[ah-kuhn; Ger. ah-khuhn]
Aachen, Aix-la-Chapelle, or Bad Aachen, city (1994 pop. 246,570), North Rhine-Westphalia, W Germany, near the Belgian and Dutch borders. One of the great historic cities of Europe, it is now chiefly important as a rail and road hub and as an industrial center. Almost every branch of the iron and steel industry is represented in the area. Its manufactures include textiles, electrical goods, food (chocolate and candy), glass, machinery, rubber goods, metal products, and furniture. The city's hot mineral baths, frequented by the Romans in the 1st cent. A.D., are still used to treat gout, rheumatism, and skin diseases. Aachen is the site of a technical university and numerous other educational institutions. There are several cultural institutions, notably the Ludwig Art Forum, which exhibits modern art.

Charlemagne, who was probably born in Aachen in 742, made the city his northern capital and the leading center of Carolingian civilization. He built a splendid palace and founded the great cathedral, which contains his tomb. The cathedral, which has an octagonal nucleus modeled on the Church of San Vitale in Ravenna, Italy, received extensive Gothic additions in the 14th-15th cent. From 936 to 1531, German kings were usually crowned at Aachen. Treaties ending the War of Devolution (1668) and the War of the Austrian Succession (1748) were signed there (see Aix-la-Chapelle, Treaty of). It was occupied (1794) by French troops and later annexed (1801) by France. It passed to Prussia in 1815. At the Congress of Aix-la-Chapelle (1818) Czar Alexander I of Russia unsuccessfully proposed that the Holy Alliance be tightened. From 1918 to 1930 the city was occupied by the Allies as a result of Germany's defeat in World War I. During World War II approximately two thirds of Aachen was destroyed by aerial bombardment, and the city was the first major German city to fall (Oct., 1944) to the Allies.

(Ripuarian: Oche, Dutch: Aken, Spanish: Aquisgrán, Italian: Aquisgrana, French, and, historically, English: Aix-la-Chapelle) is a historic spa city in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. It is the westernmost city of Germany, located along its borders with Belgium and the Netherlands, 65 km west of Cologne.


A quarry on the Lousberg which was first used in Neolithic times attests to the long occupation of the site of Aachen. No larger settlements, however, have been found to have existed in this remote rural area, distant at least 15 km from the nearest road even in Roman times, up to the early mediæval period when the place is mentioned as a king's mansion for the first time, not long before Charlemagne became ruler of the Franks.

Since Roman times, the hot springs at Aachen have been channeled into baths (none of which are currently in use). There is some documentary proof that the Romans named the hot sulphur springs of Aachen Aquis-Granum. The name Granus has lately been identified as that of a Celtic deity. In French-speaking areas of the former Empire the word aquis evolved into the modern Aix.

Middle Ages

After Roman times, Einhard mentions that in 765–6 Pippin the Younger spent both Christmas and Easter at Aquis villa ("Et celebravit natalem Domini in Aquis villa et pascha similiter."), which must have been sufficiently equipped to support the royal household for several months. In the year of his coronation, 768, Charlemagne came to spend Christmas at Aachen for the first time. He went on to remain there in a mansion which he may have extended, although there is no source attesting any significant building activity at Aachen in his time apart from the building of the Palatine Chapel in Aachen (since 1929, cathedral) and the palatial presentation halls. Charlemagne spent most winters between 792 and his death in 814 in Aachen, which became the focus of his court and the political center of his empire. After his death, the king was buried in the church which he had built; his original tomb has been lost, while his alleged remains are preserved in the shrine where he was reburied after being declared a saint; his saintliness, however, was never very widely acknowledged outside the bishopric of Liège where he may still be venerated "by tradition".

In 936, Otto I was crowned king of the kingdom in the collegiate church built by Charlemagne. Over the next 500 years, most kings of Germany destined to reign over the Holy Roman Empire were crowned "King of the Germans" in Aachen. The last king to be crowned here was Ferdinand I in 1531. During the Middle Ages, Aachen remained a city of regional importance, due to its proximity to Flanders, achieving a modest position in the trade in woollen cloths, favoured by imperial privilege. The city remained a Free Imperial City, subject to the Emperor only, but was politically far too weak to influence the policies of any of its neighbors. The only dominion it held was that over the neighboring tiny territory of Burtscheid, which was ruled by a Benedictine abbess and forced to accept that all of its traffic must pass through the "Aachener Reich". Even in the late 18th century, the Abbess of Burtscheid was prevented from building a road linking her territory to the neighbouring estates of the duke of Jülich; the city of Aachen even deployed its handful of soldiers to chase away the road-diggers.

From the early 16th century, Aachen declined in importance. In 1656, a great fire devastated Aachen. It still remained a place of historical myth and became newly attractive as a spa by the middle of the 17th century, not so much because of the effects of its hot springs on the health of its visitors but since Aachen was then — and remained well into the 19th century — one of the centres of high-level prostitution in Europe. Traces of this hidden agenda of the city's history can be found in the 18th century guidebooks to Aachen as well as to other spas; the main indication for visiting patients, ironically, was syphilis; only by the end of the 19th century had rheuma become the most important object of cures at Aachen and Burtscheid. This explains why Aachen was chosen as site of several important congresses and peace treaties: the first congress of Aachen (often referred to as Congress of Aix-la-Chapelle in English) in 1668, leading to the First Treaty of Aachen in the same year which ended the War of Devolution. The second congress ended with the second treaty in 1748, finishing the War of the Austrian Succession. The third congress took place in 1818 to decide the fate of occupied Napoleonic France.

18th century

By the middle of the 18th century, industrialization had swept away most of the city's medieval rules of production and commerce, although the entirely corrupt remains of the city's mediæval constitution were kept in place (compare the famous remarks of Georg Forster in his Ansichten vom Niederrhein) until 1801, when Aachen became the "chef-lieu du département de la Roer" in Napoléon's First French Empire. In 1815 after the Napoleonic Wars, the Kingdom of Prussia took over and the city became one of its most socially and politically backward centres until the end of the 19th century. Administered within the Rhine Province, by 1880 the population was 80,000. Starting in 1840, the railway from Cologne to Belgium passed through Aachen. The city suffered extreme overcrowding and deplorable sanitary conditions up to 1875 when the mediæval fortifications were finally abandoned as a limit to building operations and new, less miserable quarters were built towards the eastern part of the city where drainage of waste liquids was easiest. In the 19th century and up to the 1930s, the city was important for the production of railway locomotives and carriages, iron, pins, needles, buttons, tobacco, woollen goods, and silk goods.

20th century

Aachen was destroyed partially — and in some parts completely — during World War II, mostly by bombing in the latest phase of non-surrender, by American artillery fire and through deliberate destruction wrought by the SS division employed to keep Aachen out of allied hands as long as possible. Damaged buildings include the mediæval churches of St. Foillan, St. Paul and St. Nicholas, as well as the Rathaus (city hall), although the Aachen Cathedral was largely unscathed. The city was liberated, with only 4000 inhabitants who had disobeyed Nazi evacuation orders, on October 21, 1944, the first German city to be free from Nazi rule. Its first Allied-appointed mayor, Franz Oppenhoff, was murdered by an SS commando unit.

While the kings' palace no longer exists, the church built by Charlemagne is still the main attraction of the city . In addition to holding the remains of its founder, it became the burial place of his successor Otto III. The cathedral of Aachen has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

It is here that in 1944, just after having crossed the German border, Rabbi Sidney Lefkowitz, an American Army Chaplain, held the first Jewish service in Germany since the beginning of World War II. This service was broadcast live on NBC.

Main sights

The Aachen Cathedral was erected on the orders of Charlemagne in 786 AD and was on completion the largest dome north of the Alps. On his death Charlemagne's remains were interred in the cathedral and can be seen there to this date. The cathedral was extended several times in later ages, turning it into a curious and unique mixture of building styles.

The 14th century city hall lies between two central places, the Markt (market place) and the Katschhof (between city hall and cathedral). The coronation hall is on the first floor of the building. Inside you can find five frescoes by the Aachen artist Alfre Rethel which show legendary scenes from the life of Charlemagne, as well as Charlemagne's signature.

The Grashaus, a late medieval house at the Markt, is one of the oldest non-religious buildings in downtown Aachen. It hosts the city archive. The Grashaus was the former city hall before the present building took over this function.

The Elisenbrunnen is one of the most famous sights of Aachen. It is a neoclassical hall covering one of the cities famous fountains. It is just a minute away from the cathedral. Just a few steps in southeastern direction lies the 19th century theatre.

Also well known and well worth seeing are the two remaining city gates, the Ponttor, one half mile northwest of the cathedral, and the Kleinmarschiertor, close to the central railway station. There are also a few parts of both medieval city walls left, most of them integrated in more recent buildings, some others visible. At Turmstraße and at Junkerstraße, there are even two towers left, both of which are used for housing.

There are many other places and objects worth seeing, for example a notable number of churches and monasteries, a few remarkable 17th and 18th century buildings in the particular Baroque style typical of the region, a collection of statues and monuments, park areas, cemeteries, amongst others. The area's industrial history is reflected in dozens of 19th century and early 20th century manufacturing sites in the city.


Aachen has a large number of spin-offs from the university's IT-technology department and is a major centre of IT development in Germany. Due to the low level of investment in cross-border railway projects, the city has preserved a slot within the Thalys high-speed train network which uses existing tracks on its last 70 km from Belgium to Cologne. The airport that serves Aachen, Maastricht Aachen Airport, is located about 30 km away on Dutch territory, close to the town of Beek. Aachen was the administrative centre for the coal-mining industries in neighbouring places to the northeast; it never played any role in brown coal mining, however, neither in administrative or industrial terms. Products manufactured in or around Aachen include electronics, chemicals, plastics, textiles, glass, cosmetics, and needles and pins. Its most important source of revenue, the textile industries, have been dead for almost half a century now. Robert Browning's poem "How they brought the good news from Ghent to Aix" refers to Aachen, but not to any historical fact.


The annual CHIO (short for the French Concours Hippique International Officiel) is the biggest equestrian meeting of the world and among horsemen considered to be as prestigious for equitation as the tournament of Wimbledon for tennis. Aachen was also the host of the 2006 FEI World Equestrian Games.

The local football team Alemannia Aachen had a short spell in Germany's first division, after its promotion in 2006. However, the team could not sustain its status and is now back in the second division. Their stadium is called Tivoli.


Since 1950, a committee of Aachen citizens annually awards the Karlspreis (German for ‘Charlemagne Award’) to personalities of outstanding service to the unification of Europe. The International Charlemagne Prize of Aachen was awarded in the year 2000 to the President of the United States, Bill Clinton, for his special personal contribution to cooperation with the states of Europe, for the preservation of peace, freedom, democracy and human rights in Europe, and for his support of the enlargement of the European Union. In 2003 the medal was awarded to Valéry Giscard d'Estaing. In 2004, Pope John Paul II's efforts to unite Europe were honoured with an ‘Extraordinary Charlemagne Medal’, which was awarded for the first time ever.


In 1372, Aachen became the first coin-minting city in the world to regularly place an Anno Domini date on a general circulation coin, a groschen. It is written MCCCLXXII. None with this date are known to be in existence any longer. The earliest date for which an Aachen coin is still extant is dated 1373.

King Ethelwulf of Wessex, father of Alfred the Great was born in Aachen. Mies van der Rohe, one of founders of modern architecture and a member of the Bauhaus during its period in Dessau was born in Aachen as well.

Aachen has the hottest springs of Central Europe with water temperatures of 74°C(165°F). The water contains a considerable percentage of common salt and other sodium salts and sulphur.

The local speciality of Aachen is an originally stonehard type of sweet bread, baked in large flat loaves, called Aachener Printen. Unlike gingerbread (Lebkuchen), which is sweetened with honey, Printen are sweetened with sugar. Today, a soft version is sold under the same name which follows an entirely different recipe.

Aachen is at the western end of the Benrath line that divides High German to the south from the rest of the West Germanic speech area to the north.


RWTH Aachen, Aachen University of Technology, established as Polytechnicum in 1870, is a centre of technological research of worldwide importance, especially for electrical and mechanical engineering, computer sciences and physics. The university clinics attached to the RWTH, the Klinikum Aachen, is the biggest single-building hospital in Europe. Over time, a host of software and computer industries have developed around the university.

FH Aachen, Aachen University of Applied Sciences (AcUAS) was founded in 1971. The AcUAS not only offers the classical engineering education in professions like Mechatronics, Construction Engineering, Mechanical Engineering or Electrical Engineering, but in an intensive dialogue with commerce, politics and professional practice new and application-oriented programs have been and are continually developed, which exceed today’s requirements by far. Internationality is also underlined by the range of academic courses on offer: German and international students are educated in more than 20 international or foreign-oriented programs and can acquire German as well as international degrees (Bachelor/Master) or Doppeldiplome (double degrees). The fraction of foreign students meanwhile amounts to more than 21%.

The German Army's Technical School (Technische Schule des Heeres und Fachschule des Heeres für Technik) is also situated in Aachen.

Sister cities

Name in different languages

Aachen is known in different languages by different names (see also Names of European cities in different languages).

Language Name Pronunciation in IPA
German Aachen [ˈaːχən]
Local dialect Oche [ˈoːxə]
Arabic, Persian آخن [ˈʔɑːχɪn]
Bulgarian Аахен/Ахен [ˈaxen]
Catalan Aquisgrà [əkizˈɣɾa]
Chinese (Simplified) 亚琛 (PY: yà chēn)
Chinese (Traditional, Taiwan form) 亞亨 (PY: yà hēng)
Chinese (Traditional, HK form) 亞琛 (JP: aa3 sam1)
Czech Cáchy [ˈt͡saːxi]
Dutch Aken [ˈaːkən]
French Aix-la-Chapelle [ɛkslaʃaˈpɛl]
Georgian აახენი [ˈaːχeni]
Greek, Ancient Ἀκυΐσγρανον [akyːˈisɡranon]
Greek, Modern Άαχεν [ˈaːxen]
Hebrew אאכן [ˈʔaxɛn]
Italian Aquisgrana [akwizˈgɾaːna]
Japanese アーヘン [ˈaːhɛn]
Korean 아헨 [ˈahen]
Latin Aquīsgrānum [ˌakwiːsˈgɾaːnum]
Latvian Āhene [ˈaːxɛnɛ]
Lithuanian Achenas [ˈaːxɛnas]
Luxembourgish Oochen [ˈoːxən]
Polish Akwizgran [akˈfizɡɾan]
Portuguese Aquisgrão, Aquisgrana [ˌakwiz'grɐ̃ũ], [ˌakwizˈgrɐ̃ːna]
Russian Аахен/Ахен [ˈaˑxɪn]
Serbian Ahen/Ахен [ˈaxən]
Spanish Aquisgrán [akisˈɣɾan]
Thai อาเคิน [ˈaːkʰən]
Walloon Åxhe [ˈɔːhɛ]
Yiddish אכען

See also: Aachen dialect

See also


External links

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