Emperor Constantine and Roman Trier


The Roman and medieval atmosphere of Trier on the Moselle is difficult to beat. Although not officially confirmed, Trier is considered the oldest city in Germany. Its name goes back to the Celtic ‘Treveri’ tribe, which was conquered by Julius Caesar in his campaigns against the Galls between 58 and 50 BC. To counteract the resistance of the Treveri, the Romans built a military camp on the Petrisberg, the remains of which are the earliest evidence of the presence of the Romans in the area now covered by the city.

The first Roman emperor to practise Christianity was Constantine the Great. He put an end to the grisly persecution of Christians and helped the religion gain global recognition. Although he was by no means pious and God-fearing, he was baptised on his deathbed in the hope that all his sins would be forgiven. One Christian deed that virtually no-one remembers still holds today. On 3 July 321, he declared Sunday an official day of rest and celebration throughout the empire. “All judges and townspeople, including all craftsmen, should rest on the sacred ‘day of the sun’.”

The Basilica of Constantine in Trier, Moselle

Interior room of the The Basilica of Constantine in Trier, Moselle

Constantine the Great lived in Trier in Gall for six years and under his regency it rose to become the second most important city in the Roman Empire. The Basilica of Constantine (Aula Palatina), the Imperial Baths and parts of the cathedral date back to this time. Today, the cityscape of Trier is still dominated by the imposing Roman buildings commissioned by Constantine the Great.

Electoral Palace and Basilica of Constantine in Trier, Moselle

View of the Electoral Palace and the Basilica of Constantine in Trier, Moselle

Trier Cathedral, Moselle

UNESCO World Heritage Trier Cathedral, Moselle

There are footpaths leading from the Imperial Baths through the gardens of the Electoral Palace to the Aula Palatina, which was Emperor Constantine’s throne room and is symbolic of his power and greatness. The hall, which is 67 metres long, 27 metres wide and 33 metres tall, is the largest preserved building from ancient times. Indeed, the walls throw back echoes of the sounds of the massive organ seven seconds later. Next to the cathedral, the Aula Palatina with its extraordinary acoustics is now a venue for major concerts including the annual Moselle Music Festival.

A wander along ‘An der Meerkatz’ and Liebfrauenstrasse takes you to Trier Cathedral, the oldest church in Germany and the diocesan seat. It unites every era of European art and architectural history. The mid-13th century Liebfrauenkirche stands in the shadows of the cathedral. It is the first and oldest purely Gothic church in Germany. The previous buildings on the site of both churches are ascribed to Empress Helena, the mother of Constantine and one of the most important women of late antiquity. The ‘holy cloth’ relic held in the cathedral is also said to have been brought to Trier on her initiative.

View of the Roman Porta Nigra in Trier, Moselle

View of the Roman Porta Nigra in Trier, Moselle

The Roman Bridge in Trier, Moselle

View of the Roman Bridge in Trier, Moselle

Steinstrasse runs between the cathedral square and the main market square, which includes features such as the half-timbered Renaissance ‘Steipe’ town house and the ‘Red House’ bearing the inscription dating back to the 17th century: ‘Trier stood one thousand and three hundred years before Rome. May it continue to stand and enjoy eternal peace.’ This may not be entirely accurate but still stands bold in large letters.

The Aula Palatina, the cathedral, the Liebfrauenkirche, the Roman Porta Nigra, the amphitheatre and the Imperial Baths, the Barbara Baths, the Roman Bridge and the Igel Column a little outside Trier are all UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The Roman Baths in particular bear testimony to the impressive history of Trier as the capital of the western Roman Empire and the residence of Emperor Constantine.

Trier is a unique blend of the heritage of ancient walls with friendly wine-fuelled conviviality, theatricality and culture. The ancient city on the Moselle was a powerful Roman metropolis and imperial residence that also has a revolutionary side and has always had a soft spot for the finer things in life.

View of Trier and the Moselle, Moselle

View of Trier and the Moselle, Moselle

More leisure tips for culture lovers at the Moselle:


More information about holidays in the Moselle valley

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