The Praetorium was the official residence of the Imperial Governor of Cologne, the capital city of the Roman province of Lower Germania. It is the city’s most significant official monument and the most important Roman palace on the banks of the Rhine. All along, the Praetorium was the centre of a systematic development and settlement of the city and region.Thus, it can be referred to as the political-administrative cradle of the region.
Of the monument, which dates back to a time around the birth of Christ and displays multiple building phases, archaeological remains of all epochs are preserved. In particular, the walls of the monumental palace dating from the fourth century are entirely accessible and visible. The building complex comprises a central octagonal room flanked by two rectangular halls and adjoining pillars, with apses. A gallery (the Portico), fronting enfilades faced east towards the Rhine while spacious courtyards stretched to the west, reaching beyond the border of the contemporary Archaeological Zone.
To date, the finds include pottery, a lavish decor of wall-paintings, marble wall decoration, flooring and mosaics; there are remains of monumental sculptures and inscriptions on marble, limestone and tufa, as well as significant finds of ceramics, glasses and fragments of other workshop artefacts.
At the close of the eighth century, an earthquake put an end to the historical development of the governor’s palace. Signs of the event are still clearly visible on the building in the shape of cracks and displacements. To document the earthquake that damaged and destroyed numerous monuments and buildings in Cologne, the Seismological Institute of the University of Cologne together with the Bensberg Seismological Station is pursuing a three-year research project funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG).
As the excavations at the Town Hall Square progress, each ‘Find of the Month’ is displayed in turn in the Praetorium’s exhibition hall.