Holy Robe pilgrimage celebrates 500 years

Published May 2, 2012

This is the first time since 1996 that the Holy Robe has been on display. Photo contributed.

If you’re planning a trip to Germany in the next 10 days, you might have a chance to view a significant relic at Trier Cathedral: the seamless robe worn by Christ before his crucifixion and divided by the Roman soldiers, according to the Gospel of Saint John.

This year is the 500th anniversary of the pilgrimage of the Holy Robe (Der Heilige Rock) and the first time since 1996 that the relic has been on display. Half a million people are expected to make the pilgrimage this year.

Trier is the oldest city in Germany, and according to its website 700,000 people made the Holy Robe pilgrimage in 1996.

In the last century, there were pilgrimages in 1933 and 1959. The tunic is usually stored in a climate-controlled glass shrine within the cathedral. Legend has it that the robe was brought to Trier from the Holy Land in the early fourth century by Helena, mother of the Roman emperor, Constantine.

The tradition of the pilgrimage began in 1512 when Maximilian I, the holy roman emperor, attended the Imperial Diet in Trier and asked to have the relic placed on display. How believers reconcile the soldiers’ four-part division of the robe with its current seamless state is not clear, but the robe is seen by some as a symbol of Christian unity.


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