|Head of Karl in the Schatzkammer|
Because it was less than an hour away on the train, I decided to go and see Aachen for myself. This is another spa town, by the way, people coming here for the sake of the mineral water as long as 5000 years ago.
|Outside Aachen station in the modern part of town|
|The theatre / opera house at Aachen|
The cathedral, of course, is the nucleus of the town. It's here that the ancient scraps of material are kept which Charlemagne brought home from Jerusalem. Apparently, they are the cloak of the Blessed Virgin (das Marienkleid), the swaddling-clothes (die Windeln) of the Infant Jesus, the loin-cloth (das Lendentuch) worn by Christ on the cross, and the cloth that wrapped the head of St. John the Baptist (das Enthauptungstuch) after it was cut off. Since the mid-14th century, these holy relics have been shown to pilgrims only once every seven years, a custom which continues today; it's happening this year. They are kept in a golden shrine. The massive Byzantine cathedral was built for the purpose of housing them. It was meant to rival the Hagia Sophia in Constantinople and be the heart of an empire, of a second Rome.
|Reliquary of Karl's arm bone|
|Painting by the unknown Meister des Aachener Altars (click to enlarge)|
Charlemagne ruled over an empire that stretched from the Baltic to northern Spain. The lingua franca was Latin, which he spoke fluently though for most of his life; he could follow Greek too, though he could hardly read or write. Nonetheless he saw the importance of learning and founded a library of some 10,000 precious manuscripts including the writings of Cicero, Horace and Ovid, as well as schools which taught seven disciplines: grammar, rhetoric, dialectics, arithmetic, geometry, music and astronomy. He had his daughters educated as well as his sons but forbad them to marry for fear of trouble from sons-in-law.
|Maibaum in old Aachen|