- Porta Nigra
The Porta Nigra (
Latin: "black gate") is a large Roman city gate in Trier, Germany. It is today the largest Roman city gate north of the Alpsand has been designated a World Heritage Site.
The name "Porta Nigra" originated in the
Middle Agesdue to the darkened color of its stone; the original Roman name has not been preserved. Locals commonly refer to the Porta Nigra simply as "Porta".
The Porta Nigra was built in grey
sandstonebetween 180and 200AD. The original gate consisted of two four-storied towers, projecting as near semi-circles on the outer side. A narrow courtyard separated the two gate openings on either side. For unknown reasons, however, the construction of the gate remained unfinished. For example, the stones at the northern (outer) side of the gate were never abraded, and the protruding stones would have made it impossible to install movable gates. Nonetheless, the gate was used for several centuries until the end of the Roman era in Trier.
In Roman times, the Porta Nigra was part of a system of four city gates, one of which stood at each side of the roughly rectangular Roman city. The Porta Nigra guarded the northern entry to the Roman city, while the "Porta Alba" (White Gate) was built in the east, the "Porta Media" (Middle Gate) in the south, and the "Porta Inclyta" (Famous Gate) in the west, next to the Roman Bridge crossing the
Moselle River. The gates stood at the ends of the two main streets of the Roman Trier, one of which led north-south and the other east-west. Of these gates, only the Porta Nigra still exists today.
In the early Middle Ages, the Roman city gates were not used anymore in their original function, and their stones were taken and reused for other buildings. In addition, iron and lead braces were broken out of the walls of the Porta Nigra for reuse. Today, traces of this destruction are still clearly visible on the north side of the gate.
After 1028, the Greek monk "Simeon" lived as a
hermitin the ruins of the Porta Nigra. Subsequent to his death (1035) and sanctification, the monastery "Simeonstift" was built next to the Porta Nigra to honor him. Saving it from further destruction, the Porta Nigra was transformed into a church: The inner court of the gate was roofed and intermediate ceilings were inserted. The two middle storeys of the former gate were converted into church rooms ( naves), with the upper storey being used for the monks, and the lower storey for the general public. The ground floor with the large gates was sealed, and a large outside staircase was constructed alongside the south side (the town side) of the gate, up to the lower storey of the church. A small staircase led further up to the upper storey. The church rooms were accessible through former windows of the western tower of the Porta Nigra that were enlarged to become entrance doors (still visible today). The top floor of the western tower was used as church tower, the eastern tower was leveled, and an apseadded at its east side. An additional gate - the much smaller "Simeon Gate" - was built adjacent to the East side of the Porta Nigra and served as a city gate in medieval times.
Along with the vast majority of Trier's numerous churches and monasteries, the church in the Porta Nigra and the monastery at its side were dissolved by
Napoleon Bonapartein 1802. During his visit to Trier in 1804, Napoleon ordered that the Porta Nigra should be converted back to its Roman form. Only the apse was kept, and the eastern tower not rebuilt to its original height. Local legend has it that Napoleon originally even wanted to completely tear down the church; allegedly, locals convinced him that the church had actually been a Gallic festival hall before being turned into a church (in another version, they simply told him about its Roman origins); it is claimed that this prevented the destruction of the building and persuaded Napoleon instead to convert the gate back to its original form.
In 1986, the Porta Nigra was designated a
World Heritage Site, along with other Roman monuments in Trier and its surroundings.
The Porta Nigra today
The modern appearance of the Porta Nigra goes back almost unchanged to the reconstruction ordered by Napoleon. At the south side of the Porta Nigra, remains of Roman columns line the last 100m of the street leading to the gate. Positioned where they had stood in Roman times, they give a slight impression of the aspect of the original Roman street that was lined with colonnades.
The gate is today closed for cars, but stands right next to one of the main streets of Trier. In addition to the general pollution, the exhaust fumes of the passing cars have been damaging the stones for decades. Generally, however, the Porta Nigra is still in remarkable condition.
The Porta Nigra, including the upper floors, is open to visitors. In summer, guided tours are also offered by an actor dressed up as and portraying a
centurion(a Roman army officer) in full armor.
The Porta Nigra is a somewhat-accurate explorable area — with some artistic license, the game being set in the 2070s — in the
2003PC and console game .
* Fiske Kimball, George Harold Edgell et al: "History of Architecture". Research & Education Assoc. 2001 ISBN 0878913831 ( [http://books.google.de/books?id=dBIfYTsM3rAC&pg=PA135&dq=%22Porta+nigra%22&lr=lang_en&as_brr=3&sig=ACfU3U1FTYB-kMmk4s350oPCP2LMbrDszg restricted online version (Google Books)] )
* Jas Elsner: "Imperial Rome and Christian Triumph: The Art of the Roman Empire AD 100-450". Oxford University Press 1998, ISBN 0192842013 ( [http://books.google.de/books?id=Z97tQ9epL6QC&pg=PA131&dq=%22Porta+nigra%22&lr=lang_en&as_brr=3&sig=ACfU3U0JNVmGlCIcvNr719EtXd8gPlvidg restricted online version (Google Books)] )
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