topped by four small spires.
In the 11th century, this area was occupied by a Romanesque church, which was built there for foreign merchants coming to the nearby Týn Courtyard. Later it was replaced by an early Gothic Church of Our Lady before Týn in 1256. Construction of the present church began in the 14th century in the late Gothic style under the influence of Matthias of Arras and later Peter Parler. By the beginning of the 15th century, construction was almost complete; only the towers, the gable and roof were missing. The church was controlled by Hussites for two centuries, including John of Rokycan, future archbishop of Prague, who became the church's vicar in 1427. The roof was completed in the 1450s, while the gable and northern tower were completed shortly thereafter during the reign of George of Poděbrady (1453–1471). His sculpture was placed on the gable, below a huge golden chalice, the symbol of the Hussites. The southern tower was not completed until 1511, under architect Matěj Rejsek.
After the lost Battle of White Mountain (1620) began the era of harsh recatholicisation (part of the Counter-Reformation). Consequently, the sculptures of 'heretic king' George of Poděbrady and the chalice were removed in 1626 and replaced by a sculpture of the Virgin Mary, with a giant halo made from by melting down the chalice. In 1679 the church was struck by lightning, and the subsequent fire heavily damaged the old vault, which was later replaced by a lower baroque vault.
Renovation works carried out in 1876–1895 were later reversed during extensive exterior renovation works in the years 1973–1995. Interior renovation is still in progress.
The northern portal is a wonderful example of Gothic sculpture from the Parler workshop, with a relief depicting the Crucifixion. The main entrance is located on the church's western face, through a narrow passage between the houses in front of the church.
The early baroque altarpiece has paintings by Karel Škréta from around 1649. The oldest pipe organ in Prague stands inside this church. The organ was built in 1673 by Heinrich Mundt and is one of the most representative 17th-century organs in Europe.