Porta Nigra

Categories: Sightseeing, Cultural and History

Porta Nigra
Porta Nigra

[ source: Wikipedia]

It should come as hardly a surprise that Trier (Trier vacation rentals | Trier travel guide), the oldest city in Germany, should have on its streets a variety of superlative, historic structures. One such building is the Porta Nigra, the largest Roman city gate north of the Alps and the oldest defensive structure in all of Germany. This World Heritage site (listed in 1986) was constructed in gray sandstone between 186 and 200 AD. The name Porta Nigra was applied to the structure at some point in the Middle Ages due to the darkening of the sandstone over time. Originally the gate had two 4-story towers, but for an unknown reason, the Porta Nigra was never finished. No movable gates were ever installed; nevertheless, the gate was used for several hundred years, until the end of the Roman era.

The Porta Nigra measures 118 feet long and 90 feet high. The structure was built without mortar, and the blocks were connected by iron rods driven through them. Along the wide sides of the gate, two portals led into a narrow courtyard in which an attacker could be caught and covered with tar.

Trier originally had four city gates, one at each end of the rectangular urban footprint. The Porta Nigra was located at the northern end of the city, and the other gates included the Porta Alba (eastern), the Porta Media (southern), and the Porta Inclyta (western). During the early medieval period, when the city gates were no longer in operation, they became quarries for building projects that were being erected around the city. The Porta Nigra was spared because of the peculiar behavior of a Greek monk named Simeon, who moved into the ruin of the gate in 1028. After his death, he was buried in the gate, and was eventually sanctified. As a result, the Porta Nigra became a holy site and was later converted to a church. In the 11th century, a monastery was constructed next to the Porta Nigra, and this building still exists today and can be visited free of charge.

In 1802, Napoleon Bonaparte dissolved the church and monastery. Two years later, on a visit to Trier, Napoleon ordered that the Porta Nigra be restored to its original Roman form. This resulted in the removal of most of the elements connected to the church that had been inserted into the structure. Today the Porta Nigra is a must-see stop for those visitors intent on exploring Trier's Roman past.

[ source: wikipedia.org ]

About this Article

Rachel Hildebrandt

This travel guide has been written by Rachel Hildebrandt.

Starting with her first trip to Germany at the age of 16, Rachel has traveled, worked, and studied in Germany extensively. Although her first encounter with German culture was in Lower Saxony, since that time the focus of her subsequent work as a freelance historian and translator has shifted eastward. Building on her graduate studies in Dresden, Rachel has worked for a variety of German foundations as a historian and translator, and is currently pursuing research pertaining to the Sorbs in Lusatia (eastern Saxony).

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Location: Trier, Germany

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