Trier Cathedral and Church of Our Lady

Power and mysticism

Trier Cathedral has been an Episcopal church since the era of the Roman Emperor Constantine. There was already a Christian communityin around 270 AD, and remains of their home church can be viewed today at the excavation site beneath the cathedral information centre. It formed the nucleus for one of the largest church complexes in Roman times. What a spectacular transformation, from the tiny house of worship for members of a persecuted religious minority to such a prestigious large building worthy of an imperial residence! And a monument to the importance the emperors of Trier associated with Christianity. The building was far larger than today's cathedral and the Liebfrauenkirche combined, and reached as far as today's Hauptmarkt. The palace district was located close by.

If you look closely, you can still see the Imperial heritage reflected in the architecture of the cathedral. There are the Roman walls of the core building, which you can see very clearly from Windstraße right beside the cathedral. Or there is the cathedral stone in front of the west portal, the fragment of an ancient granite column. Generations of children have played on them over the years. When you enter through the doorway, you immediately see the altar room with the bishop's seat (the Cathedra) and the Holy Rock Chapel elevated behind it. It is documented that due to his new role the Roman Empire, much of the ancient imperial cult was incorporated into Christianity. Christ is depicted in the same symbolism as the emperor and the sun god Sol, and wears his nimbus (the halo), for example. The bishop acts as his representative. The Cathedra is accordingly designed as a throne. Christ's throne is the altar and is elevated on a pedestal in the apse. The priests and deacons surround the altar at the consecration ceremony as did the closest retainers of the emperor in days gone by.

The Liebfrauenkirche (Church of Our Lady) right beside the cathedral is in an entirely different look: when the ancient walls became dilapidated, construction began on a new church in the Gothic style in the Middle Ages, a very modern and revolutionary architecture at the time that originated in France. The preferences for houses of worship was that they were skyward, open and bright. While solid masonry had been necessary for the building's construction in the past, the outer walls were now broken up and interspersed with large window areas - a technical masterpiece at the time! The Gothic style was very much in keeping with the spirit of the era, which placed major emphasis on the individual's personal discourse with God. The lean walls strive - so to speak - as the soul does, towards God. In medieval mysticism, this deep and very personal focus towards God found a very special expression.

The ground plan of the Liebfrauenkirche in Trier is modelled on a rose - what is known as the Rosa Mystica, a symbol of Mary, the Mother of God, to whom the church is dedicated.

The place of worship was completed in around 1260. Master builders and artists from Champagne and Île de France were involved in the construction. Like the cathedral, the Liebfrauenkirche is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and, along with the Elisabethkirche in Marburg, is considered to be the oldest Gothic church in Germany. It is the most significant and earliest central Gothic building in the country.


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