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Porta Nigra, Trier

The Porta Nigra (Latin for black gate) is a large Roman city gate in Trier, Germany. It is today the largest Roman city gate north of the Alps and has been designated a World Heritage Site. The name Porta Nigra originated in the Middle Ages due to the darkened colour of its stone; the original Roman name has not been preserved. Locals commonly refer to the Porta Nigra simply as Porta.

The Porta Nigra is the northern city gate of the five gateways of the city wall dating back to the 2nd century AD. It is one of the most outstanding monuments from the Roman Era. It gets its name from its dark colouring, which had already turned black in medieval times, although it had originally been built of light sandstone, hence the name Porta Nigra or Black Gate. The huge stones, known as ashlars, are made from sandstone and weigh up to 6 tons, these are set together and stay in place purely due to their own weight. The name Porta Nigra only dates back to the medieval ages, it is not known what was the original name but as the nearest city reached from this northern gate is Mainz one can presume that the ancient name was the “Mainz Gate”. During the early Middle Ages the city wall fell into disrepair and thus the Porta Nigra lost its function as an observation tower and secure entry into the city. From 1030 the monk Simeon lived inside the Porta Nigra until his death in 1035. His presence there halted the theft of stones from the outer walls of the building. After his death the Porta Nigra became the monk’s final resting place, saving it from demolition. The Bishop of Trier, Poppo von Babenberg, and friend of Simeon, built first a chapel and later a church at the Porta Nigra. The former city gate became a collegiate and parish church for almost 800 hundred years.

Trier was taken by the French after the revolution and during a visit by Napoleon, in October 1804, he ordered the demolition of the church of St Simeon and the city gate was, once again visible. He also ordered the reconstruction of the city gate and it was restored to its original Roman appearance. Car fumes today and general pollution have been damaging the stones of the Porta Nigra for decades but it is still in remarkable condition. The Porta Nigra is the best preserved city gate of the Roman Empire and is the symbol of the city of Trier and can be seen in many of the city’s logos. The Porta Nigra,including the upper floors, inner courtyard, stone mason’s marks and traces of the double church are open to visitors. During the summer a Roman Centurion will conduct the guided tour.

The tour last approximately 1 hour and 15 minute. Tickets can be booked beforehand “Click Here”

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