My journey didn’t begin with Trier, but I want to begin my blog with it because this is my favorite town in Germany. Not only because of its ancient history and its beauty, but also because of its atmosphere. If it is true that the inhabitants of every one of the 16 federal states in Germany differ from one another, then the residents of Rhineland-Palatinate may turn out to be very pleasant people…
Trier is the oldest town in Germany. In this first part of my publications about Trier, I want to begin with the provable documented history, to wit: in 16 B.C., the First Emperor of the Roman Empire built Augusta Treverorum, the City of Augustus (August means noble, majestic, or awe-inspiring – a term, very appropriate to the figure of one emperor. Now we know whom we owe the name of our eighth month). And that’s why when you travel from East Belgium, where the German-speaking community in Belgium lives, but this territory is part of the French-speaking Walloon Region (later I’m going to come back to that point), the road signs indicating the direction towards Trier are the following: Trier/Trèves, respectively in German and French. The town was called ‘The Northern Rome’, and in administrative-legal and cultural respect, as well as in lifestyle, it was directed towards those in the ‘mother-city’. (And it was not until I wrote these lines that I realized why this is my favorite German city – because of my weakness for Italy). The major part of the residents was well-to-do and they endeavored to lead a luxurious life that was led by the people of Rome. Trier was a home for people from the entire Roman Empire and even from Syria. And in that respect – when we talk about ‘pure race’, nation, nationalism, even patriotism – do we know what these words really mean? Even in the light of the two last millenniums – I think that we don’t.
The coat of arms of Trier represents Saint Peter, wearing golden clothes, with a key in one hand and a book in the other – another relation with Rome. Saint Peter is the patron of the city since the 12th century.
Porta Nigra – the North City Gate through the fortified wall is built in AD 180 and today is one of the most famous landmarks of Trier. It was called during the Middle Ages also Porta Martis and it is clear why – the soldiers went out through it when setting off for a war. Porta Nigra is the only one preserved of all four city gates.
The market cross placed on the Hauptmarkt/the Main Market by Archbishop Henry I in 958 as a national emblem. Behind is the cathedral.
And now I don’t want to get stuck on some historical details that are boring, even to me, and my blog is not intended to be a historical site, but I can’t continue with Trier without mentioning the Trier Bishops/Archbishops/Prince-electors because they are the main characters in the history of the city from the 3rd century onwards. And I’m going to mention them in many further publications.
As early as the 3rd century, Trier became a bishop seat and in the 4th century, the city was the main center for spreading the Christianity to the north of the Alps. The clerks became so powerful that they virtually began to rule the city since the end of the 5th century, turning Trier in some sort of self-dependant church-state. At the end of the 8th century, Charlemagne granted the bishops the archbishop’s title and later in the Middle Ages, the Trier Archbishop became one of the seven prince-electors who were entitled to elect the Kings of the Romans, or the German Kings.
The Cathedral of Saint Peter is the oldest episcopal church on German territory. It is built on the foundations of the former castle of Helena – Emperor Constantine’s mother, who donated it to the Trier Bishop. The construction of the cathedral began in the 4th century and following constructions, reconstructions, and extensions were carried out until the 18th century.
The primary building in Roman times was twice as big as the present one! It was also a double sacred building – as it is today with the contiguous church.
View of the west choir.
View from the west choir.
Baroque stuccowork in the west choir dating from the 11th century.
The typical of this cathedral are the numerous shrines, that is to say, tombs (of the bishops and archbishops), that function as side altars on which masses are celebrated.
Some of them.
From the shrine of Archbishop Richard von Greiffenklau.
I don’t know how is it that there is a room for such mythical creatures in one sacred Christian temple. And this is a temple that is Christian from its very beginning, unlike other churches that are former pagan sanctuaries, like the Barcelona Cathedral, for example. (Bear in mind that Emperor Constantine himself legitimized the Christian religion and stopped the persecutions of the Christians and the torture in the name of the pagan gods – in return for the persecutions in the opposite direction. But this is a deviation from the subject…) In the next publication, I will show how the devil „stands outside“, excluding the ominous gargoyles. Yet here many of the altar decorations in the temple within are very disturbing.
Trier lies even on the Route of Santiago de Compostela/Way of St. James, and one of the pilgrimage stations in town is indeed the Cathedral of Saint Peter. Here is kept one of the Jesus Relics – the Seamless Robe/the Holy Robe that he presumably wore by his crucifixion. After the legend, it was brought in Trier by Helena after her pilgrimage to Jerusalem.
Here is the gold-plated high altar, inside of which is the reliquary with the Holy Robe.
The pulpit (1570-1573) was crafted by the great master Hans Ruprecht Hoffmann, who is going to be mentioned on other occasions. His work is also the shrine of Archbishop Lothar von Metternich (the last two of the upper photographs) – to become convinced of his craftsmanship.
The organ of the cathedral is not old – dates from 1974, but is extremely impressive and beautiful. This kind of organs is called swallow’s nest organ, that is to say, they hang on the wall like a swallow’s nest without stepping on the floor. Seeing it from below is an extremely strange experience.
Part of the pulpit, along with the organ, seen from below.
Images from the interior of the cathedral.
The Gothic cloister from 1235-1260.
Details from the cloister.
The cloister serves as a connection with the contiguous Church of Our Lady/Liebfrauenkirche. Along with the church in Marburg, it is considered the earliest Gothic church in Germany, probably built 1235-1260.
I’m not going to publish photographs from the inside, as photography is prohibited. But of course, almost every visitor takes photographs secretly, which, along with some other similar occurrences, shook my concept of the so-called ‘precise German nation’.
And since Trier is the oldest town in Germany, here is the oldest pharmacy in the country, open in 1241.
But my favorite building in this city is the Electoral Palace/Kurfürstliches Palais. I call it ‘the little Belvedere’, because of its sphinxes at the front.
The Electoral Palace served in the 17-18th century as a residence of the Trier Archbishops/Trier Prince-electors.
My beloved Mercury – one of the Rococo sculptures of ancient Greek,…. pardon me, ancient Roman deities from 1754-1761. They were crafted by another great master, who will be mentioned further – Ferdinand Tietz.
You can see how the palace building passes into the Basilica of Constantin behind it (the brown building to the left that was Aula Palatina, built at the beginning of the 4th century by Constantin – in the 3rd-4th century, Trier was one of the Emperor residences). That is because the palace was erected in 1614 on the territory of the former basilica, and when in the 19th century, the basilica was reconstructed, the west wing of the palace had to be demolished in order that the basilica is built up again.
In the 12th century, the basilica was used as a residence of the Trier Archbishops. And you don’t need to ask yourself why – the Roman Empire and everything that is linked to it has always been a symbol of power and prosperity that many rulers had been appropriating over the centuries (we are going to see this right in the next publication). Though, in the 17th century, the Archbishops began to build the more suitable for them Electoral Palace.
After its repeated construction between 1844 and 1856, the basilica was given to the Evangelical Community to which it belongs to this very day. Today it is a Church of the Redeemer.
The basilica from the inside.
The Eclectic style gate of the Evangelical Community in the north wing of the palace.
That’s all from Trier for now. More of the city will be shown in part 2.