The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Aix-la-Chapelle

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2603469The Encyclopedia Americana — Aix-la-Chapelle

AIX-LA-CHAPELLE, āss, or āx-lā-shā-pĕl′ (German, Aachen; Latin, Civitas Aquensis, Aquisgranum), capital of a district of the same name in the Prussian province of the Rhine, 38 miles west by south of Cologne; pop. 156,150. It is a well-built town, pleasantly situated in a fine vale watered by the Wurm, and surrounded by the Venn Hills. It was formerly surrounded by ramparts, but these have been converted into pleasant promenades. The town-house (built in 1353 on the ruins of Charlemagne’s palace) contains the coronation room with portraits of the German emperors, half-size portraits of Napoleon and the Empress Josephine, pained by David, and many relics of old German art. The nave of the cathedral, erected by Charlemagne as a palace chapel between 796 and 804, was rebuilt on the old model by Otho III in 983, after having been almost destroyed by the Normans. It consists of an octagon, surrounded by a 16-sided gallery, and terminating in a cupola. The Gothic choir was begun in 1353 and finished in 1413; it is of prodigious height (114 feet) and lightness, and the large windows are filled with stained glass. Besides the tomb of Charlemagne, the cathedral contains many relics, the most sacred of which–such as the robes worn by the Virgin at the Nativity, the swaddling-cloths of the infant Jesus, the scarf He wore at the crucifixion, etc.–are shown only once in seven years, and attract many thousands of pilgrims from all countries. As the chief station of the Belgo-Rhenish Railway, which connects it with Antwerp, Ostend, and Cologne, Aix-la-Chapelle affords an extensive mart to the commerce of Prussia; it is also a grain market for Belgium, and the seat of commercial and other courts. Electric street railroads connect with handsome suburbs and neighboring towns. Aix-la-Chapelle was eminent as a manufacturing city, especially of cloth and needles, as early as the 12th century; and its prosperity in this respect still continues. Its woolen cloths are highly esteemed on the continent of Europe and are also exported to America, China, etc. All trading countries, including the United States, have consulates in the city. It is estimated that over 30 per cent of the inhabitants are employed in the manufactures of the city. Although Aix-la-Chapelle is an extensive seat of manufactures and has considerable commercial relations, it derives its celebrity chiefly from its historical associations, and a considerable portion of its importance and prosperity from the influx of visitors to its baths. There are in all eight mineral springs here, six of them warm. The most famous famous is the Imperial Spring or Kaiserquelle, which has a temperature of 143° F., and the vapor of which, when confined, deposits sulphur. For the accommodation of strangers there are a number of bathing-houses. The rooms for bathing are excellently fitted up, with baths from 4 to 5 feet deep, built in massive stone and in the old Roman style. About a half mile north of the city is the Louisberg or Lousberg, rising nearly 300 feet higher than the city. It is a favorite summer evening resort of the citizens.

Aix-la-Chapelle was known to the Romans as early as the time of Cæsar, and is mentioned by Pliny under the name of Vetera. It was, after 768, the favorite residence of Charlemagne, who made it the capital of all his dominions north of the Alps and spared no expense in beautifying it. Here he died in 814, and in the cathedral his tomb is marked by a large flat slab with the inscription Carolo Magno. During the Middle Ages it was a free imperial city, and its citizens were exempt from feudal service, from attachment of their goods and persons and from all tolls and from all tolls and taxes. Thirty-seven German emperors and 11 empresses have been crowned in this city, and the imperial insignia were preserved here till 1795, when they were carried to Vienna, and are now in the imperial treasury. By the peace of Lunéville (9 Feb. 1801), which separated the left bank of the Rhine from Germany, the city was transferred to France, in whose possession it remained till 1814, when it was restored to Prussia. It was a busy base for military operations during the Franco-Prussian War 1870–71, and during the European War from 1914 was also an important aerial station.