Elisenbrunnen or Elisa Fountain in Aachen was once a grand thermal bath complex, and remains as a symbol of the Spa Town of Aachen. It is a very impressive construction with an open pilloried hall and two lateral pavilions built in the Neo Classical style. In the olden days, people came from all over Europe to try the healing waters of the sulphur springs which maintained a temperature between 45-75 degrees centigrade. Though first discovered by the Celts, it was the Romans who converted this place into a bathing and healing resort. Built between 1822 -1827 by two famous architects Peter Cremer and Karl Friederich Schinkel, the building had to be renovated in 2009. Small marble plaques remind us of the famous visitors who visited the spa over the centuries. The names of Handel and Casanova find a place among the plaques.
The sulphur content of the water had healing properties for various illnesses like joint pains, skin diseases, gastro intestinal infections, strokes and other diseases. Syphilitics were smeared with a paste containing mercury and had to drink ten litres of the sulphur water daily for several days, to affect a complete cure. The story goes that Josephine the second wife of Napoleon was infertile. She had tested the waters in many spas without success. She was finally cured at Elisenbrunnen and bore a son.
Charlemagne was the main patron of the spa. Bathing was not just for healing but also for pleasure. The bathing culture became a fashion for the rich and famous for enjoyment, relaxation and socializing. But as Christianity spread, bathing for pleasure was denounced.
Today the Elisenbrunnen has been converted into a hotel. In one of its pavilions, Aachen Tourist Information has established its office. In a circular section of the colonnade there are two large basins with golden taps on either side. They continuously provide hot water concentrated with sulphur. Outside this building is a row of small fountains also spouting sulphur water.
The actual thermal spa has been shifted outside the city and is known as the Carolus Thermal Spa. People come here for medical baths, massage, mud wraps, or just for relaxation and de-stressing.
Adjacent to the Elisenbrunnen building is the Square which has an archaeological showcase where Roman and Medieval foundations are preserved under glass.
By Eva Bell