Atuatuca Tungrorum, the ancient name of Tongeren, was the administrative chief place of the district of the people (civitas) der Tungri in the Roman ages. These Tungri formed an administrative federation of a few indigenous tribes in the time of emperor Augustus (27 BC – 14 AD) . In the decades before, they rebelled against the Roman invasion army of Julius Caesar.
The Eburones, one of the native tribes, had inflicted a defeat upon the Roman legions in 54 BC under the command of their king Ambiorix. This battle took place in the neighbourhood of Atuatuca, which was still unknown in the country of the Eburones and where the Romans had stored their winter quarter.
After the definitive establishment of the Roman authority, the native name moved over to chief place of the civitas Tungrorum. This primitive settlement (vicus), situated on a junction of important Roman roads, would develop into a real Roman town (municipium) trough the next ages, with typical public and private buildings and streets, surrounded by a monumental city wall. The diffusion of the Roman culture also had a big influence on the development of the surrounding countryside, in which well-off gentlemen farmers established innumerable farms (villas) and characteristic barrows (tumuli). Because of the constant raids of the Germanic people in the north of Gaul, the town was provided with a new wall in the 4th century, which was much smaller than the one in the 2nd century. The twin towns Cologne and Trier did the same. Trier is the centre of a Christian diocese, where SS. Maternus and Servatius as the first faith preachers probably established their episcopal see for a long time. Archaeological excavations in the old town centre and the accompanying necropolises have revealed numerous remains. Together with some characteristic findings from the countryside, they give a lively image of the Roman past of the town and its region. The part Tongeren played in the early Middle Ages is not really clear, despite some rare findings from the Merovingian period (5th – 7th century). Only in the next Carolingian period the town revives historically with the construction of a new church and the foundation of chapter of canons. This always occurred at the same place of the Basilica of Our Lady, apparently as a continuation of a Christian tradition. In the neighbourhood of the Basilica of Our Lady, there was also the Sint-Maternus chapel and the old episcopal house.
The centre of these religious affiliations (monasterium), formerly surrounded by a primitive fence, would form the core of the further town development. After the demolition of the Roman minster and the reconstruction of the still existing cloister, the construction of the Gothic Basilica of Our Lady began in the first half of the 13th century. From that time new business quarters, nursing homes and artisanal quarters arose. After the construction of the 13th century town wall, it was extended by different convents, some parish churches and a beguinage. Tongeren, one of the well-off towns of the Country of Liège , was almost completely burned to the ground in 1677 by troops of Louis XIV, after which the town only recovered with difficulty. Only after 1830 there was an actual revival. More than 2000 years of history have left an exceptionally rich cultural-historical inheritance.
© Stad Tongeren 2012 Green Valley