Blog WHS Visits
My first visit to Aachen Cathedral was in 2001, really at the beginning of my WHS journey. It was my 74th visited WHS. I only had a basic compact digital camera then, I still know what it looks like. It made horrible photos, certainly compared to a smartphone from 2020 (let alone a proper camera). So at the start of this long Pentecost weekend I decided to driven to Aachen again to refresh my memory and to get better photos.
It was my first visit to Germany post-COVID. In preparation I stocked up on some disposable face masks (compulsory in public indoor places) and cash Euro’s. Although the crisis apparently has lead to increased card payments, Germany still is much more cash based than the Netherlands and I did not succeed in paying anything by card here. On the plus side, there’s no need to pre-book time slots at the Aachen museums or at the Cathedral – which is a more common measure in Holland to keep things under control.
I started my WH visit at the Cathedral Treasury. At 10 a.m. I was the first visitor of the day and I had the museum to myself. The Treasury made headlines in March as it announced the exhibition of the Corona Leopardus Shrine. It holds the mortal remains of the early Christian martyrs Corona and Leopardus. Corona was a legendary figure, whose relics were brought to Aachen around the year 1000. She is the patroness of causes involving money and it has been suggested to pray to her during the COVID-19 pandemic to support the world economy.
The Treasury as well as the interior of the adjacent Cathedral are true containers of religious relics. Those relics are the physical remains of a holy site or holy person, or objects with which they had contact. In the Middle Ages, it was good to collect as many interesting relics as possible as it would attract pilgrims to your Cathedral (adding prestige and boosting the local economy). The best relics of course are those associated with Jesus and Mary; Aachen keeps 4 uber-relics: the swaddling clothes and loin cloth of Jesus, the dress of Mary and the decapitation cloth of John the Baptist.
The entrance to the Cathedral is low-key. There were about 30 to 40 other tourists present: some Dutch, some German, some Asian. As a COVID measure, the benches in the central octagon have been replaced by a few chairs in order to keep distance between the churchgoers. Also, the stairs to the upper galleries were closed to visitors. Everything else was there as you would expect it – I especially liked the Ambon of Henry II (similar to a pulpit).
I found Aachen Cathedral not an easy site to photograph. The exterior is a hotchpotch of different styles, the original romanesque core (which is the most interesting part) is fully enclosed by gothic and even later additions. The best views are from the Town Hall side. The real treasures inside the Cathedral, such as the Shrine of Charlemagne or the reliquary Shrine of Mary, are located far into the Choir. The area is not accessible and the gold of those shrines reflects in the glass boxes they’re encaged in. Nevertheless, Aachen Cathedral just oozes medieval history and even in the 21st century is a very pleasant place to visit.
Els - 31 May 2020
Clyde 31 May 2020
Finally something interesting related to Corona!