handles commercial vehicles such as vans, trucks, and semitrailers; Eurostar transports pedestrian passengers; and other freight trains travel between Britain and mainland Europe. The journey between Paris and London takes just three and a half hours; the actual Channel crossing only thirty-five minutes. The Channel Tunnel is only one element of the European Community’s plan for a 12,500-mile (20,000-kilometer) high-speed rail network linking cities across the continent.

See also

Thames Tunnel

Further reading

Fetherston, Drew. 1997. The Chunnel: The Amazing Story of the Undersea Crossing of the English Channel. New York: Times Books.

Hunt, Donald. 1994. The Tunnel: The Story of the Channel Tunnel, 1802–1994. Upton-upon-Severn, UK: Images Publishing.

Charlemagne’s Palatine Chapel

Aachen, Germany

The city of Aachen stands 40 miles (64 kilometers) southwest of Cologne on the River Wurm, a tributary of the Roer, in the German stare of North Rhine-Westphalia. The Romans knew the place as Aquisgranum, famous for its health spas since the first century a.d. The Merovingian kings, who ruled the Franks from a.d. 481 to 751, held court there, but the town enjoyed great eminence during the Carolingian dynasty, especially under Charlemagne (reigned 768–814). His Palatine Chapel, now the central element of Aachen Cathedral, is the finest surviving example of Carolingian architecture. This architectural jewel copied the centrally planned Byzantine church of San Vitale at Ravenna, Italy (525–548), clearly demonstrating one way in which building ideas are transmitted between cultures. The ability of its northern builders to assimilate a southern European style was in itself a considerable achievement.

Charlemagne succeeded his father, Pepin the Short, as king of the Franks in 768. The first strong secular ruler in Europe since the ancient Roman Empire, he was in theory—but only in theory—subordinate to the pope, a relationship symbolized by his coronation by Pope Leo III as Holy Roman Emperor on Christmas Day 800. Six years earlier he had established his residence and Court at Aachen, the town where he was born. In 792, he commissioned Bishop Odo of Metz to design and build the royal complex, 50 acres (20 hectares) in area: the palace, law court, and, of course, the Palatine Chapel. Einhard (who was also Charlemagne’s biographer) was appointed as works supervisor. Wanting to imitate the grandeur of the imperial Roman rulers, the king had looked for precedents. Historians have suggested that his palace was based on several models, Constantine’s palatine court (ca. 310) in Trier, Germany, among them. Charlemagne also had been to Ravenna on Italy’s northern Adriatic coast, where he had been dazzled by the glorious Byzantine buildings. Kenneth Clark opines that, when the Frankish king saw the scintillating mosaics in San Vitale, he “realized how magnificent an emperor could be.” Returning to Aachen, Charlemagne gave instructions for a replica to be built as his private chapel.

Constructed at the southern end of the palace complex on the site of an earlier church, the domed octagonal Palatine Chapel was built between 796 and 804. It was consecrated by Pope Leo III in 805 to serve as Charlemagne’s chapel, a reliquarium for his collection, and a church for members of the royal court. It is 54 feet (16.5 meters) in diameter and 124 feet (38 meters) high—at the time the largest dome north of the Alps. Of course, beautiful as it is, in the circumstances Odo’s building could never have been a perfect replica. Architectural ideas are transmitted by several means: traveling architects, craftsmen, or patrons; images of buildings; and published theories. None is ideal. Images cannot convey the spatial aspects of buildings, and a visit to a building, no matter how perceptive and prolonged, leaves the visitor with mere impressions only. For those reasons, San Vitale lost a good deal in the translation, so to speak, even if Charlemagne imported columns and marbles from Ravenna and Rome and Byzantine craftsmen to assist with the work. Moreover, the refinement of the Italian church had been achieved after years of experiment with indigenous structural and decorative systems. Nevertheless, the Palatine Chapel at Aachen is an extraordinary advance upon preceding Carolingian buildings.