Trier – Porta Nigra

I walked through this Roman gate last year and was tempted to go in, but time was too tight…. So, this time, it was the first place that I went. Actually, it was the second as I want to go to McDonald’s for a McRib (they’re the only country that offers them on the permanent menu, I’ll post about that separately), but this was the first historic place.

Looking down onto the ticket hall.

This building was originally a Roman gate and it was constructed in around the period 160-200AD. The above photo is a reconstruction of what the view out of the window might have looked like. All in all, this was an impressive gateway, it’s also the largest Roman gate still standing north of the Alps.

The stonework on the floor marks the original line of the Roman road, where it formerly connected to the main street. The modern street line bypasses the gate, since it’s not really wide enough to have let the volume of carriages and cars through which has been necessary over the last couple of centuries.

After the Romans left, the locals kept pinching bits of the gate, which wasn’t ideal. In the Middle Ages some of the locals would pinch the iron clamps between the blocks of stones and sometimes they just carted off the stone itself to use in their own building efforts.

The stone was originally white as it’s sandstone, but wear and tear on the gate over time led to it being called Porta Nigra, or the Black Gate. Modern air pollution isn’t helping the situation either, although there was a large conservation effort in the early 1970s which helped, and there’s probably a need for another now.

The authorities never decided to demolish the gate, they thought that they’d keep it. This was partly, but not entirely, down to a hermit deciding that he’d like to live in the gate. I can think of worse places, although he picked a rather miserable bit of the structure, the ground floor room in the photo above.

The hermit who had chosen to live in the building was Simeon and when he died the local Bishop, who was known as Poppo, decreed that the gate should become a church. This was a marvellous decision, as it ensured that the building wasn’t demolished and it could continue in use. The photo above is taken looking inwards and the former roof line of the vaulted ceiling of the church can still be seen.

The building has four levels, the ground floor (obviously), then the floor above which was used for public worship when it was a church, and then two upper floors which were used by the monks. Above is a photo of the top floor where the vaulted ceiling of the chapter house was once located. There also used to be a spire above here, but this was later removed.

What is now the first floor of the building was also the entrance, with banked up earth leading people up to former entrance doors such as this one.

I think this is where the organ used to be in the church. On which point, most of this structure is now open to the elements, even though it is mostly roofed over. None of the windows have glass in and it does all feel like it’s deteriorating, especially as in this room there’s dripping water from above.

The interior of a former chapel.

Visitors can’t walk around here, it’s the former gallery which runs behind the chancel.

An old tablet from the church, one of the few things which has any form of protection over it. There’s quite a lot of modern graffiti in the stone around the structure as well which isn’t a particularly pleasant look, although I suppose it will in time become part of the building’s history.

Another photo looking inwards towards what would have been the interior of the gate. The structure remained as a church until Napoleon came along and decided that he wanted to occupy Trier and he suppressed it and brought it into state control. He started to make efforts to restore it to a Roman gate and that’s sort of what the situation is today. The building has been used for various purposes over the last two centuries, but it is now likely to permanently remain as a museum.

I initially walked around this structure moaning (only to myself) about the lack of information on it. However, I then discovered that the friendly staff member had handed me a small foldout explanation of the site, so I had to walk around it all again to get a better context of what it was all about. A fascinating building and I liked how a church had been incorporated into the former gate.