At the Porta Nigra, the northern gate of the Roman city and today's landmark of Trier, Archbishop Egilbert preached in favour of the Jews in 1096 in view of the threatening Crusade pogroms. At that time, the Porta had already functioned as a church for more than half a century. Around 1030, the Greek monk Simeon of Syracuse had settled here to spend his days singing and praying as a hermit in a cell in the east tower. He died in 1035 and was canonised in the same year. The Archbishop of Trier, Poppo von Babenberg, founded the Simeonstift in his honour and had the gate converted into a church.
In 1095, Pope Urban II had preached the Crusade in front of the cathedral of Clermont in southern France: one wanted to free the Holy City of Jerusalem from the hands of the Muslims. This met with great approval under the slogan "Deus lo volt" (Occitan: "God wills it"). Many, especially southern French, northern French and Norman knights, set out on crusade. At the same time, there were disorderly mobs of people who joined itinerant preachers and eventually went murdering and pillaging through the Rhineland.
They arrived in Trier on Good Friday in 1096, after which the Jews found themselves in a very precarious situation for several weeks. Archbishop Egilbert tried to counteract this. At Whitsun of the same year, many people came to Trier because a fair was being held at the monastery of St. Maximin. The archbishop gave a speech at the Porta Nigra asking that the Jews be spared. However, he could not get his way, partly because - so the source says - he was "a stranger and without friends and relatives" in the city. He then entrenched himself for a fortnight in the Porta Nigra, and from there he preached and called on the Jews to be baptised in order to survive. The vast majority followed this, a few chose suicide rather than be baptised, some were also murdered. But all in all, the death toll in Trier was very low compared to other cities, at eight or nine.
Author: Prof. Dr. Frank G. Hirschmann
Editorial staff: Prof. Dr. Frank G. Hirschmann
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