Today we visited a very special German city, Trier. My first introduction to the town was when I was a teenager. Germany had not yet realized the aesthetic value of the Roman ruins that were being excavated and you could walk through the rubble of the archaeologists’ finds. It wasn’t pretty…you didn’t pay entry fees…it hadn’t become a tourist attraction. 20 years later I brought my husband to experience the city. The streets were no longer torn up, and the ruins were better groomed, but it was still more of a pilgrimage than a sightseeing tour. We ran from Porta Nigra to Basilika in the rain…without a tour map, depending on the helpfulness of strangers in the street to direct us. Today, about 15 years later, there are entry fees for everything, tour booklets in multiple languages, and a museum with multiple guards per floor. 2000 year old structures have weathered time, weather, siege and world war. Yet among the pockmarked stones thousands of thoughtless people have scrawled names, initials, symbols, showing no respect for the global treasures they are defacing. If you ever find yourself in the Mosel Valley, make your way to the city that was once on par with Rome, Alexandria, and Constantinople.
After the Romans had left the city, the Porta Nigra was reincarnated as a church; rebuilt on at least two occasions. Today it has been returned to a more original state, although the rounded end that would have been the nave of the church remains.
Through the windows of the Porta you can see the countryside, the city, and the Dom.
Walking into the Altstadt we arrived first at the Dom (cathedral). This structure, started 1000 years ago, lies on the foundations of Roman buildings dating from the 3rd and 4th centuries (anno domini). Beautifully appointed inside, with vaulted and carved ceilings and imposing memorials and altars, the Dom houses the Shroud of Turin, which is exposed for view only about every 10 years. Whatever your beliefs, it is an impressive and solemn monument. The Dom museum houses codex & book covers from the early middle ages, carvings from even earlier, and reliquaries from holy men and women, including St. Peter and St. Andrew. Next door is the Liebfrauen Kirche, completely different in style – light and airy.
Also now used as a church, the Imperial Palace, built by Constantius, and later taken over by Constantine the Great is now the Protestant Basilika. The giant audience hall has had numerous incarnations; as a royal residence, a bishop’s residence, a fortress,
and a courtyard.
Hygiene was of great importance in Roman times, and Constantine had a great plan for the Imperial Baths. While it never came to fruition, most of the structure was completed and then repurposed. There were aqueducts and heating mechanisms, and underground hallways for servants.
That brings us to the Amphitheatre. The location for animal fights, gladiators and executions, the amphitheatre formed part of the city wall, and its entrance was one of the gates.
OK…so I have a new favourite word. The entrances into the seats were called vormitoria
Here it is…the required panorama. What the Christian saw before the lion was upon him.
Below the arena floor are a series of rooms and drains that housed animals and the condemned, and from which each could be brought into the center.
And if you are around Trier in the summer time, the gladiators still compete in the Amphitheatre on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. Sounds like a rollicking good time to me.