Aachen Cathedral and Charlemagne’s BMI

Aachen Cathedral

In Aachen Cathedral lies the body of Pater Europae. And who might he be, this Father of Europe, you ask?

When I was an exchange student in the USA, someone once mentioned Charlemagne, a famous emperor of Europe. ‘What?’ I thought at the time. A European emperor I had never heard of? Well, turns out I had, just hadn’t heard him referred to by his French title, Charles le Magne, which, as I learned, is also his name in English. To me, he was Karl den store, Carl (or Charles) the Great.

Charles, as you probably remember from high school history lessons, managed in the late 700s to unite Europe (or Western Europe, at least) for the first time since the Roman Empire, and is known as the founder of the Roman Empire V 2.0, better known as the Holy Roman Empire.

Aachen Cathedral IV

The emperor is thought to have been born here in Aachen, but no one really knows. It could have been Liège, just across the border in present-day Belgium. Details like birth date and location weren’t always taken down in writing a millennium ago. On the other hand, there seems to be little doubt about the details of his death: 28 January 814 in Aachen. He was interred here at Aachen Cathedral on the same day. A few hundred years after his death, Charles was beatified, so this has been a pilgrimage site for centuries.

The emperor lives on in Aachen, through the annual (since 1949) Karlspreis der Stadt Aachen, an international prize awarded to people who promotes European unity. Among the recipients is our friend Winston.


Aachen Cathedral was one of the very first sites added to the World Heritage list back in 1978. And even though is isn’t one of the largest cathedrals in Europe, or even in Germany, it is very impressive and well worth a look. Charles’ gilded sarcophagus is the main attraction, of course.

Charlemagne II

On the 1200th anniversary of his death – on 28 January this year – scientists concluded, after 26 years’ research, that the bones and fragments inside the sarcophagus of a tall, thin, older man were most likely those of Charles himself.

At 1.84 metres (six feet), he was unusually tall for his time. The team also estimated his weight at around 78 kilograms, giving him a slim body mass index of around 23.

Aachen Cathedral, ceiling III

Aachen Cathedral, ceiling

Have you visited Aachen Cathedral?


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Aachen Cathedral is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Here are more UNESCO World Heritage sites we have visited around the world.

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  1. Betty J. Ogburn 13 June 2014 at 2216 - Reply

    …No, I have not (yet) been to Aachen–but the cathedral does look MAGNIFICENT…

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 20 June 2014 at 1250 - Reply

      It’s a beautiful cathedral. Hope you’ll go and see it for yourself, Betty 🙂

  2. Gayla 13 June 2014 at 2358 - Reply

    Aachen Cathedral is amazing! It’s one of my favorite churches out of the many we’ve visited. The mosaics are so beautiful; the history is fascinating. Aachen is a nice city and I hope to make it back there, since it’s a short train ride from where we live in the Netherlands. Next trip I want to buy some Aachener Printen cookies to take home with me 😉

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 20 June 2014 at 1254 - Reply

      Ooh, I’ve never tried (or even heard of) those cookies. Next time…
      I like Aachen, too – that whole border area, really – in all the three countries.

      • Gayla 20 June 2014 at 1318 - Reply

        Unfortunately, I haven’t tried them either and only learned of them during a visit to Aachen around Christmas time. Judging by their appearance (large, brown, flat cookies in the shape of people or other images) I imagine they taste similar to Dutch Speculaas, which I have tried and really enjoy. A good enough reason, in my opinion, to take another trip to Aachen 😉

        • Anne-Sophie Redisch 20 June 2014 at 1322 - Reply

          Speculaas… probably the same as spéculoos in France, I imagine. With some sort of image on them – and very tasty, with all kinds of spices. 🙂

  3. Muza-chan 15 June 2014 at 2013 - Reply

    Very beautiful…

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 20 June 2014 at 1255 - Reply

      It is, Lili 🙂

  4. Mette 19 June 2014 at 0851 - Reply

    Asa a teenager I’m not sure I would have heard about Karl den Store either, but the Cathedral certainly lives up to his name.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 20 June 2014 at 1256 - Reply

      We had a history teacher who loved everything German 🙂

  5. I am so fascinated with European cathedrals and this one is stunning. Unfortunately, I haven’t been here but would love to visit. That gilded sarcophagus is worth the pilgrimage alone to this cathedral.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 20 June 2014 at 1256 - Reply

      Next time, eh, Mary?

  6. This looks absolutely stunning! What a beautiful cathedral – I love visiting European cathedrals and that 3rd photo with the stained glass is stunning!

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 20 June 2014 at 1314 - Reply

      Thank you, Shikha. And thanks for stopping by 🙂

  7. Cathy Sweeney 22 June 2014 at 2154 - Reply

    Aachen Cathedral is so beautiful — haven’t been there, but feel as though I have via your pics. I’m pretty sure that Charlemagne is the only historic emperor whose BMI I know. Actually, all very interesting information!

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 10 July 2014 at 0959 - Reply

      Thank you, Cathy.

  8. Gloria 23 June 2014 at 1453 - Reply

    Thanks so much for sharing this…the photos are great.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 10 July 2014 at 0959 - Reply


  9. noel 24 June 2014 at 1941 - Reply

    What a stunning place of worship, I would love to see this in person some day, gorgeous

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 10 July 2014 at 1000 - Reply

      Hope you do. Easy to get to Aachen. 🙂

  10. Milena Yordanova 15 August 2014 at 1038 - Reply

    Stunning cathedral! Aachen is located close to Cologne, which makes it a perfect day trip out of Cologne.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 19 October 2014 at 1147 - Reply

      And you can see two stunning cathedrals in one day. Cologne’s is fantastic, too.

  11. Abi 20 August 2014 at 0805 - Reply

    What an interesting snippet of history. Thank you!

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 19 October 2014 at 1147 - Reply


  12. Debra 25 September 2014 at 1030 - Reply

    That gilded Sarcophagus is unreal! In those days, that would of been a hell of a lot of money!

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 19 October 2014 at 1148 - Reply

      Must have been.

  13. Dennis Kopp 15 November 2014 at 2140 - Reply

    Sophie, that is truly a fascinating story and I too had never heard of Pater Europae. I also have never been to the cathedral in Aachen and I am almost ashamed to admit it. For some reason it seems often times we travel the least in our own home country. But now that I know a bit of the backgrounds, I will definitely make sure to keep this beautiful looking UNESCO site in mind, when travelling in Europe again… 🙂

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 7 November 2016 at 1557 - Reply

      Funny, isn’t it, how we often overlook our own backgarden. Germany has so much to offer!

  14. Udo Schaefer 6 November 2016 at 0430 - Reply

    If you ever visit this beautiful AACHEN in that border triangle of Germany/Belgium/Holland.
    Please remember the this city was build by the Romans and their footprints are visible all over the city of AACHEN.. The Romans used the natural hot springs to heal from all kinds of ailments. Even today these healing properties of water are used.
    It is also worth to mention, that are guided tours into the treasure chamber of the Cathedral are available. Medieval Dinners you will find at Ponttor (Pont Gate), one of the old and beautiful Roman City Gates. Of Course to visit the Cathedral is a absolute must.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 7 November 2016 at 1555 - Reply

      Aachen is indeed beautiful. Thanks for the additional information.

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