The building of the Castel Nuovo began in 1279 under the reign of Charles I of Anjou, on the basis of a plan by the French architect Pierre de Chaule. The strategic position of the new castle gave it the characteristics not only of a royal residence, but also those of a fortress. From the very beginning it was called Castrum Novum to distinguish it from the older castles dell'Ovo and Capuano.

During the reign of Robert of Anjou the castle became a centre of culture giving hospitality to artists, doctors and men of letters among whom were Giotto, Petrarch and Boccaccio. The Anjevins were succeeded by the Aragonese Alfonso I who, like his predecessors, used the Castel Nuovo as the royal residence, beginning work of reconstruction and having built, on the outside walls, between the Torre di Mezzo (Halfway Tower) and the Torre di Guardia (Watch Tower) the impressive Triumphal Arch to celebrate his victorious entry into the city of Naples.

The time of the Aragonese saw the passage from the medieval castle-palace to the fortress as it now appears; it was adapted to the new needs of a time of war and the area surrounding the Castle lost the residential character it had under the Anjevins. The structure of the Aragonese building is undoubtedly more massive than its Anjevin predecessor and was quite similar to the present-day castle, which is the result of the clearance works of the early years of the 20th century.

At the end of the 15th century, the French succeeded to the Aragonese, though they did not remain for long as they were succeeded in turn by the Spanish viceroys and the Austrians. During the viceroy period (1503-1734), the defence structures of the castle, needed for purely military purposes, underwent further modification. With the advent of Charles III of Bourbon, who defeated the emperor Charles VI in 1734, the castle was surrounded by buildings of all kinds, warehouses and houses, and this happened time and time again. 

In the first two decades of the 20th century, the Municipal Council began the work of isolating the castle from the annexed buildings in recognition of the historical and monumental importance of the fortress and the need to reclaim the piazza in front of it. The castle is today the venue of cultural events and also houses the Municipal Museum. 

A tour of the museum takes us from the Armoury Hall, the Palatine or Saint Barbara Chapel, the first and second levels of the southern courtyard and the Charles V Hall and the Sala della Loggia which are to host exhibitions and cultural events.

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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.