Theses Doctoral

Recreating the Past: Aachen and the Problem of the Architectural "Copy"

Shaffer, Jenny H.

This thesis explores the formal, historiographic and critical issues of similitude and the problem of historical memory through Charlemagne's chapel at Aachen and buildings associated with it. In my study, I seek to understand some of the levels on which reference to and appropriation of Aachen reflect the historical, political and cultural moment unique to each of five selected interpretations and how, in these examples, the perception of Aachen provided an image through which contemporary concerns ad meanings could be expressed.

The issue, therefore, is not so much what Aachen was like, physically or even ideologically, at the time it was built, but how the chapel was perceived in later times, and, importantly, what the terms of that image were and how that image made the chapel a viable touchstone for later references - often ambiguously termed "copies." These buildings can be seen not simply as subordinate to Aachen, but as works that incorporate an image of Aachen for their own ends; through this incorporation, Aachen can be seen as actually subject to them for its own survival. My study raises the question of what it can mean to remember Aachen and the corollary issue of what it can mean to be like Aachen. My chosen examples underscore that while the chapel remained a potent image, the perception of Aachen as a work of the past as well as the criteria for likeness are changeable and tied to time and circumstance.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Art History and Archaeology
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
May 12, 2014