Roman and Mediaeval History, Illlustrated Travel Journals, Mediaeval Literature, Geology
Neolithic Remains, Picts and Vikings
Orkney was a veritable centre of Neolithic buildings, from the intriguing stone settings to a settlement like Skara Brae - a village older than the pyramids which has become one of the main tourist attractions.
Skara Brae, a Neolithic settlement on Mainland Orkney
Stone circles are very photogenic. The Ring of Brodgar may be less impressive than Stonehenge, but it's a lot more atmospheric. Especially with those dramatic clouds - though it never rained, fortunately. There's another, smaller stone setting, the one of Stenness, which I also managed to sneak in.
Ring of Brodgar, a detail shot
An then there's Maes Howe, the large cairn we are not sure what it really was; temple, burial place, meeting room....? You can only get inside on a guided tour and photographing is officially not allowed. *wink*
Maes Howe, also on the mainland
Definitely used for burial were the chambered cairns. Several fine examples can be found on the island of Rousay. Here's the largest one. I also visited a much smaller one you need a torch and a ladder to get into.
Chambered cairn on Rousay
Cairns can be found elsewhere in the Highlands, too, like the Clava Cairns near Inverness which come complete with standing stones and all. They're about 2.5 miles walk from the battlefield of Culloden.
But Neolithic remains are not the only fun thing to be found on Orkney. There are some nice Pictish brochs, too. Well, remains of brochs; they used to be much higher. Here's the Broch of Gurness.
Broch of Gurness, Mainland Orkney
They often come attached with the remains of settlements, though the latter was much smaller around the Broch of Midhowe than in case of Gurness. A lot of those places are off the roads and bus stops so I had some walking to do. :-)
Broch of Midhowe, Rousay
I was lucky again with the tide and could put a visit to the Viking settlement on Birsay into my schedule. Orkney had been in Norse possession for centuries and they left their traces behind. I've also taken a few pics of some smaller places like the round church in Orphir.
The Viking settlement on Birsay
In one case I was out of luck: since the tourist office in Inverness gave me the wrong opening times for the Pictish museum in Rosemarkie, I missed that one. Well, the booty was large enough for two weeks.
The Abbeys and Cathedrals
I got some abbeys and cathedrals, too; a few famous ruins among them.
The Abbey of Whitby in the mist.
Yes, there is a ruined church there - Whitby
Not the usual tourist website photos, I'm afraid, but they may be more realistic than the sunny ones. I'm sure Hild would have known a lot of that fog.
I had much better luck with the weather when I visited Rievaulx Abbey
Rievaulx is grand. It must have been a huge and busy place once and even the ruins are still impressive. Most remains of the church, but there are some considerable traces of the other buildings as well.
Rievaulx Abbey, remains of the main nave
I spent quite some time there photographing and then went on to another church that's not a ruin: Ripon Cathedral
Ripon Cathedral, the nave between west work and transept
There's a difference to German churches in the flat-roofed west towers, the larger crossing tower, and often the length of the nave on the side of the apse as well.
I had to wait out a funeral service for the interior shots, but I got some eventually.
Ripon Cathedral, view from side nave to the crossing
Ripon has a long and interesting history and I got more research set out for me. *sigh*
And there is lovely Lindisfarne
The Abbey of Lindisfarne
Less imposing that Rievaulx but a charming place, esp. in the sunshine. I was lucky to catch a low tide so I could get a taxi to drive me over.
And a big church in a small town, the St.Magnus Cathedral in Kirkwall
St.Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall, west front
This one is a fine example of Romanesque architecture. I especially loved the interior with its sturdy, red columns.
St.Magnus Cathedral, main nave
Luckily, Henry VIII never got that far. He left enough ruins in his wake as it is. Though they are nice camera fodder. :-)
The Castles, Part 1 - For My Friends
I'm back and over the next days I will present the usual photo overviews. The weather wasn't bad; in fact, the rain stopped during my way up to Scarborough Castle (my first place to visit) and never came back while I was traveling around. Must have been scared of me, lol. Several days were even warm and sunny, though Orkney was a bit on the grey and windy side.
Without further ado, here are a few castles I visited with special interest of some readers in mind:
For Anerje: Scarborough Castle
Scarborough Castle; the keep seen from the outer gate
No wonder the Earl of Pembroke tried to coax Piers Gaveston into surrendering; laying siege to that place would not have been fun. And with the wind like the day I visited it would have been nasty and cold, too. You owe me a cookie or two for braving that wind. *grin*
The curtain wall on the town side
Look at those walls and the steep slope in front of them. I know what I talk about; I walked the blooming path all the way to the top. And there I had thought only German castles sat on hilltops and cliffs. ;-)
Scarborough Castle seen from the northern beach
I took this one a few days later on a sunny evening when the sea fog was just coming in with the tide. The atmosphere became a bit mysterious, but I didn't see a headless Piers. Or one with a head.
For Kasia: Alnwick Castle
Alnwick Castle, the inner bailey seen from the outer one
Alnwick (pronounced something like 'Annick') Castle is still the residence of the Dukes of Northumberland and thus some features have been altered over time. But the overall layout of the bailey is still the original one.
The barbican is one of the old buildings that was around already at the time of William the Lion (albeit the figures were added by one of the duchesses later). Maybe he even entered the castle through this gate. No plaque or anything though, the focus lies more on the later Medieaval history of the castle and the Victorian state rooms.
The inner bailey from the inside (the Norman entrance is to the right)
Alnwick Castle is also a place where you can meet Mrs. McGonagall on occasion, and a bunch of wannabe wizards on broomsticks. Some scenes of the Harry Potter movies have been filmed there and there are Potter-y events for kids.
For Kathryn: Dunstanburgh Castle
Dunstanburgh Castle in the evening sun
I was lucky to find a castle I didn't have on my list but which fit into my schedule quite well and which turned out to be connected to Thomas of Lancaster and fell into King Edward's hands after Lancaster's execution. So you'll get your castle as well. *grin*
Closeup of the keep
Lancaster built that one after his relationship with Edward II detoriated. It sits in sight of Bamburgh Castle (at least on a clear day) and there was an element of 'neiner, neiner' to the place which the duke actually never lived in. He was caught before he could flee to Dunstanburgh.
View from the keep towards Constable's Tower (in the middle) and Egyncleugh Tower (close to the sea)
It's a lovely ruin I had a lot of fun exploring. Even though I got a sunburn on my nose for a change.
More castles are below. Some abbeys as well and a bunch of Pictish and Neolithic sites will follow tomorrow. I've been a busy little photographer. :-)
The Castles, Part 2 - Other Castles I Visited
Here's a sneak peek into the other castles I visited this time.
Richmond Castle is one of the oldest Norman castles of which parts still remain.
Richmond Castle, the keep
Quite substantial parts, as you can see. Richmond Castle was the kernel of the large Honour of Richmond that would play a significant role in history.
Richmond Castle, view towards Scollard's Hall and Gold Hole Tower, with the Fallen Tower to the left
is another of the Percy of Northumberland castles. They kept collecting those. :-)
Warkworth Castle, the keep seen through the gate of the Lion Tower
It's a beautiful, picturesque ruin I enjoyed very much.
Warkworth Castle, view from the keep to the eastern hall range
The famous Bamburgh Castle
. I could not get the seaside view you find on every book cover about Northumbria, but I got some decent pics nevertheless.
Bamburgh Castle, seen from the land side
Bamburgh has been rebuilt in Victorian times, and I must admit that some of the architecture jars a bit. The Wartburg
reconstruction is more in style, imho.
Bamburgh Castle, the Keep (one of the original Medieaval buildings)
A cliff, a knife edge way that's closed to the public, and lots of stairs down one hill and up the other. Constance may try her best with Dunottar Castle
Dunottar Castle, sitting on a cliff
Did I say: stairs, lol? And those likely weren't around in former times.
Dunottar Castle, the way up along the outer curtain wall
I visited Urquhart Castle
in 1998, but I wanted to go back with a digital camera since I had fond memories of the place.
Urquhart Castle, view to 14th century keep and gatehouse
There is a new visitor centre now, and lots more tourists. Just well they start getting dinner-hungry long before the castle closes.
Urquhart Castle, view to the 12th century part of the castle
So a nice booty overall; enough for a score of posts. Like I have no other stuff in my archives. *grin*
I'll Be Away
Until midst of June, hunting some more castles and churches. But I won't leave you without some photos to tide you over.
Entrance to the harbour of Newcastle (seen from Tynemouth) - my usual way to the UK
I got several castles on my list, as I mentioned a few weeks ago. I'm looking forward to Bamburgh and Alnwick especially, and Dunottar - that one looks like the sort of Let's See If We Can Put a Castle Here The Wind Won't Blow Away.
There should be some churches, too (Whitby fe., if I can sneak it into my schedule). I also really hope the weather and the tides will allow me to visit Lindisfarne. The same goes for some of the places on the Orkney (like Birsay).
Let's also hope I packed the right stuff. I do pack for every weather but if the same ol' rain stays put for two weeks, I may run out of dry stuff nevertheless. Well, right now the same ol' rain is pretty busy in Germany and that's where it can stay as long as I'm not there. Lol.
The Imperial Palatine Seat Tilleda - Fortifications
I have mentioned Tilleda a few times already since it's one of the rare examples of a Medieaval palatine seat of which more remains than some crumbled earthen walls and a sign. Werla, albeit double the size of Tilleda shows only a few of those today, Grona has become a suburb of Göttingen, in Pöhlde only some foundations remain. Of course, most of what we can see in Tilleda today has been reconstructed - earthen walls and wattle and daub houses don't preserve well - but it is the only complete complex of the sort. In Goslar, only the great hall has been restored, albeit it is a most splendid example.
Tilleda, gate of the outer bailey. The way it is drawn in between the walls enabled the defenders to throw all sorts of pointy, hot, or otherwise interesting things on attackers.
Tilleda is first mentioned as Imperial Palatine seat (imperiatoris corte
) in a charte dating to 972, where it is listed among the lands Otto II gave his wife, the Byzantine princess Theophanu, as dower. But the castle on the Pfingstberg hill must have been in existence since the early 10th century.* Tilleda surely was part of the net of palatine seats in Thuringia and Saxony already at the time of King Heinrich I.
Palatine seats, sometimes also known as royal vills in England, were needed because the king had to show his presence to the people, taxes paid in food could not be transported and stored over long distances, so Mediaeval kings did a lot of traveling and wanted to stay in places of some comfort.
Outer gate seen from the inside with some wattle and daub houses in the foreground
The Pfingstberg hill lies north of the Kyffhäuser mountain ridge, a place that has become famous for the legend of the emperor Friedrich Barbarossa sleeping deep inside the mountain to return in time of great need. So far, no one has seen him, but he got a big, kitchy 19th century monument on top of the mountain. If that didn't wake him from of his sleep; I doubt anything will. *grin*
There are the remains of a 12th century castle halfway down the mountain as well, but when we got there, it turned out the restaurant at the monument hosted a major biker meeting and there were bikers everywhere in addition to the usual avalanches of tourists on a sunny day, so we decided against trying to find a parking lot only to photograph some ruins with a lot of people blocking the sights.
View from the gate to some houses, with the Kyffhäuser in the background
The seat of Tilleda has a trapezoid shape and covers an area of 5.6 hectares (about 350x250 metres). The part of the hill where the main castle is situated has steep slopes that fall down 25 metres on three sides, on it were additional fortifications in form of a trench and wall, partly of stone, partly timber palisades. Only to the west the land is flatter (but still some 10 metres above the surrounding terrain); there the outer bailey lies, once protected by walls of mortared ashlar (see below). Another, second outer bailey on the southern terrace near the river Wolwede has been excavated but not reconstructed.
The ground of the hill is sandstone on a layer of Zechstein gypsum which led to a rockfall probably in the early 11th century which destroyed part of the main hall in the northeast corner of the castle.
Interior of the outer gate, with my father looking out for enemies
The castle with the main hall, church and living quarters for the nobles - several of them with hypocaust heating - is separated from the outer bailey by a system of walls and trenches. Most of the buildings in the main castle were made of stone, or at least had stone foundations, though the hall was rebuilt as pillared longhouse after the rockfall. I will get back to the remains of those in another post.
The main wall with the palisades and the gate - in its second, stone version with timber upper storey - have been reconstructed, as well as one of the trenches.
Inner gate, seen from the outer bailey
The area between the main castle and the outer bailey had during Ottonian times served as some sort of middle castle with a granary and the living quarters of the chatellain / administator, but later, the fortifications were considerably strengthened. Maybe the defense purpose of the place became more important during quarrels between kings and nobles. King Lothar of Süpplingenburg destroyed the castle on the Kyffhäuser in 1118, for example.
We can trace a sojourn of Emperor Friedrich Barbarossa in Tilleda in 1174, and in 1194, Heinrich VI received the exiled Heinrich the Lion in reconciliatory meeting. Considering the symbolic element inherent to such actions in the Middle Ages, it proves that Tilleda was an important place; such meetings didn't take place in some backwater village.
Inner gate seem from the remains of the church
The outer bailey, encompassing about 60% of the entire site, is the most typical feature of the palatine seats of itinerant rulers. This large outer bailey was protected by a wall of mortared ashlar, both of local origins (some of the gypsum pits have been excavated). These walls have later been used as quarry and were only partly reconstructed; the rest of the layout is marked by a low earthen wall. The original height of the ashlar wall is unknown.
There were a lot of houses, mostly of the wattle and daub type, but also some timbered ones, and a number of pit houses. They served as workplaces, storage huts, and living quarters for the people involved in producing pottery, weavings and iron products on which this particular seat obviously specialised.
Rampart with access from the inner bailey
The fact that the reconstruction concentrated on those parts of the castle may be due to Tilleda having been a site in the former GDR where the interest in the working classes was much greater than in the kings. I don't know if there are plans to rebuild the royal hall as well though it would be nice.
The palatine seat has been abandoned by most of its inhabitants in the 13th century. Its purpose as housing for itinerant kings became useless when those prefered to live in the better fortified hilltop castles, and the various industries moved down to the Golden Valley (Goldene Aue
) where the conditions obviously were more favourable.
View from the inner gate to the Kyffhäuser, with a pit house in the foreground
I'll get back to that unique place and show you some of the buildings next time. Some of them house Medieaval tools (looms and such) and give some glimpse of life in the 10th/11th centuries.
* Chartes issued in specific places and the mention of sites in chartes only give very incomplete information about those sites since much depends on chance of both historical events and preservation.
Hans Eberhard, Paul Grimm. Die Pfalz Tilleda am Kyffhäuser - Ein Führer durch die Geschichte und Ausgrabungen. Halle/Saale, 2001