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Month: February 2017

Home page 143

Chasing the traces of Charlemagne in Aachen, Germany


During my weekend jaunt to western Germany, I made a day trip to Aachen, once the capital of Charlemagne‚Äôs short-lived empire and the final resting place of ”Charles the Great” himself.


Aachen is the city¬†in North Rhine-Westphalia of Germany known also as¬†Aix-la-Chapelle in French.¬†Its name derives from the¬†Ach(e),¬†meaning “river” or “stream” in Old High German.

This city lives and breathes Europe as it is practically Europe in miniature. On the border with Belgium and the Netherlands, it has encapsulated the spirit, values and ideals of Europe since the days of Charlemagne.

So who was Charlemagne and how he made this city famous?

Charlemagne, 8th century, also known as Karl and Charles the Great, was a medieval emperor who ruled much of Western Europe. 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. It was the first time these lands had been united politically since the Roman Empire.

Portrait of Charlemagne, King of Franks and Lombards and Emperor of Holy Roman Empire with model of Palatine Chapel. By Scheuren, 19 century. 

In 800, Pope Leo III 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 referred to by some as the father of Europe.

The ruler seated in the Palace of Aachen a group of buildings with residential, political and religious purposes to be the centre of power of the Carolingian Empire.

Charlemagne with the crown jewels in front of the Palace

Today much of the palace is destroyed, but the Palatine Chapel has been preserved and is considered as a masterpiece of Carolingian architecture and a characteristic example of architecture from the Carolingian Renaissance. 

Important part of this palace and todays cityscape of Aachen is Aachen Cathedral, traditionally known in English as the Cathedral of Aix-la-Chapelle. It is the oldest cathedral in northern Europe and was constructed by Odo of Metz.


Aachen Cathedral houses a collection of medieval art objects which are exceptional in their historical, artistic and religious meaning.

1Charlemagne’s throne, is the most important chapelle sight. It is an austere chair that places has been made from stone taken from the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. All German kings in the medieval times were crowned on this throne.

The Barbarossa chandelier was made on the order of Emperor Frederick I, nicknamed Barbarossa, and his wife Beatrice  in 12 century. It has a diameter of 4.20 meters and is just amazing inner sight of the chapel.


Finally, Charlemagne was buried there after his death in 814. After that, for 595 years, the Aachen chapel was the church of coronation for thirty German kings and twelve queens.

Today,  in the glory of his name, the Charlemagne Prize is given for services to European unity.

Aachen is also renowned for its relaxed atmosphere, best experienced on a stroll through the historical streets. There are charming places that to the grand old buildings dotted along the Charlemagne Route.


Home page 9

Tutti portici di Bologna, Italia

I digged into the city not expecting so much history well presented until today and offering so much. My discovery started at Via dell’ Indipendenza where I realised the portici (engl. archades) are dominating the city. The street is a shopping path as well ūüôā

Portici of Via dell’ Indipendenza

From there I came across to Piazza del Nettuno. Unfortunately, the statue was under construction and I did not manage to see it but I entered Palazzo Re Enzo,¬†named after Enzo of Sardinia. As mentioned, I was surprised that everything in Bologna is so well preserved and actually ating from 13 century, like the palaces at Piazza Maggiore – the main square where Palazzo dei Banchi is situated as well – a former banking center of the 16 century when Bologna was a city state like most of the european cities. It is surrounded by the centers of religious and political governance, represented by the cathedral Basilica of San Petronio¬†and the palaces¬†and D’Accursio¬†Palace (city hall).


As seen in the photo below, the Basilica is unfinished but it hosted a seminal event of the 16th century: the coronation of Charles V to Holy Roman Emperor by Pope Clement VII.


The 14 century Basilica of San Petronio contains an interesting moment of 15th-century 2Gothic fresco showing Mohammed being tormented by devils in hell.This exact fresco has been an intention of Al-Qaida and other islamic terrorist groups to attack. The painter was inspired by Dante who defined the last circle of hell for infidels and blasphemers. And that was the answer to my question why the military guy stands at the entrance the church with machine gun.

Piazza Galvani shows the statue of Luigi Galvani, a famous bolognese scholar mainly known for his research about bioelectricity, while observing the famous frog he used to study.

To be more specific, Galvani studied in Bologna at the prestigious university as Bologna has the oldest university of the western hemipshere. This Palazzo dell’ Archiginnasio¬†was founded in 1088. I was pretty impressed by the aula of Teatro Anatomico where¬†anatomy lessons were once held.

After observing the beginning of Bilogna’s history, ¬†was ready to taste local dishes. So, by the recomendation of my friends, I went to the district called Quadrilatero. It has an ancient tradition with its greatest development in the Middle Ages that kept¬† its trade vocation throughout the years. The main craft guilds of the city such as goldsmiths, butchers, fishermen,”salaroloi” (workers who salted meat to cure it), the Furriers, Barbers and the Society of Painters, had their headquarters in this area. With its hidden streets and nagging houses, today is a huge attaction to the tourists with the market and restaurants.

Bologna is home of mortadella , tortellini … and great wine of Emilia Romagna region. I enjoyed the San Giovanni.

Then it was a time to visit some of the many many churches and its clousters, like Basilica and Sanctuary of San Domenico and Tombs of the Glossatori. It is one of the major churches in Bologna, builded by Order of Dominicans  buried inside the exquisite shrine, re-constructed by Michelangelo.

Basilica of San Domenico with the statue of the santo Domenico

Somehow, I entered behind the church to the gardens of orators and captured this:


Next churh I captured was Basilica of Santo Stefano. Like with many churches in Rome¬†¬†this buidling was¬†temple of the goddess Isis, but during the times of Crusades, it was re-builded and called ”New Jerusalem.”



The innerside is great and 13 century historic dedicated to the Holy Jerusalem. Notice the portici again, on every photo that I took. ūüôā

Cloister of San Stefano

From there I ended up in the former Jewish Ghetto.¬†The layout of Bologna’s 16th century ghetto can still be precisely traced amid the narrow streets in the medieval heart of the city: here, a maze of alleys, covered bridges and small windows tells the story of a whole community forced to live in a specific area of the town by order of the Papal State beginning from 1556. In Bologna, Jews lived in the ghetto until 16 century, when they were expelled for the first time. Few years later,¬†they were allowed to come back to town and lived here again until end of same 16 century, when¬†their final expulsion happened: 900 people left Bologna and no Jewish community was allowed into town for more than two centuries.

Fnally, I arrived to the main cityscape of the city and its main recognition: Towers of Bologna, a group of medieval structures.


The reasons for the construction of so many towers are not clear, but what is clear that one of them is leaning and looks scarry. The towers are called Garisenda and Asinelli standing right in the middle of Porta Ravegnanna.

I finished my trip at Piazza della Merchanzia with beautiful 16 century building of commerce. Frome this square via Santo Stefano led to Milano since mediaval times as it leads today.


Bologna is the city of Lambourghini. So, not to forget this important thing for all the lovers of car speed. ūüôā