The most precious relic in Trier Cathedral is the Holy Robe, the tunic of Christ. According to tradition, the Empress Dowager Helena brought the seamless robe of Christ to Trier. The Holy Robe is mentioned for the first time in the 11th century; the history of the Holy Robe is documented with certainty only from the 12th century, when it was removed from the west choir to the new altar in the east choir on May 1, 1196.
Opening of the high altar in the presence of Emperor Maximilian under Archbishop Richard of Greiffenklau and the first pilgrimage to the Holy Robe
Since the Cathedral renovation in 1974, the Holy Robe has been kept in its wooden shrine from 1891, lying under an air-conditioned glass shrine. The last great pilgrimage, in 1996, became a celebration of all the faithful, with its continuation in the annual Holy Robe Days. Only during the Holy Robe Days is the Holy Robe chapel accessible, but the garment cannot be viewed. The original state of the textile has altered because of past events and the unfavorable storage conditions, as repairs have frequently been made.´
The question of the genuineness ot the Holy Robe cannot not be answered with certainty. For the faithful, the symbolism is important: the relic signifies Jesus Christ Himself, His incarnation and the other events in His life up to the crucifixion and His death. The undivided and seamless garment is also a symbol of undivided Christianity and evokes the binding power of God, as ist expressed in the Trier pilgrim's prayer:
"Jesus Christ, Savior and Redeemer, have mercy on us and all the word. Be mindful of Thy Church and bring together what is diveded. Amen."
The pilgrimage in 2012 marks an historic anniversary: in 1512, at the command of the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I (1459-1519), who was residing in Trier for an Imperial Diet, and initially against the reticence by the Trier Archbishop and the Cathedral chapter, the Holy Robe was removed from under the high altar, from where it had been hidden for centuries. To affirm their faith, people at that time wanted to see the relics recalling the life of Jesus Christ, His humanity and his Passion and death for our salvation. As word of this initiative spread amongst the general population, pilgrims flocked to the city wishing to see the Robe for themselves, and this spontaneous people s revolution formed the first official public showing.
This great event took place five years before the Reformation began. It acted as the impetus of a series of pilgrimages which led many people to Trier and strengthened their belief. However, the physical act of the pilgrimage was also an expression of the crisis in the Church at that time and its piety. Some of the better known abuses led to criticism by the Reformation, and rightly so, and lie partially at the root causes of the schism which followed soon afterwards.
Dates from 1512
14 April 1512 (Wednesday of Easter Week) the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian commands the high altar in the east choir to be opened and the shrine with the relic of the Holy Robe to be removed
15 April 1512 the Imperial Diet is opened in Trier
22 April 1512 the relic shrine is opened and the Holy Robe relic is removed
2 May 1512 the retrieval of the relic is officially announced by Auxiliary Bishop Johann Enen
3 May 1512 (feast day of the Exaltation of the Cross) under pressure by the faithful the Archbishop shows the relic for the first time publically, with more showings in the following days
30 May 1512 (Pentecost) Richard von Greiffenklau is consecrated as Bishop 30 June 1512 a showing of the Cathedral s holy relics, especially the Tunic, is proclaimed, also in the days following
30 June 1512 a showing of the Cathedral s holy relics, especially the Tunic, is proclaimed, also in the following days
Five hundred years after the first exhibition, the Bishop of Trier invites one and all to the Holy Robe Pilgrimage between Friday, 13 April and Sunday, 13 May 2012.
Five years before the anniversary of the Reformation, we hope that this pilgrimage will create powerful incentives toward mutual efforts to unite all Christians.
The pilgrimage paths of many from different directions intersect in Jesus Christ. With the power of His spirit, He unites what is separated (see John 11:52; Ephesians 2:13-17). He has fitted us as living stones into the structure of His Church; He gathers His people and leads them, so that they can be a sign and instrument both of a very closely knit union with God and of the unity of the whole human race (Constitution of the Church from the Second Vatican Council, Lumen gentium ).
The motto functions as a stimulus through its openness and multi-dimensionality. Its light of hope shines on different circumstances and identifies liberating perspectives. For we are not blind to the conflict and alienation suffered my so many, especially young people, to the turbulent times in a world with its competing and often diverging interests.
We are pressed by growing tensions within our Church and the continuing schism in Christianity. Before He was crucified, Jesus prayed for unity, for those who belong to Him through faith and baptism. We firmly trust that Jesus Christ is working toward our salvation and healing in our own times, that He shows us paths to unity. Therefore, we turn to Him and invite many people to follow these paths with us.