St. Mary’s Church

Parchim, Germany

The Parchim 'new town' and St. Mary’s Church parish were mentioned for the first time in historical documents dating to 1249: a new town market and St. Mary’s Church with 54-metre high steeple were built at this time. St. Mary's church steeple was finished in 1300 and its silhouette became a well-known landmark in the town. St. Mary’s Church is the oldest preserved building in Parchim and is regarded as one of the most magnificent examples of late Romanesque sacral architecture in Mecklenburg, the church also showing clear early gothic influences. In the 15th century, the church was enlarged on its a northern side, an annex being added and its western gable was renovated in a High Gothic style. Many of the original parts of the building remain standing today. After the northern wing of the building was separated around 1980, the original character of the three-aisle hall church was restored. The side aisles are only half the width of the central aisle, which is crowned by rectangular bays. Thus the interior has gothic proportions with clear emphasis on the building's vertical lines. In the church’s aisles, the visitor finds traces of the the transition from the Romanesque to the Gothic eras.

The clustered columns built on octagonal pedestals that support the church's clearly date to the 13th century, and are quiet different from the ribbed vaulting added in the 14th century. Annexes added to the church's northern wing are clearly Gothic: the annexes feature two bays and a star-shaped vault. The exterior of the Brick Gothic endear themselves to visitors through their rich decoration: you'll find typical German Gothic trimming and round-arched frescos beneath the eaves; strong lisenes at the corners of the annexes, quadrilateral frescos and triangular gables decorated with panels. The church’s interior features a valuable brass baptism font (1365), a beautifully sculptured wing altar (around 1500), a Renaissance-era pulpit and organ pipes as wide as the church itself (installed in the 17th century). The most significant historical of these cultural-historical monuments are the altar, the pulpit and and a seat designed for the use of town councillors.

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Details

Founded: 1249
Category: Religious sites in Germany
Historical period: Hohenstaufen Dynasty (Germany)

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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.

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