The Three Churches of Trier
The Cathedral of St Peter and the Liebfrauenkirche are medieval twins, built on the site of an ancient Roman double church; the latter, part of the ecclesiastical structures built at the command of the Emperor Constantine, soon after his conversion to Christianity in the 4th century. While most of these grand buildings were destroyed by the Franks and Normans in the 9th century, many were reconstructed in some way. Eventually, these ancient structures were torn down in the 13th century, to make way for the two churches that stand in Trier today. The cathedral, known locally as the Trier Dom, is built in the Romanesque style which was just going out of favour at the time, and completed in 1270. The Liebfrauenkirche is of the French Gothic style, which was just emerging at the time, and was completed in 1260. Both are functioning churches of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Trier.
While the Cathedral of St Peter is of the Romanesque style, it has been added to at great length during the subsequent centuries and includes Gothic vaulting and a Baroque chapel; the latter housing the Seamless Robe of Jesus, a garment believed to have been worn by Christ at the time of His crucifixion. The cathedral is also home to what is claimed to be a nail from the True Cross, and the skull of St Helena, the mother of the Emperor Constantine.
The adjoining Liebfrauenkirche, or Church of Our Lady, is probably the most perfect example of the centralised construction in French Gothic Architecture visible today and, along with the Cathedral of Magdeburg, is the oldest Gothic church in Germany.
In stark contrast to the intricate architectural designs of the churches above, with their cruciform vaulting and rosa mystica floor plan, 300m away stands the austere rectangular colossus of the Aula Palatina. One of the oldest surviving structures in Trier, it was built as the imperial throne room of the Emperor Constantine in the 4th century. Throughout the Middle Ages and after the Reformation, the Aula Palatina served as a palace for various bishops and archbishops of Trier, before becoming a Lutheran church in 1856. One of the oldest church buildings in the western world, it currently serves as the Protestant Church of the Redeemer.
Also known as the Basilica of Constantine, the Aula Palatina was built as a visble expression of the immensity of Roman imperial power, and the claim to world domination made by the western empire, before the eclipse of the classical era. Not originally built as a free-standing structure, the Aula Palatina had several smaller buildings attached to it, and its walls and floor contained a hypocaust heating system. In the 17th century, the Basilica was incorporated, with several major redesigns, into the newer palace of the Archbishop Lothar von Metternich, but in the 19th century, Frederick William IV of Prussia ordered it returned to its original Roman state.
The interior of the Aula Palatina is 33m high, 26m wide, and 67m in length, the largest Roman interior in existence today. Its length is exaggerated by the original architectural design; the windows of the apse in the northern wall getting progressively smaller towards the centre. In 1944, the Basilica was burned in an Allied air raid, and when the church was reconstructed at the end of World War II, the 19th century inner decorations were not restored, leaving the inside walls bare, like the exterior.
Along with the Cathedral of St Peter, and the Liebfrauenkirche, the Aula Palatina is designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.