The Aachen City Hall A hall for all

A hall for all! No matter whether you’re an Aachener (locally: an “Öcher”) or a guest from afar having set up home or gone into business here in and around Aachen’s universities and colleges, the doors of Aachen City Hall are open to everyone:

Rooms in City Hall

  • Council Chamber: The room where Council convenes, decorated with 17th century paintings. The Lord Mayor’s office is right next-door
  • White Room: the City Hall’s “jewel in the crown” with white and gold stucco from the 18th century. Weddings and receptions are held here
  • Court of Master Craftsmen: former meeting room of the clothmakers’ guild, wallpapered door leading to the master craftsmen’s kitchen with its WW2 exhibition
  • Peace Room: embellished baroque-style in red and gold, its four doors were built for the peace accord of 1748 to allow all parties to enter the room simultaneously
  • Coronation Room: Germany’s most beautiful ballroom in medieval times, houses the Charlemagne statue from 1620 and the imperial insignia

A building that’s neither a pickled preserve of the past nor a soul-less block of concrete, but the perfect venue for celebrations or simply getting together. Indeed, it’s a living witness to our European past where – with the aid of a personal electronic guide, the “Aixplorer” (a play on the French name for Aachen!) – you can get a really immediate feel for past, present and future.Yet it’s still home to local politics today: the City Council convenes here, and Aachen’s Lord Mayor sits in the city’s “loveliest office” overlooking the cathedral – just like it’s been since with 14th century.

That was when the common people of Aachen, as an outward sign of their new-found civil liberty, erected this building on foundations previously occupied by the imperial palace of Charlemagne himself. But because at that time the Germans still had, not just commoners, but kings who since the 9th century had been crowned in Aachen Cathedral and then engaged in some serious banqueting in the City Hall – today we’d probably talk of an after-show party – the Coronation Room was, even then, part of the City Hall complex.

Today as well, ordinary people and the political elite hold events in the same place, beneath Alfred Rethel’s famous frescoes and surrounded by copies of coronation insignia: pan-European events indeed, with the award of the City of Aachen’s International Charlemagne Prize (Internationaler Karlspreis zu Aachen) each Ascension Day, or more private events like the benefit dinner on 23rd October, the anniversary of the coronation of Karl V, in memory of 32 German kings who allowed themselves and their people to have a good time here.

City Hall built for Citizens

What used to be a bond for life may today bring somewhat less responsibility, but marriages can still be entered into at Aachen City Hall – in the baroque surroundings of the White Room normally used for official functions and receptions. And so it is that a tourist in Aachen, minding his own business, can happen upon a bride in white. Surely a lucky day!

Here’s something for those who don’t take life too seriously: during the “tolle Tage” (wacky week) as carnival time is known in Aachen and across the Rhineland, the reins of power at City Hall are held not by the Lord Mayor or members of the local assembly but by ordinary people in costume eating, drinking and having a good time – fun-loving figures who refuse to take anything seriously, but who themselves have to be taken seriously. Why? Because they’re citizens of Aachen in the finest Aachen tradition!

That, indeed, is why they’ve re-built their City Hall time and again – after the great fire of 1656 and after World War II when 80 per cent of the city, and even parts of the cathedral, lay in ruin. Aachen – an eternal building site since the days of the Celts, Romans, Franconians, Ottonians, French, Prussians and the rest of them.

Subjecting themselves to the ruling elite just far enough to enable the functions of state to work. And leaving themselves free to build a City Hall which is, truly, a hall for all.

Want more?

External links

Aachen City HallInformation on the City Hall and its history Route CharlemagneThis will connect key historic locations in the city to create a walking route “through the ages” and deal with present and future developments and trends within Europe. The Aachen City Hall SocietyInformation on the City Hall Society, an interest group for maintaining the City Hall (German only)