Though it might be easily mistaken for a fortress from the outside, Trier Cathedral (Dom St. Peter) houses an impressive collection of artworks, architecture and holy relics. It is also of considerable historical significance, as the oldest church in Germany. Today, Trier Cathedral remains a working Catholic cathedral and an important Catholic shrine that still receives pilgrims.
The history of Dom St. Peter begins in Roman times, when a church was built by Constantine, the first Christian emperor, over the palace of his mother Helena. Construction began in 326 AD, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of his reign (he also began St. Peter's Basilica in Rome to mark the occasion). This church was four times as big as the present-day cathedral, covering the area of the Cathedral, the Leibfrauenkirche, the Cathedral Square, the adjoining garden, and the houses almost up to the Markt.
The Empress St. Helena is known for her pilgrimages to the Holy Land, and pious legend has it that she brought back the Holy Robe of Christ from Jerusalem and entrusted it to her son's new church at Trier. The Holy Robe is the seamless garment said to be worn by Christ during the Crucifixion. It first makes an appearance in written documents in the 12th century; it was first displayed at the church in the 16th century for a period of 23 days, during which more than 100,000 pilgrims came to venerate it. It has been periodically displayed since then, attracting ever-larger crowds. The last exposition of the relic, for three weeks in 1933, drew 2 million pilgrims. In 1959, the relic was sealed in a splendid shrine in its own chapel, where it remains today.
After extensive damage in the 5th and 9th centuries, the surviving part of Constantine's church was enlarged with major additions in the Romanesque style in 1035. Gothic and baroque touches were later added, and the various styles blend nicely together, bringing a timeless unity to the interior.
In the Middle Ages, the Archbishop of Trier was an important ecclesiastical prince, controlling land from the French border to the Rhine. He was also one of the seven electors of the Holy Roman Empire.
Category: Religious - Christianity