The Porta Nigra
Translated from the Latin as the “Black Gate”, Porta Nigra wasn’t the original Roman name for the entrance to Augusta Treverorum, which is today Trier, Germany’s oldest city. It is likely that the name was coined in the Middle Ages, after the original grey sandstone of the gate had darkened with age. The original name was probably Porta Martis, or the “Mars Gate”. Work ended on the gate in 200 AD, leaving it unfinished, and it is unlikely that actual movable gates were ever installed. The Porta Nigra was one of four gates to the city, each installed at the four points of the compass, but the Porta Nigra, on the northern side, is the only one existing today, and is the best example of a Roman city gate north of the Alps. This view of the Porta is from the inner side, and the columns leading up to it are the remains of buildings that lined the main street of Augusta Treverorum. Summer 2016.
The original gate consisted of two semicircular towers on the northern, or outer, side, each four storeys high. One of the towers was, however, reduced to three storeys in the 11th century, when the gate was converted into a church.
The Porta Nigra is actually a set of double gateways, with a courtyard in the interior, between the arches of the gateways. In the 11th century, this courtyard was roofed and sealed, and converted into a church. Each of the floors becoming a nave with its own ceiling. After Trier’s capture by the French, Napoleon ordered in 1804 that it be restored to its original Roman state. All signs of the church it once contained are gone today, except for the apse in one tower.
The truncated eastern tower of the Porta Nigra, the top of which contain’s the old church apse.