Trier Cathedral and the Holy Robe

Trier Cathedral’s most precious relic is the Holy Robe, the Tunic of Christ. Tradition says that the Emperor’s mother Helena brought the undivided garment of Christ to Trier. The Holy Robe was mentioned the first time in the 11th century; the history of the Holy Robe is reliably documented only from the 12th century onward, when it was brought from the west choir and placed into the new altar of the east choir on May 1, 1196.

Pilgrimages

In 1512:

Under Archbishop Richard von Greiffenklau the high altar was opened in the presence of Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian, beginning the first pilgrimage to the Holy Robe.

Subsequent Pilgrimages:

1513, 1514, 1515, 1516, 1517, 1524, 1531, 1538, 1545, 1655, 1810, 1844, 1891, 1933, 1959, 1996, 2012

Since the renovation of the Cathedral in 1974, the Holy Robe has been kept in a wooden shrine from 1891, lying flat under a temperature-controlled glass shrine. The great pilgrimage of 1996 became a festival for all the faithful which continued into the annual Holy Robe Days. Only during the Holy Robe Days is the Holy Robe Chapel accessible for visitors; the garment itself is not visible, however. The events of the past and the unfavorable conditions for safe keeping have contributed to greatly altering the original state of the textile, since it has often been repaired.

The question of the Holy Robe’s authenticity cannot be answered definitely. For the faithful, it is its symbolic value which is important: the relic points to Jesus Christ Himself, His Incarnation and the other events of His life up to His crucifixion and His death. The undivided seamless Robe is also a symbol of undivided Christianity and is a reminder of the binding power of God, as expressed in the Trier pilgrim’s prayer:

“Jesus Christ, Savior and Redeemer, have mercy on us and the whole world. Be mindful of Your Church and bring together what is separated. Amen!”

 Text: DDr. Franz Ronig, Professor