Porta Nigra: hall in the ground floor, possibly where St. Simeon, a Greek monk, retired
The gate was doomed to a very different destination. A voluntary recluse of the name of Simeon, fixed upon one of its towers as his place of retreat from the world, and continued so to occupy it during the last seven years of his life, from 1028 to 1035. This Simeon was a Greek monk who had accompanied Archbishop Poppo in a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. He was likewise a man of more than ordinary piety, even in those days of religious enthusiasm. For the purposes therefore of commemorating these acts of self devotion, and also of stimulating others by the example, Pope Benedict IX enrolled his name in the catalogue of Saints; whilst, as a further honour, the Archbishop consecrated the building where the hermit had lived, and where his bones were interred.
Johann Hugo Wyttenbach - The Stranger's Guide to the Roman Antiquities of the City of Treves - Edited by Dawson Turner - 1838
Porta Nigra: (left) apse of the church; (right) detail of its gallery
Thus the Pagan fortification became a Christian church, under the invocation of St. Simeon. Earth was then piled up before either front, so as altogether to conceal the entrance; and to the outside was added a flight of steps which led to the highest story. This part of the building was the proper church; and from it a staircase within formed a communication with a crypt below, which at once served for a second church, and a place of interment. The more effectually to complete the design, an addition was made on the eastern side and is still standing by its more venerable neighbour, a specimen of the Romanesque architecture in use during the eleventh century. Its object was to supply a choir and consequently to receive the high altar. Wyttenbach
Porta Nigra: details of the Romanesque gallery
building was consecrated and dedicated to St. Simeon by Archbishop
Poppo, in the eleventh century. To
fit it for the service of religion, (..) he formed three churches in it,
one above the other, in which service
was regularly performed down to the
beginning of the present century.
John Murray - A Hand-Book for Travellers on the Continent - 1838
It is very likely that Simeon, during the years he led pilgrimages to the Holy Land had the opportunity to visit the Martyrion, the shrine built on the site where St. Simeon Stylites lived as a hermit atop a column. The visit might have influenced his later decision to retire to Porta Nigra.
Porta Nigra - nave of the church which was decorated in the second half of the XVIIIth century: (left) relief portraying St. Ambrose who was born at Trier; (right) other decorative elements
The suppression of the ecclesiastical character of the structure, and the restoring to its original destination (..) was not carried into effect till after the breaking out of the French Revolution. The storm then raised swept away the church. St Simeon disappeared and the double gateway after having lain for nearly 800 years buried in earth and rubbish finally emerged again to light under the auspices of the Royal Prussian Government in 1817. Yet still remains of the comparatively modern masonry of the church are left within the ancient building. They reciprocally support each other; and the imposing whole is eminently calculated to produce a strong effect upon the mind of him who wanders in contemplation among the ruins. Each fragment teems with evidence of a by gone age. On traversing the lofty arched passages and advancing eastward between the gray pilasters, we arrive at a small vaulted room; the larger, which formed the principal church, was unfortunately destroyed in the course of the restoration of the gate. Wyttenbach
The inner courtyard of the gate was roofed over in order to create the naves of the churches. The roofs were removed during the restoration of the gate.
The Cathedral of St. Peter and St.
Helen is an irregular building, in
the very earliest Gothic (Byzantine)
style, with round arches. Murray
It is difficult to associate the Cathedral with a single architectural style. It was initiated in the XIth century and it still retains some Romanesque features, but towers and chapels were added in the following centuries in Gothic or Baroque styles. Some Gothic features were emphasized by the restoration carried out by the Prussians who supported the revival of this style, as a means to enhance the German aspect of the town.
Cathedral: (left) western front; (right) one of the towers; (inset) broken granite column
The semi-circular terminations both of the east and west ends are full of Roman bricks, and have been supposed to be of Roman construction. Indeed the whole is believed to have formed part of the Basilica, or palace of the empress Helena, mother of Constantine the Great, who converted her residence into a church, and deposited in it our Saviour's coat without seams. The existence of this relic, at present, is rather doubtful, at least, it is not visible; the attendants of the church say it is walled up. The original building of Helena is supposed to have consisted of nine arches supported in the centre by four colossal pillars of granite; three of these are believed still to exist in their place. (..) The fourth gave way, and to prevent the total destruction of the building, its place was supplied by a square pier of masonry and the others were walled up by Bishop Poppo, who repaired the church in the 11th century. This fractured column lies at present on the outside of the church; it is 7 feet in diameter. Murray
Cathedral - western front: apse and adjoining galleries
The design of the western front and the use of red bricks and white stones were most likely influenced by the architecture and decoration of Kaiserthermen, large unfinished Roman baths of the IVth century.
Although almost annihilated during the invasion of the Goths, Huns, and Vandals, it arose to a height of splendour nearly equalling its former state, under the rule of the Archbishops of Treves, who were Princes, Arch-chancellors, and Electors of the empire. Many of them seem to have aimed more at temporal than spiritual sway. They maintained large armies, which, after the fashion of the times, they did not scruple to lead in person, clad in armour. The ambition and talents of many of these episcopal rulers increased their dominions so much, as to obtain for them considerable political influence in Germany. Murray
The diocese of Trier was raised to the level of Archdiocese at the time of Charlemagne and was granted immunities and privileges. In ca 1200 the Archbishop of Trier became one of the seven princes who elected the Holy Roman Emperor; in essence he became the ruler of a territory (Electorate) which included the Lower Mosel Valley and the city of Koblenz at the junction between Mosel and Rhine. Similar rights on bordering regions were given to the Archbishops of Cologne and Mainz (see a page on their palaces).
Liebfrauenkirche: front with the portal
Adjoining the cathedral, and connected with it, stands the far more
graceful Church of Our Lady, (Liebfrauenkirche) built in the most elegant pointed style, between 1227
and 1243, and originally intended to
supply the want of a Lady Chapel.
The semicircular portal is richly
ornamented with sculpture, and the
interior, in the shape of a Greek
cross, is supported by twelve pillars,
each bearing the picture of an apostle.
The overall design of the church resembles that of a twelve-petaled rose, a symbol of the Virgin Mary; it was obtained by inserting two chapels in each space between two arms of the Greek cross which constituted the basic structure of the building.
Liebfrauenkirche: relief of the portal
The full round portal is a Romanesque feature in what is considered among the earliest Gothic buildings of Germany. The sculptures represent the Virgin Mary on her throne at the centre, the Angel appearing to the Shepherds (far left), the Magi (left), the Presentation to the Temple (right) and the Massacre of the Innocents (far right). You may wish to see the Romanesque reliefs of Saint-Trophime at Arles and of the Abbey Church of Saint-Gilles.
Liebfrauenkirche: (left) interior; (right) monument to Karl von Metternich by Matthias Rauchmiller (1675)
Klemens von Metternich, Foreign Minister of the Austrian Empire, was a major actor at the Congress of Vienna which in 1815 redesigned the map of Europe after the Napoleonic Wars. The stated goal of the Congress was to restore the old European order, but although the Metternich family had held many important posts in the Electorate of Trier and Klemens himself was born at Koblenz, he was unable to resist the pressures by the Prussians to obtain territorial gains after their great contribution to the defeat of Napoleon. As a consequence the Electorates of Cologne and Trier were annexed to the Kingdom of Prussia.
The Dominions of the Archbishopric and Electorate of Trier or Treves are mostly mountainous and woody, yet in many Parts there is good arable Land and it produces vast Quantities of Wines of the Moselle. This Archbishopric has been greatly abridged by the Conquests of France. Treves on the Moselle its capital City has a Cathedral, three Collegiate and five Parish Churches, three Colleges of Jesuits, thirteen Convents and an University. But it being so much at the Mercy of France whenever that restless People think it for their Interest to invade Germany, no considerable Commerce can be expected in it.
Adam Anderson - An Historical and Chronological Deduction of the Origin of Commerce - 1764
Because of the proximity of Trier to France, the Archbishops-Electors preferred to live at Ehrenbreitstein Castle, an imposing fortress at Koblenz which in 1688 withstood a siege by King Louis XIV. Trier lost importance after it had been occupied in 1702, 1704, 1705 and 1734 during the Succession Wars. This notwithstanding, in 1756 Archbishop-Elector Johann Philipp von Walderdorff decided to redesign and embellish his palace at Trier.
Hauptmarkt: (left) Marktkreuz (a cast of the original); (right) Petersbrunnen (St. Peter's fountain - 1595); Peter is the patron saint of Trier and he is portrayed in its coat of arms (and on a 1902 manhole which you can see in the image used as background for this page)
In the market-place stands a pillar
of granite, surmounted by a cross,
raised to commemorate the appearance of a fiery cross in the sky, seen,
according to an obscure tradition, in
Although the 1702 inscription says Ob memoriam signorum S. Crucis (in memory of the signs of the Holy Cross), the cross most likely celebrated the trading rights given to the town by Emperor Otto I.
Historical houses: (above-left) Dreikonigenhaus (Three Kings' Houses, a reference to the Magi who were portrayed in a painting in the building), in origin an early XIIIth century Romanesque tower/house; (above-right) Rotes Haus (Red House); (below) its inscription
An inscription on the wall of the Rothe Haus
(formerly the Town-hall) asserts that
Treves was built before Rome.
"Ante Romam Treviris stetit annis
MCCC." Without giving credit to
this, it may fairly be considered the
oldest city in Germany. Murray
The historical monuments of Trier were greatly damaged during WWII. Their reconstruction/restoration, although accurately based on paintings, engravings, photographs and other records, has given them a bright and gay aspect which most likely they never had, or at least not all at the same time.
(left) Portal of St. Gangolf's; (right) portal near Welschnonnerkirche
The city itself is characteristic and striking; it lays claim to the possession of more ecclesiastical buildings than any other of the same size;
and it would be difficult to deny it this sort
of celebrity; for inside the walls it is burdened,
nay overwhelmed, with churches, chapels, monasteries, convents, colleges, and other chivalric
and monastic buildings; outside it is beset by
abbeys, foundations, and Carthusian monasteries.
All this bears testimony to a widely-extended ecclesiastical jurisdiction, over which,
in former times, the Archbishop bore sway;
his diocese reaching from this as far as Metz,
Toul, and Verdun.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe - Campaign in France in the year 1792 - Translation by Robert Farie
At the French Revolution, Treves suffered the usual fortune of having its churches and convents stripped of their wealth, and the buildings turned into stables or warehouses. Before that event, Treves boasted of possessing more ecclesiastical buildings than any other city of the same size. Murray
Karl-Marx-Haus (now a museum)
Karl Marx was born in this house in 1818. When he attended the Trier Gymnasium in 1830-1835 the principal was Johann Hugo Wyttenbach (1767-1848) who made the acquaintance of J. W. Goethe in 1792. The latter wrote that he had enjoyed many pleasant scientific and literary conversations with his young friend. Wyttenbach was of liberal ideas and he influenced the early writings of Marx.
Plan of this section:
Ahrweiler and its Roman Villa
Bad Kreuznach and its Roman Villa
Boppard (Bodobrica) and the Rhine Gorge
Cologne (Colonia Agrippina)
Igel, Nennig and the Mosel Valley
Trier (Augusta Treverorum)
Xanten (Castra Vetera and Colonia Ulpia Traiana)
Aachen: Palatine Chapel
Cologne: Romanesque Churches
Limburg an der Lahn