From Remagen to Trier it is only 150 km. The autobahn is not congested and we make good time. We soon find a parking spot in the underground parkade. Our first stop is the historical point of interest, Porta Nigra.
During history class so many years ago I learned all about Augusta Trevenorum, the Roman city Trier, also referred to as the Rome of the North. Porta Nigra was erected in conjunction with the city’s wall between 160 – 200 A. D. measuring more than 6 km. The early name of the gate is unknown, Porta Nigra (Black Gate) was first mentioned in the city records during the Middle Ages. Small organisms had darkened the surface of the white sandstone over time hence the appropriate name.
Massive sandstone blocks used in the construction of the gate came from quarries around Trier. They were put together without mortar, using only iron clamps. During the Middle Ages these clamps became the target of “metal thieves.” Additional gates in the wall surrounding Trier were demolished and the building materials designated for other major architectural landmarks in the city.
Had it not been for the hermit Simeon who took up residency in the gate during the 11th century. To honour Simeon, Bishop Poppo (+ 1047) had the gate converted into a two-story church. The gateways were filled with earth and a large outside staircase was constructed on a wide embankment on the town side. This designation preserved the ancient building for centuries to come. Approximately 200 years ago during French rule (1794 – 1814), the church and the neighbouring Simeonstift monastery were transferred to state ownership (secularisation).
During a visit to Trier in 1804, Napoleon arranged for the excavation of the ancient building. This was delayed to 1815 (due to a lack of funds) and once it was under Prussian control. The Romanesque choir remained standing at that time to provide support for the east tower. Between 1822 and 1875, the Porta was returned to its original designation and used as city gate. During the same time period it became an antiques repository for the Prussian government. It continued to serve as a government storage facility until 1889.
Extensive restoration and conservation work was executed between 1969 and 1973. Today the Porta Nigra is owned by the province of Rhineland-Palatinate and is part of the cultural portfolio, including fortresses and antiquities.
The first story includes the church of the Middle Ages, which was covered by a roof and provided access for both citizens, as well as monks living at the monastery.
Overlooking the inner courtyard, which was covered and became the nave of the original church.
This image focuses on the massive sandstone blocks used in the construction of Porta Nigra.
A view of the original battlements, converted to arched walkways during the designation from city gate to church during the 11th century.
Overlooking the vast market place below…
Skillfully crafted wall reliefs depict various bishops and church dignitaries of the era.
The top floor offers further architectural details overlooking the inner court yard.
A platform with telescope provides panoramic views to capture rooftops of the surrounding environment.
A final glimpse of the circular arched walkway (currently undergoing restoration) through a locked iron gate leaves us in awe of ancient building skills and techniques.
Once on the ground looking back we confirm that it was well worth an hour and a very reasonable 3 Euros per person to embark on a self-guided tour of Porta Nigra.