Karl Friedrich Schinkel’s Altes Museum, completed in 1830, is one of the most important buildings of the Neoclassical era. The monumental arrangement of 18 Ionic fluted columns, the expansive atrium and sweeping staircase that invites visitors to ascend to the top, the rotunda adorned with Antique sculptures on all sides as a place to collect one’s thoughts and an explicit reference to Rome’s Pantheon: such signs of architectural refinement had previously only ever been seen in buildings designed for royalty and the nobility.
Today the museum houses the Antikensammlung (Collection of Classical Antiquities), showcasing its permanent exhibition on the art and culture of the Greeks, Etruscans, and Romans. The Münzkabinett complements this sweeping overview of classical antiquity with its display of ancient coins.
The Antikensammlung has a proud tradition spanning more than 350 years. Today, it is not only on show at the Altes Museum, it also has a special display integrated into the permanent exhibition of the Neues Museum, featuring the archaeology of Cyprus and the Roman provinces, and is a core component of the Pergamonmuseum, with its world-famous halls of Antique architecture. The main floor provides an impressive panorama of the art of ancient Greece from the 10th to 1st century BCE. The chronologically divided exhibition contains stone sculptures, vases, craft objects and jewellery in a richly diverse display structured around certain core themes. Highlights include the statue of the "Berlin goddess", the "praying boy", the "amphora of the Berlin painter" and the throned goddess from Taranto. Jewellery made of gold and silver, as well as cut gemstones form a veritable treasure vault beneath the blue firmament of Schinkel’s ceiling design. In a second "blue chamber", objects from the Münzkabinett are on display, in a selection of its most stunning pieces of ancient mintage. They range from the earliest coins from the 7th century BCE made of electrum (an alloy of gold and silver), up to coins from the Roman Empire’s crisis years in the late 3rd century CE. The more than 1300 coins on show form a body of ancient artefacts to be admired within themselves that also impressively corresponds to the art from the same epoch on display.
On the upper floor, the art and archaeology of the Etruscans and the Roman Empire are on view. The collection of Etruscan art is one of the largest anywhere in the world outside Italy; it contains such famous works as the house-shaped urns from Chiusi and the clay tablet from Capua. The collection of Roman art, meanwhile, unveils precious artefacts such as the Hildesheim silver find and portraits of Caesar and Cleopatra.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.