ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Visiting the City Hall, Aachen, Germany: Focal Point of Symbolism Far Beyond Municipal Affairs

Updated on December 31, 2017
Flag of Germany
Flag of Germany | Source
Aachen's City Hall
Aachen's City Hall | Source
Sir Winston Churchill at the Aachen City Hall, 1956
Sir Winston Churchill at the Aachen City Hall, 1956 | Source
Map location of Aachen in Germany
Map location of Aachen in Germany | Source

Municipal dealings, with mysticism added

In recent decades, the backdrop of the City Hall (Rathaus) at Aachen, in the German State of Nordrhein-Westfalen, has been familiar in relation to publicity surrounding the award of the Charlemagne Prize. This award has been made to many prominent individuals deemed to have contributed significantly to what is held to be European unity; some of these individuals, such as Sir Winston Churchill (who received the prize in 1956), have been well known in the English-speaking world, while others are less well known (again, at least in the English-speaking world), such as Jean-Claude Juncker (1). Some North American and British people might ask the practical question, What is the Prize for? Some Continental Europeans would probably respond something along the lines of it all being about European symbolism.

Indeed, symbolism, even within a strictly German institutional context, is a leitmotif which may be said to inhere in the role of the Mayor of Aachen, with his or her magnificent City Hall.

Even when one thinks of the individuals who have occupied the formal post of Mayor of Aachen, some of the more famous people among them are actually those who have held the post for the shortest time, as it happens.

For example, Franz Oppenhoff was Mayor of Aachen for a short period from October 1944 until March 1945. He died assassinated by the SS, on the instructions of Heinrich Himmler . While little of mid-20th century Germany's governance could be said to be normal or routine, yet Mayor Oppenhoff's appointment was not via a 'normal', internal, German administrative procedure, but rather by installation on the part of the occupying American military authorities.

The fact that Mayor Oppenhoff was assassinated thus gave early, post-World War Two, non-fascist administrators a martyr figure. Mayor Oppenhoff is chiefly not remembered today for his achievements in office — indeed, in the short time he was Mayor, his American military patrons seemed rather unimpressed with even the limited performance that they might have wished for under the trying circumstances of the closing months of World War Two. But, rather, the fact that he was Mayor at all, and then was assassinated at the hand of proponents of a dying and discredited cause, again emphasizes the symbolic value which this ostensibly municipal post can command.

Wherein lies its symbolism? To answer this question would involve recalling Aachen's past status as an imperial city.

Which brings us back to the figure, whose statue stands in front of Aachen's City Hall: Charlemagne.

(Who died in the year 814... .)

The City Hall is a splendid building, anyway. Built upon the foundations of Charlemagne's palace, the 14th century building was damaged by fire in the 17th century, and rebuilt in Baroque style. Further rebuilding took place in the 18th and 19th centuries. In 1915 German Kaiser Wilhelm II decided to install copies of the Crown Jewels of the Holy Roman Empire in Aachen's City Hall, and these may be inspected there still today.

Note

(1) Mr. Juncker has been Prime Minister of Luxembourg since 1995. It would be fair to say that Sir Winston Churchill was far more well known in English-speaking countries than Mr. Juncker. Part of the significance of Sir Winston Churchill's award of the prize was arguably that he made a speech — to a American audience — in which he referred to a future 'United States of Europe'; from a Continental European perspective, this can be perceived as some kind of aspiration to preparing an insular United Kingdom to lose its worldwide and Atlanticist vocation at the expense of a psychological locus centring on Continental Europe. (Whether this reflected British and North American realities is another question.) Mr. Juncker is doubtless a worthy recipient of the Prize, but the brutal fact is that many British and North American people, if they are even aware that Mr. Juncker is Luxembourg's Prime Minister, or even that he has received the Charlemagne Prize at Aachen, would likely respond in relation to the Prize, 'In practical terms, so, what?' Continental Europeans would then respond by starting to talk about European symbolism, and so forth. Such is the stuff of sometimes differing mentalities. President Bill Clinton, however, another Prize recipient, has certainly put the award on the map, so to speak, for many North Americans.

Also worth seeing

In Aachen itself, the ancient Cathedral (Dom) also has strong associations with Charlemagne. The Carolus Thermen are thermal baths, also named for Charlemagne, the existence of which would qualify the City of Aachen to call itself 'Bad Aachen' ... but, then, it would not come first in lists of cities, so the municipality has declined to call itself thus.

Vaals , The Netherlands (distance: 4.8 kilometres) is a busy border town to which the neighbouring Vaalserquartier seemingly functions as a suburb as much as it does to Aachen. The tall church spire of St Pauluskerk is a local landmark. At the Vaalserberg, the borders of three countries: Germany, The Netherlands and Belgium meet.

Holset , The Netherlands (distance: 8 km) has an old stone church, the site of which is reputed to have early Christian associations from about the year 360.

Eupen , Belgium (distance: 22 kilometres) is the capital of Belgium's German-speaking Ostkantone. It has several historic buildings, including spired churches.

...

How to get there: Lufthansa flies from New York Newark to Duesseldorf, where car rental is available. The German railroad company DB links Duesseldorf (distance: 93 kilometres) to Aachen. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information. Please refer to appropriate consular sources for any special border crossing arrangements which may apply to citizens of certain nationalities.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)