Pilgrimage Tour Planner: Visit Charlemagne’s Tomb
Catholic Heritage Tours presents another in our Pilgrimage Tour Planner Series. This post features a look at the tomb of Charlemagne and the anticipation that is building up to the 1,200 years since Charlemagne’s death. Read this synopsis of what you can expect when you visit.
The year 2014 is a special jubilee for Aachen (Germany) as it marks 1,200 years since the death of Charlemagne in 814 AD.
Charles the Great, First Holy Roman Emperor
Charlemagne (c.742-814), also known as Karl and Charles the Great, was a medieval emperor who ruled much of Western Europe from 768 to 814. In 771, Charlemagne became king of the Franks, a Germanic tribe in present-day Belgium, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and western Germany. He embarked on a mission to unite all Germanic peoples into one kingdom, and convert his subjects to Christianity. A skilled military strategist, he spent much of his reign engaged in warfare in order to accomplish his goals. In 800, Pope Leo III (750-816) crowned Charlemagne emperor of the Romans. In this role, he encouraged the Carolingian Renaissance, a cultural and intellectual revival in Europe. When he died in 814, Charlemagne’s empire encompassed much of Western Europe, and he had also ensured the survival of Christianity in the West. Today, Charlemagne is many times referred to as the father of Europe.
Charlemagne was given his final resting-place in the cathedral of Aachen (Germany), 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, pilgrims flocked to visit Charlemagne’s tomb and the Holy Relics collected by Charlemagne.
The Holy Relics of Aachen
Once every seven years, the Holy Relics brought to Aachen (Germany) by Charlemagne are exposed for veneration:
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
These Holy Relics are housed in Aachen’s majestic cathedral, which is the oldest in Northern Europe. Consecrated on the feast of the Epiphany in 895, it has been the place of coronation of 32 emperors of the Holy Roman Empire. The Holy Relics will be officially taken out of the thirteenth-century reliquary and ritually displayed between June 20 and 30, 2014. Furthermore, the year 2014 is a special jubilee for Aachen as it marks 1,200 years since the death of Charlemagne in 814 AD.
Few places rank beside Aachen in the history of Christian Europe. The Aachen Cathedral’s present appearance has evolved over 1,200 years of history. It was built in 790-800 as Charlemagne’s palace chapel. 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 Virgin Mary. After its consecration, the cathedral took another thousand years to complete.
Around 800, 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.
Charlemagne (d. 814) was given his final resting-place in this church, which was the most distinguished sanctuary in his realm. His mortal remains are kept in the Shrine of Charlemagne (Karlsschrein) in the apses of the choir. 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 worshiping the four great Aachen 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.
Ready to plan your pilgrimage tour to Charlemagne’s tomb to coincide with the 1,200 years anniversary of Charlemagne’s death? Catholic Heritage Tours offers you a customized religious travel experience that takes care of all of the details for you, so you can enjoy your tour.