Trier Chatheral:

The Oldest Bishop’s Church in Germany

The name “cathedral” for a bishop’s church derives from a church containing a “cathedra,” the seat (and chair) of the bishop. As one of the successors of the Apostles, the bishop leads his diocese: in teaching, in the liturgy, in the hierarchy. He celebrates together with “his” priests and with all the faithful the main divine services of the church year at the Cathedral altar.

Trier has been the seat of a bishop since the second half of the 3rd century.

The bishop has always been surrounded by his college of priests, who support him directly in his tasks. Today, this college is primarily the Cathedral chapter, which elects the bishop, advises him, and celebrates divine service with him. Every year, the bishop ordains young men as priest in the Cathedral. He also consecrates the holy oils in the week before Easter, oils then distributed in all the parishes over the year for liturgical purposes. He administers the sacrament of confirmation in the entire diocese.

From the Middle Ages to the so-called secularization at the beginning of the 19th century, the Trier archbishops as electoral princes were also secular sovereigns vested with corresponding powers. Of the seven electors of the Holy Roman Empire, the Trier bishop together with the bishops of Cologne and Mainz assumed a special position. The bishops’ burial altars in the Cathedral bear impressive witness to this eventful past.

Of all the cathedrals north of the Alps, the Cathedral in Trier is the oldest in its structure. The oldest sections date from the 4th century AD.