Aa Church (Aa kirke) is a Romanesque church dating from the 12th century. Aa Church, which literally means "stream church", owes its name to the two streams which run beside it. Dedicated to John the Baptist, it was first known as Sankt Hans kirke (St John's Church). A gilded figure of St John stood in the church until 1706 but was buried in the churchyard by the priest as it was attracting undue attention from Catholic prisoners during the Great Northern War.
The church was built in the latter half of the 12th century in several stages. The oldest remaining sections are the choir and apse and the lower parts of the nave, all characterized by greenish sandstone and rust-brown shale from nearby Grødby Stream. The western end of the nave and the tower are made of limestone. The men's door to the south and the women's door to the north have both been preserved although the latter has been transformed into a window.
The tower was originally narrower on the western side but was already widened to its current dimensions of 13 by 11 metres during the Romanesque period. With its four floors, it reaches a height of 22 metres. The twin roofs from the 14th century probably replaced a four-sided pyramid. The bells now hang here although they were originally housed in the Bornholm fashion in a separate bell tower to the south of the church. The vaulted rooms in the tower were once used to store foodstuffs. The porch of Nexø sandstone, the oldest on Bornholm, is slightly more recent than the tower but still dates to the Romanesque period around 1200–1235.
The nave is large and light with a flat wooden ceiling. The vaulted ceiling from the Gothic period c. 1350 is supported by four rectangular corner pillars. It was earlier divided into two by arcade walls and had a gallery for the nobles from the now ruined Lilleborg Castle. During major restoration work in 1874, the arcade walls were torn down giving the church its present shape. Further restoration was carried out in 1968.
The altarpiece and pulpit date from 1603, probably the work of the sculptor Johan Ottho from Lund. With 11 scenes of Jesus' life, the sandstone font from 1200 is ascribed to the Gotland sculptor Sigraf.References:
The Porta Nigra (Latin for black gate) is the largest Roman city gate north of the Alps. It is designated as part of the Roman Monuments, Cathedral of St. Peter and Church of Our Lady in Trier UNESCO World Heritage Site. The name Porta Nigra originated in the Middle Ages due to the darkened colour of its stone; the original Roman name has not been preserved. Locals commonly refer to the Porta Nigra simply as Porta.
The Porta Nigra was built in grey sandstone between 186 and 200 AD. The original gate consisted of two four-storied towers, projecting as near semicircles on the outer side. A narrow courtyard separated the two gate openings on either side. For unknown reasons, however, the construction of the gate remained unfinished. For example, the stones at the northern (outer) side of the gate were never abraded, and the protruding stones would have made it impossible to install movable gates. Nonetheless, the gate was used for several centuries until the end of the Roman era in Trier.
In Roman times, the Porta Nigra was part of a system of four city gates, one of which stood at each side of the roughly rectangular Roman city. The Porta Nigra guarded the northern entry to the Roman city, while the Porta Alba (White Gate) was built in the east, the Porta Media (Middle Gate) in the south, and the Porta Inclyta (Famous Gate) in the west, next to the Roman bridge across the Moselle. The gates stood at the ends of the two main streets of the Roman Trier, one of which led north-south and the other east-west. Of these gates, only the Porta Nigra still exists today.
In the early Middle Ages the Roman city gates were no longer used for their original function and their stones were taken and reused for other buildings. Also iron and lead braces were broken out of the walls of the Porta Nigra for reuse. Traces of this destruction are still clearly visible on the north side of the gate.
After 1028, the Greek monk Simeon lived as a hermit in the ruins of the Porta Nigra. After his death (1035) and sanctification, the Simeonstift monastery was built next to the Porta Nigra to honor him. Saving it from further destruction, the Porta Nigra was transformed into a church: The inner court of the gate was roofed and intermediate ceilings were inserted. The two middle storeys of the former gate were converted into church naves: the upper storey being for the monks and the lower storey for the general public. The ground floor with the large gates was sealed, and a large outside staircase was constructed alongside the south side (the town side) of the gate, up to the lower storey of the church. A small staircase led further up to the upper storey. The church rooms were accessible through former windows of the western tower of the Porta Nigra that were enlarged to become entrance doors (still visible today). The top floor of the western tower was used as church tower, the eastern tower was leveled, and an apse added at its east side. An additional gate - the much smaller Simeon Gate - was built adjacent to the East side of the Porta Nigra and served as a city gate in medieval times.
In 1802 Napoleon Bonaparte dissolved the church in the Porta Nigra and the monastery beside it, along with the vast majority of Trier"s numerous churches and monasteries. On his visit to Trier in 1804, Napoleon ordered that the Porta Nigra be converted back to its Roman form. Only the apse was kept; but the eastern tower was not rebuilt to its original height. Local legend has it that Napoleon originally wanted to completely tear down the church, but locals convinced him that the church had actually been a Gaulish festival hall before being turned into a church. Another version of the story is that they told him about its Roman origins, persuading him to convert the gate back to its original form.
In 1986 the Porta Nigra was designated a World Heritage Site, along with other Roman monuments in Trier and its surroundings. The modern appearance of the Porta Nigra goes back almost unchanged to the reconstruction ordered by Napoleon. At the south side of the Porta Nigra, remains of Roman columns line the last 100 m of the street leading to the gate. Positioned where they had stood in Roman times, they give a slight impression of the aspect of the original Roman street that was lined with colonnades. The Porta Nigra, including the upper floors, is open to visitors.