Station: [103] Cathedral West Façade / Obelisk

  • Westfassade Dom
  • Obelisk

Here, the Xanten Cathedral can be seen from its most beautiful side! The impressive west facade with its twin towers rises almost 80 meters high into the air. The lower floors still date back to Roman times. At the beginning of the 16th Century, the façade was partially torn down to make way for the large Gothic stained-glass window. Traces of the older arched windows, which had to be removed, are still visible today. The large undeveloped area in front of the west facade was used as a cemetery until the 19th Century. In the redesigned park stands an obelisk in honour of the famous author and canon Cornelis de Pauw*. The monument was erected by order of Napoleon. It is said, that the emperor had read the de Pauw’s scriptures and had held him in high regard. At that time, de Pauw was famous as an author of ethnological works throughout Europe. King Frederick the Great of Prussia twice invited him for several months to his castle Sanssouci as a companion and reader. The king’s proposals that he should stay permanently in Sanssouci were turned down by de Pauw as he wished to return to Xanten to continue his occupation as librarian and author. In 1787, the successful authoress Sophie von Laroche wrote in her diary: “Soon, we arrived in the pretty little town of Xanten, which will always be mentioned with the greatest respect, since the meritorious Abbe Pauw lives there and within the walls of this city he finds the incentive to pursue his historical research work on Egypt and America. It was only by accident that we got to know this man who was so friendly and humble, despite his infinite knowledge and fame. He is now working on Greek history, and seeks to make this nation and its laws useful for young people.” The Monastery Museum exhibits Canon de Pauw’s main works in its permanent exhibition. In the Monastery Museum is also clearly illustrated, how important Frederic of Prussia and Napoleon have been for Xanten and the Lower Rhine. On the eastern side of the obelisk is an inscription that translates as: “Here lies Cornelius de Pauw, born in Amsterdam on 19th August 1739, the author of research works on the Egyptians, the Chinese, the Greeks and the Americans, died in Xanten on 5th July 1799. This simple monument was erected and funded by the City of Xanten in 1811, the eighth year of the reign of Napoleon the Great. Count of Montalivet, Minister of the Interior, Baron de Ladoucette, Prefect of the Ruhr department, Gruat, Interim Sub-Prefect of Cleves and Eickmann, Mayor of Xanten.”