The Holy Relics of Aachen (Germany)
Few places rank beside Aachen in the history of Christian Europe. Aachen’s Cathedral was built in 790-800 AD as the palace chapel of Charlemagne, King of the Francs and Holy Roman Emperor (born 742; died 814). According to tradition, the chapel was consecrated on the feast of the Epiphany, January 6, 805, by Pope Leo III, who dedicated it to Christ the Redeemer and His Mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary. After its consecration, the cathedral took another thousand years to complete. Around 800 AD, the octagon with the cupola – the core building of the Palace Chapel – was completed. In the 14th and 15th centuries, the gothic choir (the “Aachen glasshouse”) and the north and south chapels were erected. The Hungarian Chapel and the Portico were added in the 18th century.
A Pilgrimage Site Since 1349
Charlemagne was given his final resting place in this cathedral, which was the most distinguished sanctuary in his realm. His mortal remains are kept in the Shrine of Charlemagne (Karlsschrein) in the apsis of the choir. For nearly 600 years, from 936 to 1531, kings were enthroned on Charlemagne’s throne, after having been anointed and crowned at the main altar. During the Middle Ages, the “Royal Church of St. Mary at Aachen” became one of Christendom’s most important places of pilgrimage, on a par with Jerusalem, Rome, and Santiago de Compostela. The Aachen pilgrimage, which has been taking place every seven years ever since 1349, is devoted to worshipping the four great Aachen relics.
The Holy Relics
For centuries, Aachen was looked upon as “the Rome of the North” and was one of the richest cities for relics in Europe. Thus, Aachen became a holy city and center of pilgrimage where pilgrims flocked to visit Charlemagne’s tomb and the Holy Relics collected by Charlemagne:
1) the cloak that Our Lady wore the night Our Lord was born
2) the swaddling clothes of the Infant Jesus
3) the loin cloth worn by Christ on the Cross
4) the cloth on which lay the head of St. John the Baptist after his beheading
Pilgrimage to Aachen in 2014
The Holy Relics above will be officially taken out of the thirteenth-century reliquary and ritually displayed between June 20 and 30, 2014. The year 2014 is a special jubilee for Aachen as it marks 1,200 years since the death of Charlemagne in 814 AD.
Plan a pilgrimage to Aachen to pray before these remarkable relics, which are only exposed every seven years! Contact us today about forming your own pilgrimage group.