In the first half of the 19th Century, Trier was one of the poorest areas in Germany. In 1831 almost a third of the population were reliant on assistance. 81% were living on or below the breadline by the time of the mid-19th Century, which is why many people migrated to the US and above all to Brazil.
The ancient right of all local people to collect dead wood to burn for fuel became subject to strict punishments by the Prussian government. In the judicial year of 1828/29 alone there were over 9,000 convictions in Trier for wood related crimes. Karl Marx aired these grievances in several of his articles in the newspaper, the “Rheinische Zeitung”.
Poverty also pushed many women into prostitution. Around 1828, more than 80% of the inmates of prisons were women, of which more than 80% were prostitutes. Because the prisons were so overfull, the city’s master builder Johan Georg Wolff (1789-1861) constructed the Royal Prussian Prison in 1832/33 on Windstrasse in place of the Kurie Metzenhausen, which was one of the most beautiful renaissance buildings in Trier.
Here, in the shadow of the Cathedral, the revolutionaries of the 1848 democratic revolution were incarcerated including Karl Marx’s former schoolmate Victor Valdenaire. In the years from 1983-1988, in the process of conversion, the two-storey building was subject to complete gutting in order to turn it into the episcopal cathedral and diocese museum, which later became the Cathedral Museum.