Are you sitting down? Because it’s story time!
Aachen wasn’t always a part of the German empire, since it lies to the west of river Rhine. It belonged to the French during the Napolean era, and even further back, the Holy Roman empire. In fact, 31 Roman emperors since Charlemagne have been crowned in this city. Some stories of this city are legendary. It is always fun to hear, and no matter where in the world you are, old wives’ tales exist everywhere.
Way back when the cathedral was being constructed, Aachen’s city coffers ran dry and the townsfolk were looking around for a quick injection of cash. The devil saw an opportunity and offered them the cash they needed to complete the cathedral. In return, he demanded the soul of the first living being that entered the cathedral upon its completion. The Aachen townspeople huddled together and came up with a plan to outwit Old Nick. They agreed to the deal, took the cash and finished construction. Then they went to the surrounding forest and captured a wolf, released him in front of the cathedral and chased him through the front door. The devil, so excited his deal was paying off, grabbed the wolf’s soul before he realized he had been tricked. Noticing he’d been had, the poor old devil flew into a rage and stormed out of the cathedral, slamming the doors behind him with such force he tore off one of his thumbs. So Aachen got its cathedral and the wolf lost his soul, but is forever memorialized by that statue in the entryway, with the pine cone representing his stolen soul. Poor old wolf.
The story does not end there. When the devil was tricked by the Aacheners, he wanted revenge, so he travelled all the way across the empire to the North Sea where he took a giant pile of sand from the bottom of the sea. He threw it over his shoulders in a bag and dragged it to Aachen, planning to bury the cathedral and the entire city underneath it. When he had almost arrived in Aachen, right at the place where the Lousberg is today, he took a break and met a beggar woman, Lous. He asked her: “Kind woman, tell me, how far is it to the empire’s capital Aachen?” Lous, who had recognized the devil because of his hooves and tail answered: “Alas, do you see my clothes? Only lumps! And do you see my shoes? I’ve walked so far, my soles are almost gone! When I bought my clothes and shoes at the market in Aachen, they were all new.” Thinking that Aachen was still very far away, the devil decided to let go of his plan. He left the giant pile of sand right in front of the city and he went back to hell. That is why the mountain is called Lousberg and why people say that Aacheners are “too smart for the devil”.
Notice the hoof, the horns and the missing right thumb. That is how Lous recognised him.
Lous means smart in the Aachen dialect.