Thursday, May 10, 2012

Pilgrimage to Trier!

The best part of being stationed in Europe is (obviously) the fantastic travel opportunities. We live in an awesome location because so many of the places we want to visit are in a reasonable distance, and we plan to knock lots of great places off of our list when my parents visit next month. So far, though, we've only visited a little of Germany and France. Which is nothing to sneeze at. Whatever that means.

This weekend we went to one of our favorite cities in Germany, Trier. We've been to Trier several times because it's very close and very cool.
 A few fun facts about Trier: Trier is the oldest city in Germany, founded in or before 16 BC. Several reminders of its time as an important city in the Roman Empire remain such as the Porta Nigra, which is the huge Roman city gate, as well as the ruins of Roman baths, which you can tour. There is a fabulous Roman museum with all sorts of fascinating artifacts and art from the time. Unfortunately, the city was hit hard during World War II but is nevertheless a beautiful city today. Trier is also home to a monastery where you can visit the tomb of Matthias (as in, the Apostle.) One of the popular sites is a basilica built by the emperor Constantine, which still functions as a church. (I should totally get a job with the City's tourism department, don't you think??)
The City Square. Here you'll find European treasures like McDonald's, Starbucks, H&M, and  Subway. 

Porta Nigra, The Roman City Gate

This is the tomb of Matthias

Replica of the city after World War II :(

Bella, at the top of the Porta Nigra

Terrible photo of the inside of Constantine's Basilica.

Anyway, one of the coolest things about Trier is that in the beautiful, ancient cathedral there is a tunic, said to be the robe of Christ. You know...this one:

23 Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took his garments, and made four parts, to every soldier a part; and also his coat: now the coat was without seam, woven from the top throughout.
24 They said therefore among themselves, Let us not rend it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be: that the scripture might be fulfilled, which saith, They parted my raiment among them, and for my vesture they did cast lots. These things therefore the soldiers did. (KJV)

Yeah, that one. Now, legend has it that St. Helena (she was the woman Constantine the Great referred to as "mom") traveled to the Holy Land to find the cross. Not only did she find it, but she found the seamless robe, which she gifted to Trier in the year 327ish. (along with a piece of the cross, which is now in that monastery I mentioned earlier.)

For a long time, nobody could view the robe. It was (and is) kept in a reliquary. We saw the reliquary on our second trip to Trier and it was like, "oh, look, a box??" but exactly 500 years ago, the robe was put on display for a short time. Since then it has only been displayed 16 times (I got that tidbit from Wikipedia), at very sporadic intervals. Millions of pilgrims have traveled from all over the world to view the robe on the rare occasion that it is displayed, and to mark 500 years since the very first pilgrimage of the robe, it was put on display during April and May 2012.

 So, back to Trier we went. Our priest had mentioned something along the lines of standing in line to see it, in the pouring rain, for like six hours. When we arrived, I knew he wasn't exaggerating. The crowd was massive. A huge line of people, chatting, laughing, praying, and singing. It was worth the trip to just see the crowd. However, in typical Heather fashion, I started to panic a little. "How would the babies handle waiting in line so long? What if they had to pee? What if I had to pee? What if Sophie pooped in her diaper??! What if we ran out of water?" and in typical Daniel fashion, Daniel said "chill out babe, it'll work out." So we got in the back of the line.
About 2 minutes later we were approached by a nice man wearing a lanyard and tag to denote his position as an official event worker who informed us that there was a special line for strollers and wheelchairs. So we followed and he led us straight into the Church! To a very small line! We ended up only waiting about 45 minutes to view the robe. Sophia sent a group of elderly nuns into a fit of giggles by showing them her grumpy face. I didn't get a picture at the time, but it looks a little like this.

I think she was trying to get them to be a little more serious. We were in a church, after all. That's old ladies for you, though.

 Anyway I got a few pictures of the tunic. 

Doing a pilgrimage was a really interesting thing for me. Having been raised protestant, where we put zero emphasis on relics, and now being a very new Catholic, I was sort of looking forward to the six hour wait to work out how I felt about the robe, or relics in general. Do I think this is the real robe? Does it matter if it is the real robe? What is the significance of it, for me? For all of us? Alas, turns out I only had 45 minutes to contemplate such things, during most of which I was breastfeeding an infant and chasing a toddler. So before I knew it, bam, there it was, and we were off. One of the guards told me that Sophie "must be one of the littlest pilgrims we've seen!" 
So I wish I could tell you a more interesting story, with deep thoughts and profound meaning, but not today.
 The robe is seamless, "woven from the top throughout" and was not divided among the soldiers. This fact was a fulfillment of prophecy and also a lovely representation of a unified Church, don't you think?

Tune in at the end of this month for MUNICH and VIENNA! (I may throw in Augsburg before then, if the children nap excessively!)
A very small glimpse of the crowd as we were leaving. Thousands of people were outside.


  1. That was awesome, I bet Daniel LOVED all the details and history. I'm so glad you got to go up front. Next time I'm in line somewhere, I'm going to offer to babysit some random strangers babies so I can get bumped up to the front or almost front of the line. LOL

  2. What an interesting blog, introduced by a thought-provoking photo. The unusual wall painting of the dwellings is also a strangely modern interpretation. Something like this hieroglyphic view of a park by Swiss painter Paul Klee,
    The image can be seen at who can supply you with a canvas print of it.