Palace of Charlemagne (Aachen 9th century)
The palace of Charlemagne was not only the centre of his empire, but also a centre of culture.
Charlemagne, palace of Charlemagne, Aachen, palace, Frankish Empire, emperor, culture, Carolingian, Renaissance, chapel, Christian, centre
- Palace Chapel
- Emperor's quarters
- palace guard
- thermal spring
The centre of the Carolingian Empire: Aachen and the palace
The Frankish king Charlemagne was crowned emperor on 25 December 800 in Rome by Pope Leo III. Aachen became the centre of his empire, as he was more fond of this city than any other, especially because of its thermal baths and its central location in the Empire.
During his lengthy stays in Aachen, he enriched the beauty of the city with several works of art. For this reason, the City was called the 'second Rome' by contemporary sources.
The palace, built at the end of the 8th century, was exceptional among the buildings of the Empire (and the age). It became a gem of Aachen (now in Germany) and the Empire, and a symbol of Charlemagne’s greatness.
The Palace Chapel
The Palace chapel was an extraordinary work of art, contemporary sources describe it as a magnificent building. A letter, in which the Pope allowed the Emperor to take marble building material and floor tiles from Rome and Ravenna for his palace, has survived.
The floor plan and the structure of the chapel was inspired by the Basilica of San Vitale, Ravenna. The octagonal chapel, covered with a central dome constructed from stone was consecrated in honour of the Virgin Mary. The construction work was lead by the architect Odo of Metz. Several contemporary historians noted that Charlemagne wanted to commission the most skilful architects of the Empire.
The Emperor often stayed in Aachen, during his stays he attended mass in the chapel daily. He was also buried here.
The Emperor's quarters
The court of Charlemagne
The Emperor spent a lot of his time in Aachen. He either visited his estates with his retinue (often to hunt or ride horses), relaxed in a bath or spent his time in the palace.
The Emperor's private quarters and the Aula Regia (Council Hall) were important elements of the building complex of the palace.
The court of Charlemagne was a place where scholars of the age were gathered. It was important for him to educate himself (learning foreign languages, writing and 'liberal' arts) as well as the people of his empire (establishing schools next to churches). At meals, he often listened to music or readings from scholarly works.
He kept his body healthy by horse riding and hunting, as well as swimming. Contemporary sources mention that there was no one in his court who could swim better than him.
Entrance of the palace
The design of the palace
The palace of Charlemagne in Aachen, as other palaces erected in the early Middle Ages, was constructed to be easily defendable and provide functionality rather than decorative beauty. The elements of the fortified building complex show a sophisticated design and perfect execution.
Easy defendability was a dominant factor in placing the main entrance of the palace in the building of the Palace Guard. But this was not the only entrance of the palace; a courtyard was constructed next to the chapel, with its own entrance, and there was also an entrance for the staff.
The founder of the Holy Roman Empire, Charlemagne, made Aachen the capital of his empire. He was more fond of this city than any other in the empire, especially because of its thermal baths and its central location.
During his lengthy stays in Aachen, he enriched the beauty of the city with numerous buildings and works of art. For this reason, the city was called the 'second Rome' by contemporary sources.
Erected at the end of the 8th century, the palace became the most important building in Aachen. It became a gem of Aachen and the Carolingian Empire, and a symbol of the greatness of Charlemagne. It was exceptional among the royal buildings of the Empire (and of the age).
The Palace of Aachen, like other palaces built in the early Middle Ages, was constructed to be easily defensible and provide functionality rather than decorative beauty. The elements of the fortified building complex show a sophisticated design and perfect execution.
The main entrance to the fortified palace complex, which was also surrounded by a garden, was located in the building of the Palace Guard.
Important elements of the complex included the foregarden, the courtyard, and the covered colonnades connecting the buildings and the farm buildings.
The most important buildings were, first, the Aula Regia (which was the council hall where the Emperor held audiences and met foreign envoys) and, second, the private quarters of the Emperor. Numerous rooms in the Palace were used by the Emperor during his stays in Aachen.
The Palace Chapel, still intact today, was an exceptional work of art, an architectural gem of the age. The octagonal Chapel was inspired by the Basilica of San Vitale in Ravenna. Covered with a central dome constructed from stone, the Chapel was consecrated in honour of the Virgin Mary. The Emperor also attended mass here.
Later, he was buried here, but sadly his tomb was destroyed in World War II.
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