The Porta Nigra is a massive structure and its many openings certainly
spelled trouble for those attempting to breach its walls. The interior
hallways are quite wide and at each end there are rectangular rooms that
could be used for storage or planning defensive actions. You can enter the Porta Nigra
for a modest fee and climb (no elevator) to its top floors for panoramic
views of the city.
When you tour the Gate, you will see that there remain a few objects from the time the Porta Nigra served as a church
(below - right), but we suspect you will marvel at the construction, the
thickness of the walls and how formidable this gate must have appeared to
intruders. Of course, the gate and walls did not keep out the invading
German and Franco-German tribes who destroyed Trier several times during the
5th and 6th centuries. Trier was also invaded and destroyed by the Vikings in the
The Basilica (also called the Basilika and Aula Palatina - photo above-right
which serves as a modern day
Protestant church, was originally part of a massive Roman palace built by
the Roman Emperor Constantine. The Basilica is thought to be have been
a reception hall in the larger palace. Excavations have revealed
that the original interior of the building was lavish, decorated with marble
and colorful painting that did not survive the centuries. The building
has been used for many purposes over the years and the roof is a modern
addition to replace the original that collapsed during the Franco-German
invasions of the 5th century. The Constantine Basilica is noted
as the largest single-room Roman building still standing.
The Roman activities also included a Roman Bath
(the Kaiserthermen or Imperial Baths) on
the south side of the Old Town (photo below -top left
) that would have been
the largest bath complex outside of Rome. Unfortunately, when
Constantine became Emperor and moved the focus of the Roman Empire to
Constantinople, funding for projects in Trier was curtailed and the Imperial
Baths were abandoned. Just north of the Kaiserthermen is the Roman
Archaeological Museum that has an
amazing collection of Roman artifacts and several stunning Roman mosaics.
See the official museum website
Landesmuseum for more details. (The website is in German only, so
use a translation program if you do not read German.)
Several decades ago, the government of Trier decided to build an
underground car park near the Viehmarkt-platz (the former livestock market)
and found another Roman bath and small village. These ruins are now housed
in a glass-faced building that provides generous views of the antiquities
(see the right-top photo below).
If you zoom in on the satellite view of the Viehmarkt, you will see that the
roof design of the "viewing building" mirrors that of the pavement of the
square. In addition, the reddish pavement sections show the location of the old
Roman road through the area.
Finally, you might be interested in seeing Trier's Roman Amphitheater that
continues in use today. The Ampitheater is outside of the Old Town,
and only a short drive away.
The Amphitheater has the oval shape common to stadiums in the ancient
world, but it
is thought the facility was once part of the walls around the city and
may actually have functioned as a gate of entry for the city. The
speculation on its role as a gate is based, in part, on the small number of
entrances that exist to fill and flush the crowds attending events.
Most similar sized venues in the ancient Roman World had significantly more
access point than one finds in the Trier Amphitheater.
The Amphitheater is thought to have been large enough to seat slightly
over 20,000 spectators when it was built in in the early 2nd century.
The facility includes several
ground-level rooms where the gladiators prepared for the battle, as well as
a modest underground area where animals, feed and other materials were
stored. (See photos on bottom left and right, below
The other significant Roman Baths in Trier, Barbara' Baths, are located
the Moselle River, but have been closed to the public due to safety issues.
Trier's Dom and Church of Our Lady
Return to the Best Places to Visit in Germany
If you need information about another travel destination, try
Destination Guide Index
or Googling ThereArePlaces.