Trier – Basilica of Constantine

I was rather intrigued as to who could have built such a Roman building in the middle of Trier, and my question was soon answered when I entered. The Romans built it. I should have perhaps guessed that. But, to be fair, this is an enormous building and that it is still standing is a testament to many generations of locals who never found a reason to tear it down.

The external brickwork is exquisite, it looks and feel like a beautiful building with some considerable history to it.

On entering, it became apparent that the building is today used as a church, run by the Evangelicals and known as the Church of the Redeemer. It’s a rather under-stated interior, with exposed brickwork, although this is a more recent innovation.

The roof is twentieth century, re-constructed following the end of the Second World War, but it is deliberately designed to look as it might have done in the Roman period. What is interesting, well to me anyway, is that the current altar is where it is thought that the throne of the Roman Emperors once stood.

The church’s grand organ is post-war, but has been designed to perform different types of music from over the last four hundred years. The church gets 1.5 million visitors per year, and is also a popular destination for those wanting to watch musical performances.

The light comes flowing into the building because of the sheer amount of glass in the walls. The building was originally conceived by Emperor Constantine the Great in the early fourth century as a palace, assembly and ceremonial hall. It also had its own hypocaust to ensure that it remained warm, and there are still some traces of this visible.

The building wasn’t completed until the reign of Constantine as he shifted power to what is now Istanbul. It is thought that the building was finally finished in 379AD, under the emperorship (is that a word?) of Gratian.

There are numerous information boards, with English translations, which tell the history of the building. This is perhaps one of the building’s saddest periods, when it was badly damaged during the Second World War. One of the information boards explains that the fire-fighters during the war could do nothing to save the cedar roof, as their fire hoses only reached half way up the building.

The building had received a grand restoration in the nineteenth century, but this has swept away much of the Roman tradition that had survived. When the war time damage was repaired, it was decided to revert back to the Roman period, with the internal walls remaining stripped.

There is no admission charge to enter the church.