Through My Lens: Behind the Altar of the Aachener Dom

Last Sunday I showed you a photo of the altarpiece of the Aachener Dom, and mentioned that the shrine containing the remains of Charlemagne was somewhere behind that altarpiece.

Here then, for the Fifth Sunday of Lent, is a view of the area behind the altar, and in the far distance of this photo, beneath the stained glass windows, is the Karlsschrein.

Through My Lens: Aachener Dom Pala D’oro

For today, the Fourth Sunday of Lent, I’m posting a photo of the magnificent Palo D’oro of the Aachener Dom, which is believed to date from 1020. Palo D’oro means golden altarpiece.

Behind the altarpiece is the Marienschrein (Shrine of Mary), which holds the four relics that make the Aachener Dom a place of pilgrimage. And behind that, not visible in my photo, is the Karlsschrein (Shrine of Charlemagne) containing the remains of Charlemagne.

Charlemagne is what you call a Big Deal for students of European history. In 768, he became king of the Franks (who lived in northern France and the German Rhineland). In 774, he became king of the Lombards (a Germanic people on the Italian peninsula). And in 800, he was crowned Holy Roman Emperor by Pope Leo III. All that is why Charlemagne is given credit for uniting Western Europe.

Charlemagne is also credited with bringing about the Carolingian renaissance, even though he himself was barely literate. Libraries and schools were established, and Charlemagne invited scholars from England, Germany, France, Italy, and Spain to study at Aachen. A new and simplified system of writing, known as the Carolingian miniscule, came into use. And he created a new currency system based on a pound of silver divided into 20 parts, which were further divided into 12 parts, for a total of 240. This three-part currency was used for many centuries throughout Western Europe. Ireland and the United Kingdom were the last to drop it when they converted to the decimal system in 1971.

Through My Lens: Barbarossa Chandelier

For the Third Sunday of Lent, I’m posting a photo of the Barbarossa Chandelier that hangs in Aachener Dom. Four metres in diameter and suspended four metres from the ground, this magnificent chandelier holds 48 candles. It was commissioned by Frederick I, also known as Frederick Barbarossa, who was Holy Roman Emperor from 1155 to 1190.

Through My Lens: Aachener Dom Ceiling

What sets the Aachener Dom apart from other cathedrals — and what you notice as soon as you step inside — is its shape. Unlike most cathedrals, it’s built in the shape of an octagon, not a cross. Charlemagne is said to have placed a lot of significance on the number 8. Four is another significant number in the Christian faith and, if you’re mathematically inclined, you know that an octagon can be formed by laying one square on top of another after rotating it a quarter turn, and then lopping off the protruding triangles.

For the Second Sunday of Lent, here is a photo of the ceiling of the Aachener Dom, in which the eight sides of the octagon are clearly visible.

Snowy Gastown

As of a month ago, Vancouver had received more snow this winter than Edmonton. As someone who spent her childhood in Edmonton (where, in the coldest part of each winter, I would stand in our snow-covered driveway and try to remember what summer felt like — I could never do it), I find that fact rather astonishing.

A bunch more of the white stuff arrived this past week. Our streets have been a sloppy mess since Saturday night as the temperatures hovered just above freezing during the day. Every street corner I had to cross was an ankle-deep puddle that reminded me, ironically, of those early spring days in Edmonton when the snow melts all at once. Our schoolyard was always a giant puddle on days like that, and I often walked home from school with soaking wet feet.

Here, in Vancouver, more snow was forecasted last night, but it rained instead, and now most of the snow in my neighbourhood is gone.

Typically after a heavy snowfall, I head to Stanley Park to take photos of snow-covered trees. After the big dump of snow we had just before Christmas, I decided to head instead to Gastown. Here are a couple of the photos I took that day.

So pretty.

Through My Lens: Aachener Dom

When I wrote about Aachen after my summer in Amsterdam some years back, I promised myself I would one day write about its magnificent cathedral.

Today is that day.

The Aachener Dom (Aachen Cathedral) started out as a chapel in the palace of Charlemagne way back at the end of the eighth century. It later became the coronation church of the German monarchs, with 31 kings and 12 queens having been crowned here between 936 and 1531. And Charlemagne himself was buried here; it was the Charlemagne connection that made the cathedral one of the most significant pilgrimage sites during the Middle Ages, along with Rome, Jerusalem, and Santiago de Compostela.

This year’s Lenten series will focus on the Aachener Dom, which is one of the most remarkable churches I have ever visited. For today, the First Sunday of Lent, I’m posting a photo of the only bit of the cathedral I saw from the outside. It’s pretty low key from this side, and belies how spectacular the interior is.

Which is why I was speechless after stepping inside.

Through My Lens: Daffodil Surprise

These daffodils next to English Bay have become a harbinger every year to announce the change in seasons. They pop up in mid to late January — which is awfully early for daffodils in this part of the world — but I’ve heard they are a variety that is bred to bloom early. Plus, that part of the seawall faces south.

Whatever the reason, we’re always happy to see them. And they catch people who aren’t from the neighbourhood by surprise, as they can’t believe their eyes.

Through My Lens: Reflections

Here’s another photo of Lost Lagoon that I took some time ago. It’s a favourite of mine; the clouds reflected in the water remind me of a Dutch landscape painting.

Through My Lens: In the Pink

Did you know that three days ago was Blue Monday? Apparently it’s the most depressing Monday of the year in the Northern Hemisphere.

I can believe it. But yesterday, when the sun (finally) came out and I got myself over to Lost Lagoon, all I saw was pink. I took this photo a few minutes after the sun went down.

Merry Christmas!

Kensington Place, English Bay, Vancouver