Image from Wikimedia Commons
My son and his wife had flown from Boston to visit us in December. Spencer‘s wife, Amanda, had never been outside of the United States so we wanted to show her some things you just can’t see in the U.S. There are so many things you can take a visitor to see that aren’t that far from the KMC. One of them is an easy drive and has many attractions. The city of Trier, Germany. One particularly famous landmark in Trier is the Porta Nigra.
What is the Porta Nigra?
The Porta Nigra (black gate in Latin) was built by the Romans at the end of the 2nd century. It is situated in the oldest city in Germany: Trier. The gate was one of four original Roman gates guarding the city. Only the Porta Nigra still stands. It is the largest Roman city gate north of the Alps and is a World Heritage Site. The sandstone blocks used to build the Porta Nigra were cut by bronze saws powered by mill wheels. The stones weighed up to six metric tons and used no mortar.
No mortar was used?
The Romans typically didn’t use mortar. Instead of using mortar, pairs of stones were held together by iron clamps. The clamps were held in place with molten lead. This metal was stolen for re-use in the Middle Ages but the stones still have traces of rust.
In the Middle Ages, the gates were no longer used for their intended purpose. Stones were taken and used for other bulidings. Evidence of this destruction is visible on the north side of the gate.
After 1028, Simeon the Greek monk lived in the ruins of the Porta Nigra as a hermit. He died in 1035 and he was sanctified. He was buried inside the gate. A monestary was build in his name adjacent to the Porta Nigra. This is a wonderful museum today with many interesting paintings. Because the Porta Nigra was converted to use as a church, it was preserved. Later, a chapel was built on the upper floor of the western tower gate. Because the Porta Nigra was used as a chapel, the destructive recycling stopped and the Porta Nigra was never demolished.
Napolean Bonaparte dissolved the church in the Porta Nigra and the adjacent monestary in 1802. Napolean returned two years later and ordered the Porta Nigra, and other Roman ruins in Trier, returned to their original Roman form.
The building is impressive
The Porta Nigra today is 118 feet long, 70.5 feet wide and 90 feet high. You are free to wander around inside of the structure ,after you pay the small entrance fee of course. There are three floors above the ground level to explore. There is no furniture except a bench or two to sit on if you’re tired walking up the stairs. The view on the top floor is fantastic and you should bring your camera with you.
Every time I visit the Porta Nigra i’m in awe that this 1800 year old building is still standing. If only the sandstone blocks could talk. What tales they could tell. I had a similar feeling standing next to a 2500 year old Redwood tree in California. It’s hard time relate to something that is 1800 years old given the relatively small amount of time we have ourselves. I wonder how many more centuries it will endure?
The Porta Nigra is a must see building in Trier. Trier has many other interesting things to see but the Porta Nigra is a great place to start. Don’t forget to buy a package deal for your tickets as you’ll want to visit the other attractions Trier has to offer while you’re there. Spencer and Amanda loved Trier and the Porta Nigra. You will too!