Vitudurum is the name of a Roman Vicus, those remains are located in Oberwinterthur, a locality of the municipality of Winterthur. The majority of the remains of commercial, residential, religious and public buildings are situated around the St. Arbogast church.

Vitudurum was established nearby productive resources and a prehistorican route from Lake Geneva to Lake Constance in the late first century BC or early first century AD. The Roman timber buildings were dendrochronologically dated around 4 BC. In 7 AD the Romans rebuilt the passageway in the Oberwinterthur area into a road. Starting from the village's center on the church hill (St. Arbogast) at the beginning of the 1st century AD, a street village stretched at a length of about 500 metres having several districts. The open settlement had its flowering time in the 1st and 2nd centuries. During the Alamanii invasion, the vicus was replaced respectively fortified by a castrum (fort) on the present St. Arbogast church hill, surrounded by a wall. The date of the construction of the fortification around 294 AD is documented by its inscription stone. At the same place the predecessor building of the St. Arbogast church was erected in the 6th/7th century.

A masonry temple in the center was built in the 1st to 2nd century, surrounded by a sacred precinct, the spa, three houses and a building of public character, and on the opposite side other larger stone buildings. To the south east, a residential and commercial district were situated at Unterer Bühl, which consisted entirely of wooden houses or clay-half-timbered structures. There were found organic materials in a very good condition: besides basket fragments, scrap leather and wooden objects, also a threshold beam and other parts of the house structures. About a wooden spring capture and wooden fresh water pipes were conducted in different houses. Elaborately constructed and parcarefully covered wooden channels were used for sanitation. Comparable with the southwesternly area, two rows of houses stretched towards the north-east.

North of the church hill there were on 2,000 square metres more residential and farm buildings made of wood, but also one of stone, fresh water pipes and sewers and latrines, established in the 1st to the 3rd century AD. Fire hazard exposed buildings and imissionary trades were situated at the edges of settlement in the west and east: in the 1st and 2nd centuries at least 14 kilns and tanneries in the southwest and northeast. Individual staves of six vats, embedded in the floor of the tannery date back in the 1st century,and show bear stamp and graffiti. The numerous single finds, mostly from the 1st century, include wooden writing tablets with inscriptions, pottery fragments and a pair of shoe bars.

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Founded: around 4 BC
Category: Prehistoric and archaeological sites in Switzerland

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Porta Nigra

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.