Xanten’s cathedral, Dom St. Viktor, was named after Victor of Xanten, a member of the Roman legion housed in Xanten who, according to legend, refused to sacrifice to the Roman god and was executed in Xanten’s amphitheatre, Castra Vetera. The cathedral is built overtop his presumed burial place.
This Gothic five aisle nave was declared a minor basilica in 1936 by Pope Pius XI, although it is not the seat of a bishop. It is considered to be the largest cathedral between Cologne and the North Sea.
The building of the cathedral began in the mid-1200s and was completed and dedicated in 1544. There are quite a few painted altarpieces in the cathedral; at the time of our visit, some were open and others were closed. I found the main altarpiece in the apse of the cathedral to be those most unique with its sculptures in place of paintings. Addition interesting pieces in the church were the high altar and the lectern, both with interesting metal workings.
In the crypt of the cathedral is a moving memorial to Jewish victims of the Holocaust. This stark stone memorial with barbed wire is unique for its location in a Roman Catholic Church. There are photographs of victims and information (German language only).
Hours: Monday - Saturday 1000-1800; Sunday 1230 -1800. November through February, hours are shortened to 1000-1700 Mon-Sat and 1200-1700 Sun.
One of the iconic buildings of Xanten is the Klever Tor, the Cleves Gate. This beautiful brick double gate leads through the town wall at the western corner of town. The gate dates back to the 1300s and the medieval foundations of the city. As you leave the town through the Klever Tor, you enter a beautiful green park with the nearby Kriemhildmühle (Kriemhild Windmill). I think the park side of the gate is more beautiful than the city side, which is a bit plainer in its appearance.
Today the gate houses three holiday apartments, so if you have ever wanted to stay overnight in a medieval city gate, here is your opportunity. Visit the Xanten tourist information website for more information and online booking.
On the northwest side of the Xanten city wall is the Kriemhildmühle, a traditional wind mill dating back to 1804. The lower parts of this mill served as part of the defensive fortifications of the city. There is a small opening in the city wall next to the mill.
We were on the outside of the mill in the green park space (having just come from the nearby Klever Tor) and we reentered the city through the opening near the mill. Once on the inside of the wall, we found that the mill today is used as a souvenir shop.
This beautiful gabled building at the corner of the market square stands out – it is quite different from the rest of the buildings in the market. The Gothic House dates back to the 15th century when it served as a trading house and demonstrates the former wealth of the city with its carved stones. The front of the building has some wonderful paintings and the market pump stands nearby the house.
Today the Gotisches Haus is a restaurant serving steaks and Austrian cuisine so if you want to go inside it is open for viewing (and dining). On the upper level of the restaurant is an event room that still has the beautiful wooden roof on display.
The large open market square stands in the center of the walled city of Xanten. Surrounding the square are plenty of shops, restaurants, and cafés for visitors and locals alike to make purchases, have a meal, or just enjoy each other’s company. It is a pedestrian only park of the city with no cars driving through the area. Fountains, pumps, and statues decorate the square that is the central focus of the city and all roads seem to lead to this area.
In the center of the market square are public bathrooms (steps lead down below the square), which are clean and well supplied (cost 50 cents).
Although we did not have time to visit the sites dating back to Xanten’s Roman era (and not high on our list having seen many others), there are a number of well done archeological sites in Xanten, including the Archaeological Park, one of the largest archaeological open air museums in the world. Down the road from Xanten is also the ruins of a large amphitheatre, of which there is a model of in town (see photos). Most of the Roman ruins are reconstructions, built since the park opened in 1975.
If you are interested in Roman history and sites, Xanten is a place where you could easily spend a day doing just that.
LVR-Archaeological Park Xanten / LVR-RömerMuseum
Trajanstraße 4, 46509 Xanten, Germany * Phone: +49 (0) 28 01 / 712 – 0 * email@example.com *
* Adults: EUR 5.00 * Children (over the age of six): EUR 2.50 * Disabled people: EUR 4.00 * Students, apprentices: EUR 4.00
The Museum is on site within the LVR-Archaeological Park Xanten which resides on the site of the ancient Roman city of Colonia Ulpia Traiana. Xanten is Germany's biggest archaeological open-air museum and is a unique combination of an archaeological protective building and modern museum architecture which is inspired by the large entrance hall of the Roman baths with the ecological standards of the Rhineland Regional Council into consideration. Keeping with the feats of the Roman masters who were known for their monumental architecture, the founders of the museum kept with the magnitude to provide a direct impression of their spectacular impact. Reflecting the dimensions of the Roman Basilica thermarum, the entrance hall of Roman baths, both inside and outside. The entrance hall was the biggest room of the baths and at the same time one of the largest buildings of the entire Colonia. It stood 25 metres tall on a surface area of some 70 x 22 metres. Vertical glass elements permit interesting insights and lovely views inside and outside of the museum. The Museum is constructed of 14 steel frames weighing 35 tons each that rest on the Roman foundation walls to support the entire museum building. The facade consists of vertical panels and windows that let in lots of pleasant daylight and offer scenic views of the Lower Rhine area. The museum's facade and its red gabled tin roof seamlessly merge with the architecture of the Protective Building. Just like its ancient predecessor, the building has no continuous floors but reveals the imposing height of the antique interior. The exhibition starts on the ground floor from where a system of ramps and platforms takes visitors to the upper levels. In the basement, a 70 metres long and five metres high stretch of the Roman foundation wall has been preserved. The complex contains 36 geothermal probes and two heat pumps that ensure environmentally friendly air conditioning and heating all year round. The Museum presents the 400 year history of the area in vivid and eloquent detail, with a chronological structure in presentation of the artifacts and historie. One of the most fabulously crafted Archaeological museums in the world. Rating: 5 stars out of 5.
Xanten is certainly a place with treasures for archeologists because it is the only Roman town north of the Alps which has not been built over since the collapse of the Roman Empire.
Its ground plan has remained intact under the fields and pastures. Nowadays it is not only a place where archaeologists are employed to continue with the excavations. More and more findings complete the picture of this old Roman military camp.
In addition, the results of their excavations have been reconstructed on a scale of 1:1 over the original foundations and since 1977 the Rhineland Landscape Association has made them accessible to the public in the Xanten Archaeological Park
LVR-Archaeological Park Xanten
* Trajanstraße 4, 46509 Xanten, Germany * Phone: +49 (0) 28 01 / 712 – 0 * firstname.lastname@example.org *
* Adults: EUR 5.00 * Children (over the age of six): EUR 2.50 * Disabled people: EUR 4.00 * Students, apprentices: EUR 4.00
The LVR-Archaeological Park Xanten resides on the site of the ancient Roman city of Colonia Ulpia Traiana. Xanten is Germany's biggest archaeological open-air museum/park. The Park expands the grounds of the original walled Roman city. The Park is a reconstructed version of the monumental elements of the city, such as the Temple, the Colloseum, the Bath houses, etc. Still under construction, it is being built up as I write this. Various times of the year it has living history re-enactment events. My experience at the park was very enjoyable, though I was not as impressed with the remains as I thought I would. I very much enjoyed the Temple and the Colloseum though. The park, especially in summer, is exciting and informative where the staff attempts to bring Roman history to life for those to research, relax, explore, and play games. Many of the reconstructed buildings are designed after years of excavation and research to true scale at their original ocations to emulate the Roman originals with shapes/materials as true as can be with what was found in history. Some of the most famous structures in the park are the Harbour Temple which is the most visible of all structures in the Park just as it served as a beacon of Roman Civilization back in the day; The Amphitheatre where thousands of Romans flocked to the games where fights occured with gladiators fighting beasts, animals, and each other. During the tourist seasons, they re-enact events and games often. There is also a Roman Hostel where visitors could stay during their visit to the city for food and lodging with ability to relax in the bath or visit the tavern. Replicas and reconstructions of the Roman houses that were made of loam. These were homes of the average in simple, multi-storey houses. The city walls and gates, once of stone, now of foliage, except where they have successfully reconstructed in stone. The gates and towers around the city have been reconstructed. Those visiting the region should not miss this park if one has interest in Roman and Medieval history or Archaeology. Rating: 4 stars out of 5.
Colonia Ulpia Traiana - it was in about 100 AD that the Roman Emperor Trajan conferred municipal status upon a settlement on the lower Rhine, and named it after himself. Large public buildings were erected: city walls, temples, heated baths, an amphitheatre. Ten thousand people lived in the city.
Experts are now excavating the traces of the town. The results of these archaeological investigations can be seen in the Xanten Archaeological Park, in the form of "lifesized" reconstructions on the original historical sites.
Most of the ARchaeological Park is accessible by wheelchairs.
The Town Baths belong to the terrain of the Archaeological Park. The entrance for the Archaeological Park includes the entrance for the Town Baths. So go to the Park at first to pay once and get two - Park and Baths!
The Emperor Hadrian might have stayed in the Colonia Ulpia Traiana while on his way to Britain, and perhaps he took the opportunity to encourage the building of the main town baths with a personal donation.
The municipal public baths took up an area of more than 10,000 square metres and comprised not only hot, warm and cold baths, but also sweating rooms, a sport field and latrines. The Baths have been open to the public since 1999, under a protective building. The remains of floors, water basins and furnaces are thus protected from erosion. At the same time, the protective building reflects the form of the ancient building.
Accessible by wheelchair.
This is the small mill just at the edge of the park. It is used now as information point and souvenir shop. I also noticed that this was the first time I saw mill that the wings are still turning when the wind blow.
This cathedral cannot compare in size to the one in Cologne or in Notredame, but it is impressive in it's Gothic architecture. Inside, like so many cathedrals that weren't in service, it was dark, cool, sombre and had the wonderful centuries old smell of Frankenscense.
The blue glass that's centuries old is very impressive. You can see which panes were replaced, and which are original.
The cathedral is dedicated to the patron saint of Xanten, St. Victor (also known as St. Mauritius). You can find out more about him on my travel log.
Also very impressive in this cathedral are the hand-carved alter pieces that are hundreds of years old, such as the Maria Alter, or the St. Viktor alter.
Xanten has a nice little museum dedicated to the Roman colony that was established here 2000 years ago. Most impressive is a fully reconstructed suit of Roman Legionar armour. One of the most interesting things they had where little wooden cases that looked like they might be travel backgammon sets. Instead of a backgammon board in them, they were filled with coloured wax. You see, back then, paper was rare and expensive, and if you wanted to jot a note down of something, nobody had a PDA or even one of those paper cubes sitting on your desk. Still just like you, the Romans had to leave notes behind, which were recorded in these little wax books.
If you think that's cool, you can buy one in the Xanten Museum gift shop.
Mo-Fr 9 am - 5 pm; Sa-Su 11am -6 pm
Costs 3 Euro admission, and 28 Euro for a group tour up to 25 people.
Just behind this front gate of the old city there is a small park where you can sit, relax, have a picnic and just enjoy the warming spring sunshine