Importance of Aachen in European History

Aachen’s Rathaus (Townhall) is an interesting building. It is at the same spot where Charlemagne, the first Holy Roman Emperor, had his palace in around 800 A.D. Over the centuries, the palace that was once the most important center of power and culture in Europe, deteriorated.

This side of the palace was facing the Aachen Catehdral, to let Charlemagne visit the Cathedral when he wanted to..

Then in 13th century, a new palace was constructed on the orders of the Emperor of Bavaria. It held a celebration hall for the biggest celebration of the empire – the coronation banquet.

The Celebration Hall as of today

Time went by and once again the site was damaged. This time it was by a huge town fire in 1656. The fire got started due to the negligence of a baker. 90% of the buildings of Aachen were destroyed by this fire. Then the town got back to its feet and this time, it transformed itself into a modern spa town, offering cure to everything, thanks to the thermal springs there! The town hall was refurbished in 1700s as a Baroque palace. In 1748, it was the venue of the Peace Congress that was intended to end the Austrian War of Succession. Maria Theresa was confirmed as Archduchess of Austria and Queen of Hungary, which was unprecedented as a woman was not allowed to inherit the crown under the Salic law that was set in 500 AD!

Mural depicting the discovery of thermal springs in Aachen by the Romans

But there was supposed to be one more destruction of the place – this time by the bombing by the allied forces, towards end of WWII. In the Town Hall, one could see videos of the rubble that remained and of American armies surveying the damage. I also learnt there about the resistance efforts of some very brave people of Aachen against the Nazi regime. After this final destruction (until now) the process of unification of Europe started which continues to this day, although there are hints that the unity is quite fragile, what with Brexit and likes. Aachen awards the International Charlemagne Prize of Aachen every year since 1949, to recognize the efforts towards European Unification. This year, it has been awarded to Antonio Guterres, the Portuguese politician who is serving as the 9th Secretary General of the United Nations.

The Town Hall in its present form

This visit to the Town Hall of Aachen gave me the idea about the importance of Aachen on European history. In the next post, I would write about what else I saw in this trip, beyond Aachen. Bis dann!

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