St. Matthew from the Coronation Gospels, c. 800 St Matthew from the Ebbo Gospels, c. 816-830
Charlemagne’s Palace Chapel in Aachen, Germany, was inspired by the Byzantine church of San Vitale in
Ravenna, Italy, which Charlemagne knew was built for the emperor of the eastern Roman Empire, Justinian.
But Charlemagne’s chapel is more severe looking with its heavy stone piers marking the corners of the
octagonal plan. The central plan may have also been chosen because the chapel was meant to hold
Charlemagne’s remains after he died, making it a sort of martyrium. An important addition to the chapel is
the westwork: a large entrance structure with a throne room on its second level, topped with a tall spire.
The clarity of the spatial divisions and the importance given to the western entrance of the chapel
developed further in the Romanesque period.
Charlemagne’s Palace Chapel at
Aachen, c. 800. View of the