Saturday, September 24, 2011

Aachener Rathaus

You may have gathered from our pictures and posts thus far that Aachen has two truly spectacular (and extremely old) buildings: the Dom (cathedral) and the Rathaus (town hall).* We walk by these buildings almost every day, and can see the roof lines from many places in the city.

On Tuesday Tyler didn't have to go into work until late afternoon, so we finally toured the Rathaus, as we've been wanting to do since we got to Aachen. I took a LOT of pictures. We took the audio tour (available in English, woohoo!), which lasted about 90 minutes, so we got a LOT of information. I am not sure how to translate all this into a blog post of reasonable length, but I shall try.

For centuries the Rathaus was the site of the coronation of German kings as well as the center of civic life in Aachen. Aachen eventually lost the coronation ceremony, apparently because the building fell into disrepair, but the city council still meets in the council chamber:


In addition to a portrait of Charlemagne,** this room holds portraits of Napoleon and Empress Josephine. Napoleon and Charlemagne are placed in such a way that they're locked in an eternal staring contest across the chamber. We got the impression from the audio guide, though, the Aachen has positive feelings toward Napoleon--he liked the city, so he made Öchers full French citizens and gave them back their trade rights and stuff. (I think. I'm a little fuzzy on this point.)

This is the Golden Book. It contains inscriptions from important visitors to the city over the centuries. And it looks like it came straight out of a young adult fantasy novel.


Here's the room where the book is displayed. It used to be the meeting place for the city's cloth merchants' guild. The export of fancy cloth was the cornerstone of Aachen's economy for several centuries. After the cloth guild went away the room was used as the mayor's office (up until just a few years ago). Nice office, huh?


I'm a terrible photographer, but I'm pleased with the way this picture turned out:


Now we come to the colored rooms, White and Red. They both have tons of history, too, but I don't remember enough to explain it in a way that will actually be interesting. The way they look is plenty interesting, anyway.




I love the headdresses on these guys.



The staircase afforded a great view of the Dom:


In an old city like this one reminders abound that humans (even Germans!) used to be much shorter than they are today.


This is the coronation hall:


Here are replicas of the imperial regalia. The originals used to reside in Aachen, but now they're in Nuremberg. (In the South! Oh, the shame!)


Finally, here is the front door of the Rathaus. Oddly enough, the otherwise exhaustive audio tour had no comment to make on the funny faces, but I love them.


If you come to Aachen, you too can tour the Rathaus! We'll take you there! And a Dom tour is next on our list!

*Both were originally constructed in the late 8th century as part of Charlemagne's palace--they were actually connected for a few hundred years. In each building part of the 8th-century structure is preserved.

**There is a portrait of Charlemagne in almost every room in the Rathaus. The audio guide has a 3-5 minute description of each one. I found this a bit odd (and excessive).

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