Antvorskov was the principal Scandinavian monastery of the Roman Catholic Order of Saint John of Jerusalem. In 1165, Valdemar the Great, who was himself an honorary Knight of St John, gave the Order land at Antvorskov. The monastery was constructed soon thereafter, during the time of Archbishop Eskil. The mother monastery, on Rhodes, and a monastery on Cyprus were built to house pilgrims to the Holy Land. Daughter houses such as Antvorskov were to forward any profits from properties to the monastery on Rhodes. Over time, however, especially after the collapse of Crusader kingdoms in Palestine, the Order focused more on helping local people, especially those suffering from leprosy, which was not uncommon in mediaeval Europe.
In the 13th and 14th centuries, the monastery became one of Denmark's major landowners. Many persons nearing death and seeking to withdraw from the world into a quasi-religious life donated some or all of their goods to the monastery. Many families seeking heavenly rest for their kinsmen donated property to buy prayers in perpetuity for those deceased relatives, or to buy burial places inside the abbey church.
Despite the vast landholdings attached to the monastery, the central government of the Order on Rhodes (and, later, on Malta) often scolded Antvorskov for failing to send the required excess to the mother house. In time, Antvorskov came to own farms and land all over Denmark and as far south as Rűgen, where a daughter abbey at Maschenholt was established in 1435.
After the Reformation, the monastery complex became a royal residence. Frederik II died at Antvorskov in 1588. Frederik IV's wife was created Countess of Antvorskov, but upon her death the properties reverted to the crown. In 1717, the abbey became for a while a staging location for the Danish army, housing troops.
The abbey church was reopened for services in 1722, but the new owner, Finance Minister Koes, ordered the church to be pulled down and the materials used to rebuild his manor at Falkenstein. In 1774, lands at Anvorskov were broken into nine large estates, which passed into the hands of local noble families. In 1799, State Minister Bruun bought the remaining estate, divided it into four parcels, and sold them off.
The remnants of the monastic complex crumbled, visited by Danes and others as a picturesque reminder of the distant past; in his autobiography, Hans Christian Andersen, for example, mentions excursions to the ruins of the monastery. But by 1816, the last of the ancient buildings stood in hopeless disrepair and were torn down.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.