During his current pastoral visit to Germany, Pope Tawadros II paid a visit to the High Cathedral of St Peter in Trier, famous for being home to holy relics of the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ. These relics include the Seamless Robe of Christ, which He wore before He was crucified and which the Roman soldiers cast lots for. According to the Gospel of St John 19: 23,24: “Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took his garments and divided them into four parts, to every soldier a part, and the tunic. Now the tunic was without seam, woven whole from the top down. Therefore, they said among themselves, let us not tear it, but cast lots for it, whose it will become. Thus the saying in Scripture was fulfilled: they divided My raiment among them, and upon My vesture did they cast lots.”
Trier tradition has it that St Helena, mother of Constantine the Great, discovered the seamless robe in the Holy Land in the year 327 or 328 along with several other relics, including the True Cross. According to different versions of the story, she either bequeathed it or sent it to the city of Trier, where Constantine had lived some years before becoming emperor.
The history of the Trier robe is uncertain till the 12th century when, on 1 May 1196, Archbishop Johann I of Trier consecrated an altar in which the seamless robe was placed.
The Cathedral of Trier also houses a Nail that was used among those that nailed Jesus to the Cross.
Pope Tawadros arrived at the Cathedral of Trier early afternoon on Saturday 18 May. Accompanying him were Anba Mishail, Abbot of St Antonius Monastery in Kröffelbach; and Anba Damian, Abbot of the monastery of the Holy Virgin and Abu-Seifein in Höchster. Bishop Stephan Ackermann received the Pope, leading him through the Cathedral and explaining its history, and the relation between the Coptic Church and the Catholic community in Trier. Bishop Ackermann noted that Pope Tawadros II was the first patriarch from Egypt to visit Trier since St Athanasius of Alexandria (297 – 373AD), the 20th Patriarch of the See of St Mark, was banished there. St Athanasius was famous for his bitter fight against Arianism, for which he was banished five times, one of them to Trier. There he wrote one of his famous books, it’s topic being St Anthony the Great. St Athanasius is to this day revered in Trier as “father of the Copts”.
Pope Tawadros visited the case containing the seamless robe, offering prayers there and raising incense. Bishop Ackermann then brought to the Pope the tall glass reliquary containing the Nail of the Crucifixion; Pope Tawadros kissed it and prayed.
The Cathedral of St Peter features an altar consecrated in the name of St Athanasius, for use in Orthodox worship. Anba Mishail explained that the Catholic Church had assigned that altar for the Orthodox in response to a desire expressed by Egypt’s Pope Shenouda III, Coptic Orthodox patriarch from 1971 to 2012. The altar is located under the chamber of the Holy Robe in the Cathedral. Pope Shenouda had been invited to consecrate it, but could not make it. Anba Mishail said that the Coptic Church now prays Mass once every month on that altar. On his visit, Pope Tawadros offered a Prayer of Thanksgiving there.
The Bishop presented the Coptic Orthodox Pope with a small reliquary including part of the relics of St Helena whose feast day coincided with that date. The overjoyed Pope received it with reverence, and all the Coptic clergy present joined in singing a praise for St Helena.
Pope Tawadros gave Bishop Ackermann a gift of Coptic icon depicting the Holy Family—Baby Jesus, St Mary and St Joseph—on their biblical flight to Egypt.
20 May 2019