Modernization, Revolution, and Growth – Trier in France and Prussia

(1794 to 1914)

  • This magnificent gilded cup was given to Emperor Napoleon with a welcoming drink when he visited Trier in 1804.
    This magnificent gilded cup was given to Emperor Napoleon with a welcoming drink when he visited Trier in 1804.
  • Trier porcelain manufacturing flowered at the beginning of the 19th century. Photo: Municipal Museum Simeonstift.
    Trier porcelain manufacturing flowered at the beginning of the 19th century. Photo: Municipal Museum Simeonstift.
  • In 1848, the democratic reformer Ludwig Simon was a Trier representative at the German National Assembly in the Frankfurt St. Paul‘s Church. Photo: Municipal Museum Simeonstift.
    In 1848, the democratic reformer Ludwig Simon was a Trier representative at the German National Assembly in the Frankfurt St. Paul‘s Church. Photo: Municipal Museum Simeonstift.
  • Greeting Kaiser Wilhelm II, who dedicated the second Trier Moselle bridge, named for him, in 1913. Photo: City Archives
    Greeting Kaiser Wilhelm II, who dedicated the second Trier Moselle bridge, named for him, in 1913. Photo: City Archives
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During the wars against the French Revolutionary troops, Trier was once again a city at the front. After Electoral and Austrian units were defeated in the battle at the Pellingen redoubt, the Mayor, Ludwig Gottbill, had to hand over the key to the city to the French General Moreaux on August 9, 1794. In 1797, Trier together with the entire German area west of the Rhine was integrated into the French state.

As the capital of the Saar Department with the seat of the prefecture and the appellate court, the city experienced a growth in prestige and a push toward modernization. On the one hand, the abolishment of the nobility, the clergy, and the guilds, including the auction of considerable Church property, favored the formation of middle class society and economic power. On the other hand, the city suffered increasingly under a heavy tax burden and military conscription. However, many townspeople felt themselves quite honored when Napoleon visited the city in 1804 and, among other things, decreed that the Porta Nigra was to be returned to its original state.

On January 6, 1814, the “French time” ended in Trier with the entry of Prussian troops. The city was integrated into the Prussian Rhine Province and wound up again in a position on the edge of things. Karl Marx, born in Trier in 1818, was a witness to manifold economic need in his home region. This city elected the decidedly democratic representative Ludwig Simon to the National Assembly during the revolution of 1848, a circumstance leading the Prussian authorities to laden Trier with the epithet “the worst point in the province”.

In the second half of the 19th century, Trier finally joined the industrial revolution. The city was connected to the railroad in 1856; up to 1,000 men worked in the Quint Iron Foundry. When the hated flour and slaughter tax was repealed in 1875, the city wall finally lost its meaning. Trier then grew at a swift tempo beyond its medieval boundaries. In 1913, Emperor Wilhelm II dedicated the second Moselle bridge.

Reservations against the (Protestant) Prussians remained: During the “culture struggle” (Kulturkampf) of the 1870s, the Trier diocese numbered among the citadels of Catholicism loyal to the Pope. The clergy was greatly supported by the local populace in its passive resistance against the anti-clerical laws. 

Text: Ralph Kießling
Literature: Gabriele Clemens/Lukas Clemens: Geschichte der Stadt Trier, Munich, 2007

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