Trier has three Roman baths, but the Kaiserthermen are the best of the lot, and the biggest this side of the Alps. The ruined wall of the Kaiserthermen stands tall and iconic, but it only hints at the maze of tunnels below the seemingly empty green grass in front of it. Once you step down from ground level, you enter the baths proper, and they far from being steaming hot, they are cool and as damp as a system of caves. On a swelteringly hot sunny day of about 30 degrees centigrade (85f) it was cool as an air conditioned room down below. I didn't want to leave!
If nothing else, the Kaiserthermen give you a real idea of just how important Trier was during Roman times.
Building work for the Kaiserthermen ('Imperial Baths') began around 300AD. It was a massive complex, the largest north of the Alps, taking up a 250 x 145 metre site. Some external walls up to 19 metres high still remain, but the majority of the existing site consists of the foundations and the underground service passageways, the latter a huge labyrinth. Some of the underground passageways are accessible and can be explored.
Although I've seen Roman sites in better condition, with more structures remaining overground, I still found the Kaiserthermen interesting to explore. But if you've never visited a Roman baths site in Italy, you will be amazed by the size and complexity involved in catering for this very-Roman (and very important) ritual. Don't just think of the thousands of people who used the baths regularly (every day, for most): think of all the thousands of workes who were needed to keep it functional, from masseurs to cleaners, from the men who kept the furnaces burning to heat the water to the small boys whose job it was to clean out the spaces beneath the hypocaust (the underground heating system). Just imaging how much wood was required on a daily basis makes my head spin!
There's a small museum in the entrance building which is worth a look, but you'll find far more Roman artefacts in the excellent Rheinisches Landesmuseum just round the corner on Weimarar Allee.
Open every day from 9am until 4, 5 or 6pm (depending on time of year) Entrance fee for the Kaiserthermen in February 2013 was 3 euro.
The Imperial Baths are among the largest baths ever built in the whole Roman Empire and the largest north of the Alps. More than 100 m wide and 200 m long could they serve several thousands of visitors at the same time. They were built by Constantin the Great in the 4th century to rival the baths in Rome.
There were hot and cold baths, a hollow-floor heating system, special areas for performng sports, there were libraries, there were more or less everything the people at that time wanted or needed for a relaxing time. But of course, it was only for the Romans themselves, not for people from other tribes.
Opening hours (as of 2010):
April - September: daily 9:00 - 18:00
October and March: 9:00 - 17:00
November - February: 9:00 - 16:00
Adults: 3 Euro
Children under 18: 1,50 Euro
Pensioners and students over 18: 2,10Euro
the kaisertherman (imperial baths) is a massive ruin near the landesmuseum. the kaisertherman was built by emperor constantine and could accommodate over 1,000 people. for a small fee you can enter the kaisertherman and explore it's underground passages.
It is hard to conceive this lasting so long. What would it have looked like in its heyday? Imagining young and up and coming Romans trying to network and improve or solidify their positions while the slaves below kept the furnaces stoked and the water coming. It is possible we have come full circle with our gyms and pilates classes.
The city of Trier was founded by the Romans (who called the colony Augusta Treverorum) and it claims the title of being "Germany's oldest town". At the end of the 3rd century Trier became the capital of the Roman province of Gallia Belgica and one of the main residences of the Western Roman Emperors which lead to extensive building activities. One of the most amazing projects of this time were the Kaiserthermen (Imperial Baths), planned by order of Emperor Marcus Aurelius Velerius Maximianus. The baths were planned being a monumental and prestigous complex, built after Roman standards and 2 aqueducts were built to supply the baths with fresh water from the nearby Petrisberg. But in the early 4th century already, when Emperor Konstantin decided to transfer his main residence from Trier to Konstantinopel, constructions stagnated and later, in 316 AD, completely ceased. The buildings then remained unused for nearly 15 years. But in the middle of the 4th century, under the reign of Emperor Flavius Valentinianus, the ruined baths served a new purpose: they were converted into military barracks! At this time the subterranean parts of the baths were filled up and the Western hall was torn down. So this beautiful site, built for the comforts of Emperors and planned becoming one of the biggest of its kind North of the Alps, was never actually used as thermal bath. During the Middle Ages it even became part of the city fortifications, the Caldarium and the boiler houses being used as a castle by the influential De Castello family.
1st April to 30th September: 9 am - 6 pm
October and March: 9 am - 5 pm
1st November to 28th February: 9 am - 4 pm
Admissions cease 30 mins. before closing
The Imperial Baths (in German Kaiserthermen) were constructed by Constantine in the 4th century. They are located on the south end of the Palace Gardens. From the outside, the baths are dominated by the huge eastern wall with many beautiful arches. The other walls have been destroyed, but their outlines are marked in stone. You can walk through the maze-like tunnels of the baths and get a good idea of their former splendor. After Constantine left Trier in 316, the construction of the baths ended and was never completed.
Another set of baths, the Barbarathermen, are located southwest of here near the Roemerbruecke (Roman Bridge).
Not much of this extraordinar 4th-century structure remains above ground, but the maze of passageways below is fantastic and well worth exploring. The baths were established by the emperor Constantine and were among the largest in the entire Roman empire. Strangely enough, they were never completed nor used for their intended purpose.
One more view of the ruins of the great hall of the Imperial Baths. This section most likely remains standing because it incorporated the protective wall that surrounded the original roman city.
In the background, outside the wall, can be seen the Village of Olweg.
These tunnels represent only a small fraction of the network of passages used to convey hot, warm and cold water from the storage basins to the baths in the main buildings.
We explored these tunnels for just under an hour and still left many behind and unseen.
Also known as the Imperial Baths, these ruins are all that remain of a once grand public bath built by the Romans in the early fourth century. The tops of the archways in this photo are nearly six-stories high.
Going to the baths was an important part of Roman life: Over 1600 years ago, the Romans built one of the grandest and most impressive baths in the world: the Imperial Baths.
People bathed naked (not always separately), could engage in sports, sit in cold and hot baths, swim, get a massage, have the body hair removed by tweezers or wax, and be cleaned with the help of scrapers, pumice stone, or fermented urine. They could relax, gamble, do business, go to the hairdresser's, libraries, reciting rooms, or pubs.
Today’s ruins of the Trier’s Imperial Baths (Kaiserthermen) are the remnants of construction which was probably started around 300 AD under Emperor Constantine. Its construction was probably never finished, and are modest compared with the original, vast complex that once stood here.
Construction had been interrupted around 312 due to the lack of funds as Constantine focused his political interests on the Mediterranean. When construction resumed, the baths were converted to barracks for the mounted imperial bodyguards, with 800-1000 soldiers plus their horses. The caldarium (warm bath) building became the drill hall/flag sanctuary. In the Middle Ages, it was converted into a castle, "Alderburg." Finally, around 1120, it was incorporated as a corner bastion of the new medieval city wall.
Today from materials excavated, the South Apses wall has been reconstructed to some extent, and nowadays serves as background for an outdoor theatre festival. It extends 855 feet east to west, and 477 feet from north to south, and is one of the largest monumental ruins from the world of antiquity. What you can see is three stories above ground, but there are another two stories below. In almost no other complex is it possible to visit such a complicated subterranean passage system.
At these baths, prominent Romans would have relaxed and entertained. The partly preserved, partly rebuilt brick work of the large apse in the picture was once part of the hot-water bathing room. In less repair are other bathing rooms, as well as a cold-water baths, a sauna and a massage room. This structure is the second largest bath in Trier, next to the Barbarathermen, and the fifth largest in the Roman Empire.
Unfortunately for me, the Imperial Baths were closed the two times I have visited Trier. From the outside, the Imperial Baths are impressive. It is hard to believe that the brick work is 1600 years old! From what I have read, the Trier Imperial Baths were one of the grandest and most impressive baths in the world. The tour includes the hot water bath, boiler rooms, service tunnels and cold water baths.
Opening hours are from 9:00 to 18:00 in the Summer and 17:00 in the Spring and Fall. Admission is € 2.10 for adults.
Going to the baths was an important part of Roman life: Over 1600 years ago, the Romans built one of the grandest and most impressive baths in the world: the Imperial Baths. Constantine the Great's Imperial Baths, the 'Kaiserthermen', with their network of hot and cold water basins, drying rooms, dining halls and forum, - or at least what's left of it - cover an area of more than 400,000 square feet-- large enough to accommodate four football fields. Worthwile a visit in Trier.