WHAT CONNECTS AACHEN …
How Aachens cathedral was build
Or how the people of Aachen outwitted the devil
Charlemagne wanted to build the largest and most beautiful church that had ever been seen north of the Alps, in his headquarters in Aachen. He ordered the most skilled craftsmen and the best raw materials to Aachen, and the work initially made good progress. But then Emperor Karl went to war against the Saxons and instructed the city council to supervise the further construction.
It cam to no surprise: The city ran out of money, because building the cathedral and having war at the same time, was very expensive. The city fathers did not know what to do – where should they get the money to finish the cathedral building? Should they even borrow it from the devil himself? And indeed: At the next council meeting a fine, unknown gentleman appeared and offered the necessary money. He demanded only a small return: The first soul, who would enter the finished cathedral, should be his.
At these words, the gentlemen got very pale, because they had obviously received an offer from the devil himself! But what else could they do but accept it? With the devil’s gold they achieved a miracle: When Charlemagne came back to Aachen, his magnificent church was finished. The emperor was proud of his city council, but they had other worries: the soul that the devil would get in return for his money – was that of Pope Leo III. He would be the first senior clergyman to enter the church to consecrate it.
That was unimaginable! At the last minute, a clever monk had the saving idea: Where was written that it had to be a human soul? The Aacheners quickly hunted a wolf into the cathedral before the consecration. The devil was already lurking behind the door in the dark church, rushed greedily at the first visitor and tore his soul blindly out of his body.
When he realized his mistake, he became very angry. Furious, he rushed out of the minster and slammed the heavy portal so hard that it cracked and squeezed the devil’s thumb. The finger fell into the doorknob, where it can still be felt today – now hard as iron. In the antechamber of the cathedral, two bronze figures remind of the wolf and his soul.
“Klappergassen” (Rattle Street) Legend
Or how the “Klappergasse” (Rattle Street) got its name
When Charlemagne came home victorious from the war against the Saxons in 805, he was delighted to see that the Aachen Minster was complete. As an expression of his deep faith, the festive consecration of the cathedral on Epiphany in honor of God was to be celebrated in a particularly splendid manner: alongside Pope Leo III. Not only were countless counts and prelates expected to attend the feast, but also 365 bishops, one for each day of the year.
On the eve of the consecration, however, only 363 bishops gathered in Aachen – much to the disappointment of Emperor Charles. But God was so touched by the Emperor’s reverence that he wanted to fulfill his wish: He sent an angel to the Maastricht St. Servaas Church to take care of the two bishops Mundolph and Gundolph buried there on their last journey to Aachen Cathedral. The angel exclaimed in a loud voice: “Mundolph and Gundolph, rise and move to Aachen. There you shall take part in the inauguration of the church of Emperor Charles “. The two skeletons immediately left their graves to execute the angel’s command.
As the two bishops approached Aachen Cathedral, the clatter of their bones was clearly audible from afar. The bishops hastily entered the cathedral and sat down on the last two vacant seats. Thanks to this miracle, there were actually 365 worshipers attending the consecration of the cathedral. Mundolph and Gundolph left the city after the ceremony on the same path they had come to finally settle in Maastricht for eternal rest.
What remainded of the two exceptional visitors is the name of the small alley that leads from the west to the cathedral: “Klappergasse” (Rattle Street). Today you can find a relief of the two skeletons at the monastery “From the poor child of Jesus” in the Klappergasse. This stone was given to the citizens of Aachen in 1956 by the city of Maastricht.
Or how the devil was outwitted again
In his anger about the people of Aachen the devil swore revenge – after all, he had been cheated out of his reward for his help with the cathedral He fetched two huge sacks of sand from the North Sea coast, because he had decided to simply cover the Aachen Cathedral and, ideally, the whole city and its inhabitants with sand. But the way back to Aachen was far and an annoying wind blew his own sand all over his face all the time. The burden on his back was so heavy that the devil finally paused at the end of his strength and almost blinded by the sand in his eyes. He did not realize that he had almost made it because the Ponttor was not far away.
As the devil stood there and doubted that he would make it to Aachen with his luggage at all, an old farmer’s wife came by. He asked her how far it was to Aachen. “Look at my shoes!” said the smart peasant woman, pointing to her old, holey shoes. She had seen the horse’s foot of her counterpart and guessed that he was up to no good with the sacks. “I bought them at the market in Aachen this morning, and now they have gone through completely,that’s how far it is!” Then the devil howled in rage, because he would not be able to get that far with his load. With a terrible curse, he threw the two sacks away and stormed away. He did not suspect that the clever people of Aachen had outwitted him again.
Since that time there is the saying in Aachen “De Oecher send der Düvel ze lous” – the people of Aachen are too smart for the devil. The sacks of sand have now become the Lousberg and the Salvatorberg in the northeast of Aachen. In fact, these hills are made of pure sea sand, you can even find remains of sea shells. In 1985 the artist, Krista Löneke-Kemmerling, made the monument “Devil and Market Woman”, dedicated to the clever farmer’s wife from Aachen. Reminiscent of the legend at the foot of the Lousberg.
Or: how the devil was tricked yet once again
The city fire of Aachen in the year 1656 nearly ruined the city and its citizens. But a clever baker’s apprentice knew how to prevent this: He looked for help from the devil.
When the city was burned down, people were starving and winter was coming. In the dire distress one remembered the old favorite pastry of Emperor Karl, the Aachen Printen. With the sale of this sweet, uniquely tasting biscuits one would not only saturate the people of Aachen, but also fill the cash registers of the city. But how could one get to the recipe that the emperor had taken with him to his grave? No one knew exactly where the tomb of the emperor was. The devil’s help was needed.
When Satan offered the baker’s boy to take him to the burial chamber of the Emperor at night, he asked for the key to the treasury in return. Said and done. Already the next night, thanks to the help of the devil, the boy stood in the emperor’s tomb. Angrily, the Emperor opened his eyes and asked for the reason of the intrusion. The desperate descriptions of the baker’s apprentice touched the heart of the emperor: “I have always loved this city and its inhabitants, that’s why I want to help them”. With these words he handed the recipe to the baker’s apprentice.
The boy hurried happily to his master, who, after some initial shock, immediately set about baking the imperial Printen. Thanks to their wonderful smell and taste they were soon desired far beyond the city limits and the distress of the people from Aachen had an end. When the devil demanded his salary from the apprentice, he offered him cunningly some of the freshly baked hot Printen. The devil greedily swallowed them all down, along with the baking tray. Plagued by great pain, the devil once again had to realize that he was no match for the people from Aachen – and went back to hell loudly cursing.