- Crossing borders around 800: Charlemagne’s Palatine Chapel at Aachen
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Humanities (FGw)
- Amsterdam Institute for Humanities Research (AIHR)
The famous Palatine Chapel in Aachen is usually understood as a significant statement by Charlemagne and his court. Much less agreed upon is what this statement was meant for and whether the architectural concepts employed in the edifice were the best means for expressing such a statement. This paper seeks to close the gap between the architecture of the chapel on the one hand and the diverging interpretations of this architecture on the other. Both the architecture
and its constituent materials exhibit a variety that is at times puzzling. Whereas the ground plan certainly shares similarities with San Vitale in Ravenna, some of the architectural concepts incorporated in the chapel point to other Byzantine sources (Hagia Sophia) and to other architecture in Ravenna. While gradually assembling an empire that would be blessed with the imperial title, Charlemagne mastered the methods he would use to pursue his political goals, to project himself, and to instrumentalize architecture as a means to those ends. Rather than reflecting a clear and unchanging policy, the palatine buildings commissioned by Charlemagne in several places throughout the kingdom/empire reflect its development—hence the fascinating differences among them. Various levels of meaning were incorporated within them. The Palatine Chapel at Aachen is not the result of one specific concept of imperial policy but instead reflects the manifold traditions that Charlemagne tried to unite by bringing together his vast empire. His architectural patronage was not aimed at one specific location but at various regions and territories. Such a policy needed monuments to which various groups and high-ranking individuals could relate, in order that they
could accept and support the power and authority of the Carolingians.
- Proceedings title: Proceedings of the 2nd International Conference of the European Architectural History Network: Brussels,
31 May-2 June 2012
Publisher: Koninklijke Vlaamse Academie van België voor Wetenschappen en Kunsten
Place of publication: Brussel
Editors: H. Heynen, J. Gosseye
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