Trier Cathedral: Shrine of the Holy Robe
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Trier Cathedral: Shrine of the Holy Robe

Trier Cathedral is the oldest Episcopal Church in Germany and a significant example of western religious architecture representing 1700 years of Christianity in Trier. Sometimes mistaken for a fortress, the cathedral contains impressive collection of artworks, architecture and holy relics.


Trier Cathedral is the oldest Episcopal Church in Germany and a significant example of western religious architecture representing 1700 years of Christianity in Trier. Sometimes mistaken for a fortress, the cathedral contains impressive collection of artworks, architecture and holy relics. Trier considers itself to be a "city with open gates", welcoming over a million visitors every year and its cathedral remains a working important Catholic cathedral and shrine.

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The origin of Christianity first arrived in Trier as early as the late 100 AD, although local legend has it that the faith was established in the first century by a bishop sent by the apostle Peter himself.

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. Its construction began in around 326 AD, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of his reign. He also began St. Peter's Basilica in Rome to mark the same occasion.

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The Constantine 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 houses throughout. But after damages from the 5th and 9th century standing parts of the church was renovated with additions of Romanesque trend in 1035. After sometime, both Gothic and Baroque touches were added and the mixture of styles brings an ageless unity in the interior.

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The Archbishop of Trier in the Middle Ages was a significant ecclesiastical prince and electors of the Holy Roman Empire that controlled the land from French border to the Rhine.

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East tower and dome over the Chapel of the Holy Robe, viewed from the cloisters of the Liebfrauenkirche

Shrine of The Holy Robe

As recorded in the historical Trier cathedral, Empress Saint Helena from her pilgrimage to the Holy Land brought back the Holy Robe of Christ from Jerusalem and entrusted it to her son at Trier. The Holy Robe is the seamless garment worn by Christ during the Crucifixion. The first appearance of the Robe was documented in the 12th century and in 1512, when the high altar was opened, the Robe was found inside together with important holy relics from the Holy Land.

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Statue of St. Helena near the Altar

The Holy Robe was first displayed in public for a period of 23 days, during which more than 100,000 pilgrims came to offer respects and veneration. A wooden balcony was built after a year onto the west front for public viewing of the Holy Robe and other Trier’s relics. It has been periodically displayed since then, attracting larger enthusiasts.

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Nave, looking east to the Shrine of the Holy Robe

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A copper engraving from 1655, kept in the cathedral's Treasury, depicts the display of relics from the wooden balcony in great detail. It is covered with fine tapestries and a beautiful carpet hangs from the center.

Two clergymen present the Holy Robe, which is attached to a wooden panel, while the cathedral preacher Cornelius Luttinghausen explains the relic exhibition to the pilgrims. Next to him is a canon holding a cross reliquary and the Holy Nail. On the left, Archbishop Carl Casper von der Leyen (1652 to 1676) grants absolution to the pilgrims. Several men with torches stand behind the clergy.

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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. Another significant relic is the Holy Nail, believed to be one of those used in the Crucifixion. These are all displayed at the Trier Cathedral Treasury located on the south side of the choir near the Holy Robe and houses many important works of art.

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The cathedral's interior combines a Romanesque structure with baroque decoration and Gothic vaulting and archways. It is laid out as a triple-nave, two-choir basilica with a transept and six towers. Over the south door is a magnificent Romanesque tympanum depicting Christ between the Virgin and St. Peter. Other outstanding artworks include the tomb of the papal envoy Ivo (1144) in the south aisle, which has Romanesque carvings of a dragon-like creature and a human head peeking out, and the tomb altar of Archbishop Richard von Greifenclau (1531).


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Comments (9)

Good information about shrine of holy Robe.

Thanks a lot Phoenix.

Another brilliant piece of work.

You amazed me with the holy nails...

Another good article. Great job. Voted up.

Thanks a lot Sir Martin, Sir Guims and Caryn.

Unique article about a unique church.Thanks

Fantastic writing Ron. Now if we can only fill these monuments to God's Grace this would be a better world.

Thanks a lot Ram, thanks a lot Beverly.