Roaming Around Trier’s Roman Ruins
If you thought you needed to go to Italy to see ancient Roman ruins then perhaps you need to think again. Whilst the Italian capital is arguably the best place to discover the history of this period, you only have to go as far as Germany to see how the Romans influenced Europe.
The historic town of Trier is one of the oldest in Germany and is visited during many Moselle River cruises. Once the capital of the Western Roman Empire, it was one of the earliest places settled and can, therefore, offer a unique look into the past. The Romans may have initiated the wine growing practices that have turned this into a world-renowned grape-growing region, but their biggest lasting legacy can be seen in the form of a number of ruins around town. Here are just a few ancient sights to be seen in Trier.
Perhaps the most striking Roman ruin in the town is the Porta Negra, or Black Gate as it is called in English. There was once many of these entrances surrounding Trier, but this is the only one which remains today. Its thick walls and numerous openings meant that it was a very effective defence against invaders. However, it wasn’t able to keep everyone out, as Trier was breached by German, Franco-German and Viking tribes in the 5th, 6th and 9th centuries respectively. You can pay a small fee and climb to the top of the gate, admiring treasures on display which highlight the Porta Negra’s brief spell as a church around 1100.
There are several examples of Roman Baths within the town, the largest of which are sadly the least well-preserved. Barbara Baths, located close to the river, dates back the 2nd century, but much of the stone has been used for other architectural projects over the years. The most extensive example in the modern day comes in the form of the Kaiserthermen, or Emperor Baths. A lot more of the above ground complex can be seen in contrast to Barbara Baths and underground tours will show you the ancient heating systems used.
Whilst most of the Roman ruins in Trier are no longer used for their intended purpose, the 20,000-seater amphitheatre still hosts annual festivals and open-air concerts. Whilst there is some debate over whether it was more of an entrance to the city than a theatrical venue (due to the small number of exits installed), there are remains of underground rooms where gladiators would have prepared for battle and animals would have been fed.
During the highpoint of the Roman Empire, Trier was one of the emperor’s residences and this building was the throne room. Although the roof is a modern addition, the building itself is the largest surviving single-room Roman structure in the world. Historians believe that what remains today was the entrance hall for a larger palace and that the interior would have been extravagantly decorated with marble and paintings. Today, it is used as a Protestant church.
If you would like to visit Trier and see the UNESCO-listed Roman ruins for yourself, we have a wide range of Moselle River cruises that can take you there. Call us on 0800 954 0064 for more information or to book your relaxing break on this beautiful waterway.