Roman and Mediaeval History, Illlustrated Travel Journals, Mediaeval Literature, Geology


22.2.12
  A Big Tower and A Church - The Imperial Baths in Trier (Part 2)

After the Roman administration left Trier in the early 5th century, the Roman buildings fell into decline and were used as quarries, like in so many other Roman towns. But obviously, the Imperial Baths (by which name they go today despite the fact they were never used as such) didn't fare too badly becasue at some point, a noble family moved in, adaptated the caldarium into a castle, the Alderburg, and called themselves 'de Castello'.

The caldarium seen from the outside, complete with vehicles from the future :)

They erected a keep - the Geschlechterturm or Family Tower - in the angle between the eastern and southern apsis, and walled in the huge windows of all three apsides, leaving only room for much smaller windows. They got some formidable curtain walls that way. In the early 12th century (during the time of one Archbishop Bruno, 1102-1124), the castle was integrated into the town walls but still in possession of the de Castello family who held the castle at least until the 13th century.

The left middle window of the southern apsis served as gate - the Altport - during that time which points at a pretty thick layer of debris having accumulated over the centuries. That has been cleaned up today and the windows and floors are back at Roman level. The keep served as prison at the time which lets me conclude that the family, while still holding the castle and the responsibility of manning the town defenses, had found somewhat more comfortable living quarters by the 13th century than a draughty old bath with a kaputt heating.

Another view of the caldarium, seen from the palaestra

Settlers used the large palaestra yard alread in the early Middle Ages and built their huts and houses in the shelter of the walls. In the centre stood a church dedicated to St.Gervaise. In 1295, the sisters of the St.Agnetha convent settled in the palaestra and built another church and a nunnery in the north-western corner of the yard, probably using some of the existing walls for part of the building. The nunnery was disbanded and both churches dismantled in 1802 in the wake of the secularization. At the same time, parts of the town walls were broken down as well, including the upper storey of the main apsis; a few years later the old keep (Family Tower of the de Castello family) was abandoned as well.

View from out of a maintenanc tunnel

Instead, a Baroque residence was built which was later used as Prussian garrison (I wonder if they were aware that the area had housed a garrison once before) but it was destroyed during WW2.

After the war, only the lower row of the apsis windows remained, the upper one was reduced to crumbly bits. There was some discussion whether to restore the upper window arcs or to leave the ruins as they were, but restoration turned out to be the better option to prevent the remains from decaying even further. In other parts of the baths, single bricks and stones were replaced, the debris was removed, the ground brought to the level of the baths and some of the maintenance tunnels made accessible, and part of the walls was rebuilt to part of their former height. This work was finished in 1984, right in time for the 2000 year anniversary of Trier.

Remaining walls in the Imperial Baths (closeup)

Besides the remains of the caldarium and some of the adjacent buildings plus some of the tunnels and part of the water and heating system visitors can explore today, the palaestra has been returned to its first - intended - use as space for games and gymnastics. It's today a large meadow framed by reimans of the walls, and the kids play soccer and other games there. The main apsis of the caldarium is sometimes used as stage for theatrical performances.
 
Comments:
It's a splendid structure, and how nice that the yard is now back in its first intended use as an area for sport and games!

I don't suppose it's known what state the maintenance and water system tunnels were in while the castle and prison were in use, is it? Secret tunnels in a castle - a perfect setting for some cloak-and-dagger stuff if any novelist chose to take it up :-)
 
Carla, already the Romans filled some of the tunnels with the rubble from the dismantled firgidarium, but since there are so many tunnels (the ones running under the short sides of the frigidarium alone are 83 metres each) I doubt they were completely filled in to the ceiling everywhere. There was still access to the heating from the caldarium (which was part of the Alderburg) in the 18th century. So a scene of a pursuit with swirling cloaks and rapiers glittering in the torchlight is not out of option. Maybe it would involve some climbing over rubble. :)
 
What a wonderful history this place has - and it has certainly proved useful. It's wonderful that it is still in use.
 
As Carla and Anerje said, it's wonderful that this place is still in use in modern times!
 
Climbing over rubble adds to the excitement - you can have some heart-stopping moments as the protagonists nearly trigger landslides or catastrophic collapses, or almost get stuck in tight corners :-)
 
As much as I like knocking things down, to be part of a restoration crew would be fascinating.
 
Kathryn, Anerje and Constance, yes I agree it's great the place is still in use. Trier is one of the exemplary towns when it comes to preserving Roman remains. Cologne filled in the excavated forum remains sone years ago and built a shopping mall or something on top. Bastards. :(
 
The alternating rows of red brick and white stone are very pleasing to the eye. I wonder if they would have been covered in plaster in the day.
 
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Miscellaneous musings of an aspiring Historical Fiction and Fantasy author. Illustrated essays on Roman, Dark Age and Mediaeval history, Mediaeval literature, and Geology. Some poetry translations and writing stuff. And lots of photos of old castles, cathedrals, Roman remains, and beautiful landscapes from Germany, the UK and Scandinavia.

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I'm a writer of Historical Fiction living in Germany. I got a MA in Literature, Scandinavian Studies, Linguistics and History, I'm interested in Archaeology and everything Roman and Mediaeval, an avid reader, opera enthusiast, traveller with a liking for foreign languages and odd rocks, and photographer.

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