Palace Chapel of Charlemagne

Palace Chapel of Charlemagne

Architect Odo of Metz

Date ca. 792-805

Movement Early Medieval | Carolingian

Located at Aachen, Germany


Charlemagne’s palace itself would have drawn inspiration from Constantine’s Lateran Palace, while the extending Chapel is likely modeled from San Vitale. While the structure and space of San Vitale is meant to appear other worldly and defy the laws of physics, here, the architect does not hesitate here to make the chapel’s sturdiness known. For example, columns were imposed within the gallery’s arcade; they are structurally unnecessary, but help to show off Classical, Roman heritage and connection. While the central nave of San Vitale billows into the ambulatory, the nave’s lines here do no such thing, but instead are marked clearly by relatively un-adorned stone, while San Vitale’s was covered in shimmering mosaic. Interestingly, architects employed ablaq within the arches (voussoirs of alternating color), an Islamic tradition.


Architects strongly emphasized the building’s narthex by adding bulk to its walls, in effect creating one of the first westworks known. In the gallery would have sat Charlemagne’s throne, offering him a full view of the liturgy; he would have directly faced an alter to Christ below, and a Christ mosaic in the dome above, appearing to bless him.


This structure now forms the Aachen Cathedral.