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Best Places to Visit in Trier, Germany

Trier

 

 Inside the Roman Gate Porta Nigra, looking out

As noted in our short section on the history of Trier, the city was an early settlement of the Roman Empire that  became an important administrative center during the 3rd century.  

 It is thought that there was a defensive wall several miles in length, surrounding the city, as well as five gated guard towers used to control access to the city. 

The Porta Nigra (the Black Gate) is the sole remaining Roman gate, as the others were destroyed in the Middle Ages.    Shortly after the First Crusade, the Porta Nigra was converted into a church, which may have protected it from destruction.  A cloister, which now serves as the Trier Museum, was built on the adjacent land (photo below-left).

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 9th century.

                 The massive Porta Nigra is an amazing, two-thousand year old defensive gate.

 

         The Cloister next to the Porta Nigra, now serves as the Stadtmuseum    Remnant of the period when the Porta Nigra was used as a church

         Interior scene in the Porta Nigra    The ancient Roman Aula Palatina in now a Protestant Church

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  Rheinisches 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 Kaiserthermen, Imperial Roman Baths, in Trier, Germany    The excavations at the Viehmarkt in Trier, Germany

       The Roman Amphitheater in Trier, Germany     The underground chamber at the Amphitheater in Trier, Germany

The other significant  Roman Baths in Trier, Barbara' Baths,  are located close to the Moselle River, but have been closed  to the public due to safety issues.

 

Next Trier's Dom and Church of Our Lady

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The Porta Nigra was originally a much lighter color, but the stone used to build it has darkened over time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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