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The imposing Porta Nigra at the entrance of the city of Trier in Germany welcomes its visitors with all the splendor of Ancient Rome. A gateway connecting Trier’s ancient past and its modern age, this Roman town gate rises high as the entrance to the city of Trier, withstanding the test of time in impressive condition. It is, in fact, the most well preserved Roman gate north of the Alps, and an unforgettable experience in an unforgettable city. The Roman Empire once extended far into Europe, and in no place can this be seen more clearly than Trier. The Porta Nigra is the gateway to an impressive number of extraordinarily well preserved Roman monuments, which are a testament to the might and importance of Trier during the Roman Empire.

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Trier, The Second Rome

A claimant for the debated title of Germany’s oldest city, Trier’s origins are Celtic but was conquered by the Romans circa 16 B.C, then under the name Augusta Treverorum - named after Emperor Augustus in the Celtic land of Treveri. Trier remained under Roman rule until the fall of the Empire, in the 5th century A.D, and was a residence for the Western Roman Emperors for nearly a century.

The size and scope of its monuments - from the Porta Nigra to the Amphitheater and the Roman Baths - make it clear that it was a key location in Ancient Rome. Trier has also been one of the first central points of Christianity since the Roman Empire and all through the Middle Ages. Related: Not So Dark Academia: The Coolest Universities In The World

Porta Nigra: Gateway To Trier’s Roman history

Overseeing all this history has been the imposing Porta Nigra, the Roman “Black Gate” that guards the city of Trier, precisely since the year 170 A.D, nearing 1.853 years ago. Called the “black gate” in the Middle Ages due to the dark coloring of its stones, Porta Nigra was one more in a system of four Roman city gates; it covered the Northern entrance to the city, guarding a columnated road.

A fortified gate with a palatial structure, Porta Nigra is quite unique among Roman city gates. Though the time it was built was a peaceful one, Porta Nigra has been the witness to many battles and invasions in its long history, from Germanic invasions to World War II raids. None of the other gates have survived, and Porta Nigra itself was partially destroyed, mined for stone, wood, and iron in the Middle Ages for the construction of other buildings. After the death and sanctification of Saint Simeon, who made the ruins his home during the 1020s, a church was built in his name, which likely saved it from being completely demolished.

After the Napoleonic invasion, and before his own exile into an Italian island, Napoleon himself ordered the then church to be reversed into its Roman origins, and the gate remains virtually unchanged from the 1800s reform till this day. The preservation of the church apse is, according to local legends, due to local citizens convincing Napoleon that it was originally a Gaulish festival hall.

Related: What Daily Life Was Like In Ancient Rome

Visiting The Porta Nigra

Today, as the main symbol of Trier, the Porta Nigra always has its gates open for visitors. Though cars are no longer allowed near it due to the damage the stones were undertaking, Trier’s main pedestrian road is located right beside it.

The gate is open for visitors; touring its courtyard, seeing the arches up and close, climbing those ancient steps Emperors have stepped on, and looking out into the city below: more than an interesting monument, it is a must for anyone passing through Trier.

  • Hours: 8 AM through 6 PM

  • Rates: 4 EUR

Booking in advance might be required. A centurion (Roman guard) will occasionally be present to give guided tours

Other Remnants Of The Roman Empire In Trier

Porta Nigra is the most impressive postcard, but far from the only Roman ruins to be seen in Trier. Alongside the gate, Roman ruins of imperial structures, like the Roman Bath, the Amphitheater, the Moselle Bridge, and the Igel Column, as well as one of the earliest Cathedrals in Europe, the Cathedral of St. Peter, built after Constantine officiated Christianity during the Empire, joined the Porta Nigra in the historical hallmarks and monuments of Roma that make Trier such a special place to know.

The Roman Monuments, the Cathedral of St. Peter, and the Church of our Lady have been UNESCO World Heritage Sites since 1986, due to their immense historical value and unparalleled state of preservation, particularly at the Porta. For any history buffs who haven’t yet visited this Ancient Empire museum under the sky, it seems high time to schedule a trip through the mighty Roman gates of Trier in Germany.