Historical Scenes and Settings: Trier, the Roman Capital of Germany

Not long ago, I did a profile of Aachen, Germany, Charlemagne’s capital city, and one of the unused settings I research for Elisha Mancer, book 4 in The Dark Apostle series.  Today, I’m going further back in time, to a setting I did, in fact, develop into scenes in the book, the Roman capital of Trier.

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Roman-era Porta Nigra, or Black Gate, into the city of Trier

Wait a minute, Imperial Rome had a capital in Germany?  What gives?  When Rome was working to subdue the Gauls in nearby France, they expanded this city on the Rhine, and used it as a base of operations to oversee the Western Roman Empire until the 4th century.  At that time, it was one of the largest cities in Europe, with a population estimated between 75,000 and 100,000 people.  Many of the city’s landmarks date from this time period–as does its square Roman layout.

A model of the Porta Nigra as it appeared during the Middle Ages

A model of the Porta Nigra as it appeared during the Middle Ages

By the time Elisha gets there in the 14th century, only the impressive ruins remain, some of them re-used for other purposes entirely.  Much of the land inside the walls had been reclaimed as farmland, with a much smaller population living within.  However, Trier was also the oldest seat of a bishop west of the Alps.  It evolved into the Archbishopric of Trier–and the archbishop who held this seat became one of the electors of the Holy Roman Emperor.

There is one building which, to me, really shows the history of this fascinating city, and that is the Basilica of Constantine.  Originally part of the imperial palace, this imposing red brick building fell into disuse, then was used as the home of the bishop.  The round apse had a tower built inside with living quarters and a battlement at the top for defense.  The building was then converted into a church, and became a protestant church during the Reformation–a use it retains to this day.

The apse of the Basilica as it now stands.

The apse of the Basilica as it now stands.

An artist's rendering of the Basilica when it was a residence.

An artist’s rendering of the Basilica when it was a residence.

One fascinating aspect of writing historical fiction is the attempt to reconstruct for the reader an earlier time.  The city of Trier shows that this reconstruction is a continuing effort, the admiration of the past and its incorporation into an ever-changing present.

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About E. C. Ambrose

I spend as much time in my office as I possibly can--thinking up terrible things to do to people who don't exist.
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2 Responses to Historical Scenes and Settings: Trier, the Roman Capital of Germany

  1. Pingback: Medieval Technology: the crane | E. C. Ambrose

  2. Pingback: Elisha Mancer Launch Day! With footnotes. . . | E. C. Ambrose

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