From the Porta Nigra, it was a short walk through the pedestrian-only zone to the Hauptmarkt, or main square.
It was mid-morning and already the lively, colorful square was bustling with locals and tourists enjoying the beautiful weather and shopping at the daily market. People sipped coffee at cafes, while students relaxed at the foot of the fountain soaking up the bright morning sun.
The buildings surrounding the Hauptmarkt are mostly stone, in contrast to other German Altstadts (old towns), where half-timbered buildings predominate. Medieval citizens used the city’s Roman ruins as a quarry, so it’s hard to find a half-timbered building anywhere in Trier. And because of Trier’s unique history – a Roman city, and later, disputed territory (sometimes German and sometimes French) – it has an interesting mix of styles. As we strolled through town, we passed buildings from many eras – Gothic, Baroque, Renaissance, modern. Trier didn’t feel like Heidelberg, the traditional German city where we started our tour of the Rhine region a few days earlier. Just a short drive from Luxembourg, Trier was a combination of Germany and France, and probably Luxembourg as well.
We spent some time admiring the square with its array of shops and cafes, pretty buildings, lovely fountain, and historic tenth century market cross.
A few steps away, just off the main square, is St. Peter’s Cathedral, the oldest church in Germany. It was built on the site of a once massive Roman complex. There is not much left of the original Roman building because it was destroyed by invaders in the fifth century. St. Peter’s was built on top of the Roman foundations in the early Middle Ages. Because Trier has been invaded and occupied so many times over its long history, the cathedral has been rebuilt, renovated, and added to. So it’s a collection of styles.
The facade, one of the older parts of St. Peter’s, is relatively plain with arched windows and galleries in the Romanesque style of the early Middle Ages. Even though it is eclectic, St. Peter’s is beautiful, both outside and inside.
Located along major pilgrimage routes – the most famous is the route to Santiago de Compostela in Spain – St. Peter’s has been an important pilgrimage church for over one thousand years. The church has two relics. The most precious is the Holy Robe, the seamless garment said to have been worn by Christ. The other is a nail from the cross.
The Holy Robe is kept in an air-conditioned glass box inside its own chapel. The chapel is only accessible on Holy Robe Days, but you can peer inside through the door. The robe used to be taken out of its box so pilgrims could view it, but because the cloth was not stored properly in the past and has deteriorated badly as a result, it must remain sealed in its box and can only be viewed through the glass. Holy Robe Days apparently draw a huge crowd.
Just next door is Liebfrauenkirche, German for Church of Our Lady, a beautiful 13th century Gothic church. Standing side-by-side with the Romanesque St. Peter’s, the two churches are an interesting juxtaposition. They’re connected by a passageway, which seems quite unusual.
Inside, The Church of Our Lady is not long like St. Peter’s but circular. The floor plan is the shape of a flower with twelve petals. We stood in the center and admired the soaring vaulted ceiling as sunlight streamed through the huge stained glass windows, bathing the church in a warm pink light.