Aachen Cathedral (1978)

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Aachen (French Aix-la-Chapelle), is a city in west central Germany, in North Rhine-Westphalia (Nordrhein-Westfalen), near Belgium and the Netherlands. Aachen is known for its 30 curative mineral springs (the hottest in central Europe) and has been a health resort since the 1st century AD. 

German Federal Republic 1973. Aachen Cathedral.

Noteworthy structures include the town hall, built in 1353 on the ruins of Charlemagne's palace, and the cathedral (the chancel of which was built in the 13th-14th century), which contains Charlemagne's tomb and throne. 

The construction of this palatine chapel, with its octagonal basilica and cupola, began c. 790–800 under the Emperor Charlemagne. 

Originally inspired by the churches of the Eastern part of the Holy Roman Empire, it was splendidly enlarged in the Middle Ages. 

  • Germany 1973. Aachen Cathedral. 

First settled by Celts and Romans, the city is rich in historical associations and is thought to be the birthplace of Charlemagne. During his reign as emperor (800-814), Charlemagne built his palace and cathedral in Aachen, and made the city a center of Carolingian culture, initiating the first great cultural renaissance at the end of the Dark Ages. Thirty-two emperors of the Holy Roman Empire were crowned in the city from 813 to 1531. During the French Revolution (1789-1799) Aachen was occupied by the French and in 1801 was formally ceded to France. After the defeat of Napoleon in 1815, Aachen was acquired by Prussia. The city was the first in Germany to be taken by United States forces during World War II (1939-1945), and was badly damaged by air raids and ground fighting. It was largely rebuilt by 1966. Each year in May, the Charlemagne Prize for contributions to European unity is awarded in Aachen. 

One of the German Renaissance painter Albrecht Dürer's most famous portraits from this period is this one of Emperor Charles I "The Great", also known as Charlemagne, born about 742 as the elder son of the Frankish leader Pepin the Short. Pepin held the ancestral title of mayor of the palace under the Merovingian dynasty of Frankish kings. However, in the wake of a long line of increasingly weak Merovingian kings, Pepin abandoned this lesser title and in 751 assumed the kingship of the Franks. In 799 Charlemagne came to the aid of Adrian’s successor, Pope Leo III, who was threatened by a rebellion in Rome. 

Charlemagne put down the rebellion, and on Christmas Day 800, Leo crowned Charlemagne and anointed him emperor of the Romans. This action revived the imperial tradition of the Western Roman Empire and set a precedent that the emperors’ authority rested on the approval of the pope. 

Grenada/Grenadines 1981. Albrecht Dürer. Emperor Karl the Great  (Charlemagne).

Although the imperial title did not confer any new powers on Charlemagne, it did legitimate his rule over central Italy, a fact that the Byzantine emperor acknowledged in 812.  

In order to legitimate his rule, Pepin sought the support of the pope, and in exchange for a promise to protect the pope’s lands in Italy from an invasion, Pope Stephen II officially crowned Pepin in 754. Besides crowning Pepin, the pope anointed both Charlemagne and his younger brother Carloman.

During his father’s reign, Charlemagne accompanied the Frankish army on campaigns to defend the pope against the Lombards, a Germanic people who controlled northern and central Italy, and on missions to conquer the region of Aquitaine in what is now southern France. 

As a result, Charlemagne learned at an early age the importance of both strong leadership on the battlefield and of close links between secular power and the Roman Catholic Church. 

  • Grenada/Grenadines 1981. Emperor Karl the Great (Charlemagne).  Oil Painting on wood, created 1512-13, 188 x 88 cm.  The painting belongs to the Germanic National Museum in Nuremberg (Germany). Across the painting is clearly written "Karolus Magnus", translated to "Charlemagne". 

On Pepin’s death, his kingdom was divided between his two sons. For three years Charlemagne shared rule of the kingdom with his brother, Carloman. After Carloman died suddenly in 771, Charlemagne became sole king of the Franks, and immediately afterward traveled to Rome and assured the pope of his continued support. Charlemagne then began a lengthy series of military campaigns to expand the Frankish kingdom. 

Sources and links:

Other World Heritage Sites in Germany (on this site). Inactive links are not described on stamps. Please refer to the UNESCO-listing, section Germany for further information about such sites. 

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Revised 03 aug 2006  
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