Wednesday, February 15, 2017

2014 Germany Trip - Cathedral of Trier (Trierer Dom)/Cathedral of St Peter (Hohe Domkirche St. Peter zu Trier) @ Trier (UNESCO World Heritage)

Location: Trier, Germany

Itinerary and full experience of my visit to Germany can be accessed through the link below:

<- previous: Church of Our Lady (Liebfrauenkirche) (UNESCO World Heritage)

Visiting Liebfrauenkirche would naturally lead to another tour to the Cathedral of Trier next door. The structure is so humongous that it is easily be mistaken as a fortress. Compared to the former, the cathedral had lighter shades to its exterior but since both churches were basically next to each other and joined, it could confuse visitors that there were one church instead of two.

Cathedral of Trier

The cathedral is the oldest bishop cathedral in Germany, built after Constantine the Great converted to Christianity. It was built on the palace of Constantine's mother on 326 AD to commemorate the 20th anniversary of his reign. The original floor plan was much larger than the current size (four times larger), covering the present grounds of Liebfrauenkirche and the houses to Hauptmarkt.

Front look for comparison - Cathedral of Trier, with lighter shades, stood of the left while the smaller Liebfrauenkirche, with darker shades, stood at the right.

Down the nave to the east choir where the shrine of the Holy Robe lies

Thou shalt not pass (into the crypt)!

Marble burial monument of Archbishop and Elector Philipp Christoph von Soetern on the north wall in the west bay was a fine example of baroque artwork. The painting portrayed the Adoration of the Magi.

The Cathedral of Trier did not survive the ages intact as it was damaged by attacks by Franks and Normans during different wars. Surviving parts of the structure were rebuilt and enlarged, with additions of Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque touches onto it. Especially impressive to me was the Baroque stucco on vault over the west end choir, its pristine white sculptures stood out from the environment as if angels were looking down on me.

The west end choir with an impressive apse would most probably be one of the most eye catching section in Trier Cathedral, especially when one entered from the link from Liebfrauenkirche.

Marble statue welcomes you!

Wood inlays in the semicircular west choir.

Supporting pillars is a back breaking task.

There were many details that attracted my attention in the west choir, but none more so than the pristine white stucco of the Assumption of Mary standing out starkly from a cerulean background.

View from west end choir towards the shrine for Holy Robe.

This Gothic sarcophagus made out of blue black marble contained the remains of Baldwin von Luxembourg, one of the most influential and politically important figure in the region during the 12th century.

Beautiful marble

This white marble basin was created by Johann Wolfgang Fröhlicher initially as a symbolic font but served as a baptismal font since 1974.

At the last two structural pillars before entering the west choir stood two altars. This one in the photo stood at the right and was dedicated to St Agnes.

Another altar stood to the left pillar, dedicated to St Catharine.

Crucifixion altar and grave stone for Archbishop Richard von Greiffenklau

The Old Pulpit of Trier Cathedral was made out of light colored sandstone and counted as one of the iconographically richest from the Mannerism period from the Renaissance. 

The All Saints Altar fought with the Holy Robe Chapel for my vote as one of the most elaborate piece of work in Trier Cathedral. The altar was also the burial monument for Archbishop and Elector Lothar von Metternich and was created by Hans Rupprecht Hoffmann in 1614. Comprising of marble, sandstone and alabaster, with a scattering of polychrome coloring, the work displayed a collection of saints from the lowest relief in the background to full figures and its theme developed from the Gospel reading of the Feast of All Saints.

Iconography abounded in the Altar of All Saints. In the middle Virgin Mary stood as the Queen of All Saints, while small angels circled around the Name of Jesus written in Hebrew in the tympanum. In the foreground, the Elector Lothar von Metternich knelt before the Queen while Archangel Michael was busy slaying a/the dragon.

Depiction of The Last Supper in marble

Down the nave towards the west choir

To pilgrims though the cathedral housed another significant treasure of the Christian world, the Holy Robe, the attire worn by the messiah during or shortly before his crucifixion. Empress St Helena was reputed to have brought it back with her during one of her pilgrimages to Jerusalem to be kept in this cathedral. The robe was first documented in the 12th century and it was not until 1512 that it was rediscovered in the high altar when it was opened.

The relic had been displayed infrequently since 1512 and every display brought throngs of visitors and pilgrims hoping to view the robe. Currently a special chapel, built after the 1955 exposition, with a splendid shrine housed the robe and was closed to the public until its next exposition. The most exposition occurred in 2012, the 500th anniversary of the first exposition of the robe.

View towards the east choir. The dark elaborate facade was the front of the Holy Robe Chapel. The altar platform with the main altar stood in the foreground.

Finely detailed shaft. To the right of this shaft was a stairs (not visible here) that would lead visitors to the viewing platform in front of the Holy Robe chapel (notice some people in front of the black elaborate facade). One could not enter the chapel itself, merely standing in front of it on the viewing platform.

View of the Holy Robe Chapel facade from the viewing platform revealed a highly ornate piece of artwork. The gilded grill gate barely visible at the bottom of the marble facade led to the chapel itself. One could look through the portal to marvel at the stucco over the Holy Robe Chapel.

Marble cherub

Look closer at the massive marble facade and you would see how the angels drew open the curtains to reveal an opening encircled by clouds and a glimpse at the light flooded Holy Robe Chapel.

Zooming in as much as my limited lens could...

Looking back for another glance of the beautiful facade. The life sized statue at the base of this set of stairs holding a huge cross depicted Helena, while her son, Constantine, emperor of the West Roman Empire, stood at same location on the left set of stairs.

Built against the south side of the high choir screen wall was this Lady Chapel, well frequented and built after the Cathedral fire in 1717. Iron was used as a structural element within the black composite columns. The centerpiece of the altar was dominated by a graceful late Gothic Madonna from the Salzburg area.

The original Altar of St John the Baptist created by Hans Rupprecht Hoffmann had a smaller format. After the fire of 1717, architect Joseph Walter reused the original statues and gave the altar a baroque presence with the current larger format, thus commanding a focal point at the east end of south aisle. The central relief portrayed Baptism of Christ, and progressively above it lied the Coronation of Our Lady, the statue of St John the Baptist, and an angel with an inscription scroll at the topmost. Standing in front of the central relief were St Helena (right) and a prophet (left).

Different angle of Altar of St John the Baptist - the stairs to the right leads to the Holy Robe Chapel viewing platform and Cathedral Treasury. The walls of the cathedral filling the background were the original Roman structures when the church was first erected.

At the entrance to the eastern crypt

St Joseph's Chapel

The East Crypt was also called St Helena Crypt was dedicated to the mother of Constantine. This crypt was closest to the entrance from the Holy Robe Chapel viewing platform. The great distance between the widely spaced vaulting gave an impression of floating lightness.

In the east end alcove of St Helena Crypt stood the bronze bust of Helena, which served as a reliquary containing the skull of Helena. This bust was a rather modern creation, made in 1990 by Theo Heiermann. The hanging crucifix was only slightly older, created in 1974 by Ulrich Henn.

Consecrated in 1037, the middle crypt, also known as Maternus' Crypt, was slightly deeper and further from the crypt entrance. Compared to the east crypt, it was rather bland and almost featureless, with a surprisingly flat vaulting. Indented into the floor were the graves of various bishops deceased after 1945, while the namesake bishop Maternus was buried near the west wall.

Standing in Maternus Crypt was this Neo-Gothic beauty made in 1900 known as Maternus Shrine, a reliquary containing the remains of the namesake Maternus, Trier's third bishop, who later went to Cologne and Tongeren (Belgium) as founding bishop.

An elaborate burial monument which I did not identify.

Unlike the rest, the burial monument for Archbishop and Elector Johann Philipp von Walderdoff at the northeast crossing pillar was an eerie one. Designed in the neoclassical period, the elector was portrayed as reading the Bible on his sarcophagus while an obelisk rose beside him with a putto looking down to symbolize eternal life. Naturally the Grim Reaper was one of the focus here.

The east end of the north aisle was occupied by the Holy Trinity Altar, which was also the burial monument of Archbishop and Elector Jakob von Eltz. Since the 1900 it also served as the Blessed Sacrament Altar. Hans Rupprecht Hoffmann created the central relief to show Holy Trinity, while above the relief stood in succession the Ressurection of Christ, Virgin Mary holding Christ Child, and the allegorical figure of Faith between two trumpet blowing putti. The golden Tabernacle was made in Neo-Renaissance style and stood in front of the monument. Entrance to this section was allowed only for prayers and was held closed by a gilded "Golden Gate".

This burial monument to Archbishop and Elector Johann von Metzenhausen stood on the north wall in 1542. The archbishop was portrayed in full vestments while St Peter and St Paul flanked him.

The Schonenburg Monument Altar was also John the Evagelist's altar and the burial monument for Archbishop and Elector Johann von Schonenburg. It was placed on the north wall.

Standing on the northwest crossing pillar was this marvelous Resurrection Altar, doubling as the burial monument for Archbishop and Elector Franz Georg von Schönborn. The work was created by Ferdinand Dietz from an existing design of Johann Wolfgang von der Auwera.

A closer look at the three focus on the Resurrection Altar - the elector lying in baroque pose, gazing up towards the resurrected and ascending Jesus Christ, with Faith standing opposite to the elector.

As usual of a church, an ornate organ was placed in the center of the nave. Originally a swallow's nest organ hung in this location from 14th century until 1830, it had been replaced by a new model by Klais Organ Builders from Bonn in 1974.

The cathedral's information center is located just opposite of the cathedral itself.

Although I did not get to witness the Holy Robe, the cathedral interior was enough for me to feast my eyes upon. The various sculptures and altars were mesmerizing and wishing I could learn more about these great masterpieces, I visited the small bookstore in the cathedral. I got myself a thin guide booklet simply titled "Trier Cathedral", available in multiple languages and contained more info than I could find online at a reasonable price. I recommend any traveler to pick this up to complement your photos of the interior as well as a souvenir greater than most trinket.

In hindsight I believed that I did not completely cover every possible and available areas of the Trier Cathedral. I know for sure that I missed the cloister shared between the cathedral and Liebfrauenkirche. 

Environment:         A grand cathedral with beautiful sculptures and a sacred robe
Suitable for:            History buffs, church admirers
Visit worthiness:    10/10
Historical value:        5.0/5.0 
Architectural value:  5.0/5.0
Photographic value:  5.0/5.0
Landmark value:       5.0/5.0

Entrance Fee:                  free
Opening Hours:             (Apr - Oct)  daily 6.30 a.m. - 6.00 p.m.
                                               (Nov - Mar) daily 6.30 a.m. - 5.30 p.m.
Best Moment to Visit: anytime
Length of Visit:              1 - 2 hours

Website:          (German)

Contact:                    -
E-mail:                      -
Address:                   Liebfrauenstraße 12, 54290 Trier, Germany

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