Tartu Cathedral (Estonian Tartu toomkirik) is one of the landmarks of the city of Tartu. The building is now an imposing ruin overlooking the lower town. In the small part of it that has been renovated is now located the museum of the University of Tartu, which the university also uses for major receptions.
The hill on which the cathedral later stood (Toomemägi or "cathedral hill") was one of the largest strongholds of the pagan Estonians, and the strategic nature of the site makes it likely that it had been since the earliest times. It was destroyed in 1224 by the Christian invaders of Livonia. Immediately after the conquest the Christians began construction of a bishop's fortress, the Castrum Tarbatae, on this strategic spot. (Parts of the old walls of the previous structures have since been revealed by archaeological excavations).
The construction of the Gothic cathedral on the north side of the cathedral hill was probably begun in the second half of the 13th century. It was surrounded by a graveyard and houses for the members of the cathedral chapter. The cathedral was dedicated to Saints Peter and Paul, who were also the patron saints of the city. It was the seat of the Bishopric of Dorpat, and one of the largest religious buildings of Eastern Europe.
The church was originally planned as a basilica, but the later addition of the three-aisled quire gave it the character of a hall church. The quire (in an early form) and nave were already in use by 1299. The cathedral was completed at the end of the 16th century with the building of the two massive fortress-like towers, originally 66 metres high, on either side of the west front. A wall separated the cathedral grounds and the bishop's fortified residence from the lower town.
In the mid-1520s the Reformation reached Tartu. On 10 January 1525 the cathedral was badly damaged by Protestant iconoclasts, after which it fell increasingly into decay. After the deportation to Russia of the last Roman Catholic Bishop of Dorpat, Hermann Wesel (bishop from 1554 to 1558; died 1563), the cathedral church was abandoned. During the Livonian War (1558–1583) Russian troops devastated the city. When in 1582 the city fell to the Poles, the new Roman Catholic rulers planned to rebuild the cathedral, but the plans were abandoned because of the ensuing Polish-Swedish War (1600–1611). A fire in 1624 compounded the damage.
In 1629 Tartu became Swedish, and the new rulers showed little interest in the derelict building, which during their time fell further into ruin and neglect, except that the burials of the townspeople continued in the graveyard well into the 18th century, while the main body of the church served as a barn. In the 1760s the two towers were reduced from 66 metres to 22 metres, the level of the nave roof, and made into a platform for cannon. The main portal was walled up at this time.
With the re-founding of the German-speaking University of Dorpat by Tsar Alexander I of Russia in 1802, the Baltic German architect Johann Wilhelm Krause was commissioned to build among the cathedral ruins the university library, a three-storey building erected between 1804 and 1807. At the end of the 19th century the northern tower was converted for use as a water tower.
In the 1960s the library building was extended and fitted with central heating. When it was replaced in 1981 by a new university library building, the old library became the home of the historical museum of the University of Tartu (Estonian: Tartu Ülikooli ajaloomuuseum). A thorough building conversion took place in 1985, when the 19th century interior was largely restored. Today the museum contains displays of important artefacts of the university's history, scientific instruments and rare books. The rest of the cathedral ruins and the external walls of the quire have been structurally secured and consolidated.
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.