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.