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December 5, 2018

Germany: Trier

The Prince-Elector’s Palace in Trier

Near the vineyard-covered red sandstone hills of the Mosel Valley is the city of Trier. Trier is located at the extreme edge of west-central Germany. It’s close to the border; Luxembourg is only a few miles away. Usually we come to wine country for the wine. But in this case it is history that brought is to the region.

Civilization has deep roots in this area of Europe.

Founded by the Celts in the late-4th century BC as Treuorum, Trier was later conquered by the Romans in the late-1st century BC. The Romans changed the Celtic name to Trevorum or Augusta Treverorum and started on a building program. Eventually Trevorum’s name evolved to the modern-day Trier.

Trier’s historic district

Trier’s cathedral

Trier is possibly the oldest city in Germany, though this is disputed. It is also without dispute the oldest seat of a bishop, and hence a cathedral city, north of the Alps.

The construction of a cathedral in Trier dates from the 4th Century, the time of the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great’s conversion to Christianity. At this period in history Trier was home to the grandest ensemble of ecclesiastical structures in the West outside Rome.

Trier’s cathedral is the oldest church in Germany. The first buildings in the complex date to around 270, though they did not survive unscathed. In the 4th Century the Franks razed the cathedral. The church was rebuilt and then destroyed again by the Vikings in 882, and again rebuilt. Through the centuries the church continued to be reconstructed and embellished.

The outside wall of the cathedral shows the construction with Roman brick.

The cathedral’s Baroque west choir

Today the central portion of the cathedral’s nave retains its Roman brick structure from early fourth century. With the Roman core are a mix of styles: Gothic vaults, Renaissance sculptures, and Baroque chapels were added over time. Even with the later influences the building remains largely Romanesque.

Trier Germany’s “other” noted old church, the Aula Palatina or Basilica of Constantine, was commissioned as a Roman throne room by the Roman emperor Constantine the Great at the start of the 4th century. The Basilica was completed in 310. With a length of 67 meters (220 feet), a width of 26 m (85 ft), and a height of 33 m (108 ft), Aula Palatina is the largest single-room Roman structure to be preserved from ancient times. Even today the interior space is impressive. It seems impossible that such a large covered space has remained intact for so many years, but it has.

Porta Nigra, the “black gate”

A plaque shows the UNESCO World Heritage designation.

There are more historical Roman sites to see in Trier. Porta Nigra, the “black gate” at the edge of the old town, is the largest Roman gate north of the Alps. It dates from the 2nd Century. The Roman bridge over the Mosel also dates from the 2nd Century and still carries road traffic today. Also from the 2nd Century is an amphitheater once capable of sitting 20,000. Trier’s Roman amphitheater seems almost forgotten among all of Trier’s impressive Roman structures.

Trier’s Roman bridge crosses the Mosel River.

Inside Aula Palatina


Trier’s Roman sites are included as part of the “Cathedral of St. Peter and Church of Our Lady in Trier” UNESCO World Heritage listing.

Our visit to Trier was in October of 2017. We stayed for two nights.

Trier’s amphitheater

The ceiling in Aula Palatina is a more modern replacement.

St. Gangolf church in the centre of Trier

A commercial barge navigates the Mosel River in Trier.

The Mosel River


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