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.

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