Roman and Mediaeval History, Illlustrated Travel Journals, Mediaeval Literature, Geology


30.9.07
  It's Supposed to be a Meme

Doug tagged me for a meme he called easy. Pshaw. I'm supposed to post about my most frequent writing mistake.

Problem is, I don't make 'frequent mistakes'. I happens that I get some German snytax in, but I usually catch it in time. And the problem I have with characterisation is not a mistake, but something I'll need to work on. It's my own fault that I have too many of them running around in my head, lol; I should concentrate on one or two novels.

Ok, that's it for the meme. The cutie below is a black mamba; picture taken in the Snake Farm Schladen / Harz.


And here's one of Doug's favourites - a tarantula. I had problems to get decent shots through the reflecting glass, thus my readers are spared a large amount of slithering serpents and creepy crawlies. *grin*


The strange thing with spiders is that I suffer from a bad case of arachnophobia and run for the poison spray and vacuum cleaner every time one gets into my flat, but on the other side I do find them fascinating - with glass in between. I also like to see nature reports about them, and I know many people with arachnophobia would never go near one even behind glass, or watch them on TV.

Of course, that's the promised pics. What did you think, hot girls? I have no idea what makes a girl hot, I only know that most Hollywood actresses and other red carpet stars aren't attractive in my book.
 


23.9.07
  Some Romanesque Churches at the Weser

The first one is in a village called Vernawahlshausen (not only Wales has long names), built in early Romanesque style about 1100. It's a simple, rectangular building with no aisles. The half timbered tower was added in 1744.

Village Church Vernawahlshausen

When the chuch underwent restoration work in 1955, some Gothic and Romanesque mural paintings were discovered which the Landgrave Moritz of Hessen, a stout Calvinist, had covered with a layer of white paint in the 17th century.

Descent from the Cross, Romanesque mural

The next one is the Abbey Church in Lippoldsberg. It was built in a more elaborate design, a nave and aisles basilica style church with transept, choir and apsis; finished about 1150. The material used was yellow-grey sandstone, and the exterior has undergone major sandblast cleaning last year.

Abbey Church Lippoldsberg

The abbey at Lippoldsberg played an important role in the 12th century and held a famous library.

Lippoldsberg is the first Romanesque church in northern Germany to have been built completely using a cross-grain vault structure. In other churches from the time, cross grain was used partly, while other parts had a wooden cassette ceiling.

The Nuns' Crypt in Lippoldsberg

This one is interesting, because it's not an underground crypt like in most Mediaeval churches, but a so called high crypt which is distinguished from the main nave by its lower vaults. The nuns' gallery from where they participated in the service is above the crypt.

Major restoration work is going on inside, so I could not take a decent pic of the naves; they're stuffed with scaffoldings and other building materials. But I'm glad this treasure will regain its former beauty.
 


19.9.07
  Pretty Houses

Half-timbered houses from the 15th to 17th centuries are quite common in Germany. The ones below can be found in Uslar, a little town in the mountains surrounding the Weser river (the Weserbergland).

Driving through those litte towns and villages and having a walk along the Weser is just the thing to do on a sunny Sunday afternoon in September.

The ones in the middle and to the left are from 1555 and serve as hotel today


Seen from a different angle

Most towns put quite some effort into keeping the old houses in good condition which isn't always easy because the renovation of those half-timbered houses requires the revival of ancient techniques.
 


12.9.07
  Water and Woods, and a Bright Blue Sky

After all those stones, we'll need some photos with more green and blue. So here are two more shots from the Edersee Reservoir.

Mountains surrounding the lake

The picture below shows Schloss Waldeck (Waldeck Castle), a castle that first is mentioned in chartes in 1120 and was seat of the Counts of Waldeck until 1655, when they moved to the more modern palace in Arolsen. Afterwards, the castle served as garrison, then prison, and now houses a rather expensive hotel in its renovated walls.

Waldeck Castle

The mountain is less steep from the other side, so the castle can be reached by car. When the castle still was seat of the counts, the view did not include the lake, of course, but the even deeper Eder valley. And my German tribe of the Chatti lived around there as well, long before anyone put a castle up that mountain. :)
 


5.9.07
  It's Too Cold Outside, Centurion

Join the Roman army, you'll get regular pay, regular food, toilets with water flushing, and indoor training facilities. Because it was essential for soldiers to have "unceasing drill in wet and windy weather," as the military writer Vegetius said.

Example one: Birdoswald / Hadrian's Wall. The guys had a basilica exercitatoria, a drill hall measuring 16 x 42.7 metres.

Birdoswald, view from the south gate over the granaries to the exercise hall
and the 17th century farm house

Unfortunatley, not much is left. The foundations directly in front of the farm house (beyond the remains of the granaries) are the south-west part of the drill hall - the other part is today covered by the house. The headquarters (principia) had been beyond the trees to the left, but not much remains of these, either.

From the foundations of the drill hall it can be deduced that the roof was a double arcade supportend by a series of columns flanking a broad nave. Light came from windows above the arcade. The style was a typical feature of Roman public buildings and later used in the triple naved Romanesque basilicas all over Christian Europe.

My guidebook has a drawing of auxiliary soldiers training with wooden swords and wicker shields in the basilica exercitatoria. In the foreground, a centurion is barking commands; he looks rather grim. Some poor sods are in for an extra session.

The drill hall remained unaltered during the entire period of Roman occupation of Birdoswald (Banna) which shows its importance.

Saalburg, interior of the reconstructed exercise hall (view to a side door)

The next example comes from the Saalburg at the German Limes. Here the exercise hall was not a separate entity but part of the principia.

This one measures 11.5 x 38.5 metres and is constructed as simple hall without side naves. The hall is situated directly on the axis of the via praetoria and its crossing the ways leading to the side gates.

Part of the floor has been found during excavations, as well as proof that wooden canopies protected the doors on the outside.

The position of the hall allows us to assume that it was not only used for training but also as meeting place for the entire cohort on formal occasions like the annual oath to the Emperor.

Saalburg, basilica exercitatoria, door leading to the yard of the principia

The troops stationed in the border forts were not legionaries - those had their base camps futher off in Eboracum (York) or Moguntiacum (Mainz) - but auxiliaries recruited from all over the Empire. As mentioned before, the garrison in the Saalburg was the second Raetian cohors equitata since 135 AD. The garrisons in Birdoswald varied; it included the First Aelia Dacorum milliaria, a 1000 man strong double cohort from the Danube that moved in shortly after Septimius Severus established major restructuring of the Wall defenses in the early 3rd century.
 


3.9.07
  Different Frontiers, Yet Alike

Just some pics. :)

The landscapes through which the Hadrian's Wall and the German Limes run are different, though alien to the Romans in both cases. But the Romans brought their norm-sized forts, milecastles and watch towers to Britannia as well as Germania.

Remains of a milecastle at the Hadrian's Wall (near Birdoswald)


Foundations of a watch tower at the Limes (near Walldürn, Odenwald)
 


2.9.07
  The Jewish Ritual Bath in Speyer

A cold water bath, a so called mikveh, was used by both Jewish men and women for ritual washings after a period of uncleanliness (like fe. menstruation). The water needed to be clean, which means a natural well or an artificial one dug to the ground water level. The mikveh in Speyer is of the latter type (the Rhine running through the town wasn't clean enough).

Constructed 1110-1120, it is one the oldest and best preserved in Europe and had obviously been built by the masons also working on the cathedral.

The wall that separates the anteroom from the bassin

A staircase leads about ten metres under the ground where it opens to the anteroom. With its cross-grain vault, it is the most beautiful part of the building, and the most interesting one because of the architectural history connected to it. It was very unusual for Christian masons to build a Jewish bath, but some of the bishops of Speyer protected the Jewish community in the Middle Ages.

In the left wall is a small changing cabinet, to the right a half-round staircase leads further down to the bassin.

The bassin

There is a light hole letting in some daylight, but the rest of the ceiling is cross-grain vaulted as well. The water is usually so deep a man can immerse himself fully, which is the requirement for proper ritual cleaning. Since the ground water level changes depending on the level of the Rhine, the bassin was very full when we were there and covered the lowest steps of the staircase.

View from the bassin staircase into the anteroom

The bath is no longer officially in use today, but the guide told us that sometimes orthodox Jews from Israel and particularly the US wish to use the mikveh. This can be arranged outside the official tourist opening times.

Closeup of a pillar capital
Note the ornaments on the middle border above the cube.

The material used was mostly red sandstone (the same as used for the cathedral, as can be seen here


Entrance to the mikveh.
Note the murals above the gates. They are worked in a net of quadratic sandstones points up, in imitation of the Roman opus reticulatum.

Bishop Rüdiger Huzmann granted the Jews settlement in Speyer in 1084. At first, they lived in the suburb, but after the progrome in connection with the 1096 crusade, Rüdiger allowed the community to move to an area near the Cathedral, within the protection of the town walls.

(To the left: Staircase leading down to the anteroom of the mikveh. It is closed by a double winged gate and constructed in two parts; in the upper part you can see niches with stone banks on both sides. The second part, which is flanked by by pillars, was closed by another door./

The curia Iudaeorum, called 'Judenhof' by the inhabitants of Speyer, became the centre of Jewish life and culture until the middle of the 13th century. During that time, the Jewish community in Speyer belonged to the most important ones in Europe.

The Judenhof was much larger than the remains today; besides the famlies' houses it encompassed the mikveh, a synagoge, a school, and women's prayer room.

Because of their trade contacts all over Europe and to the near and far East as well as their knowledge of languages and cultures and the high status education holds in their society, the Jews formed an élite among the town people. The sages of Speyer, a group of rabbis (or rabbe'im) famous for their wisdom, had considerable influence on the Jews in Europe. A wisdom sought even by bishops and emperors who granted the Jewish community in Speyer a number of privileges.

Detail from the staircase ceiling


 


Miscellaneous musings of an aspiring Historical Fiction and Fantasy author. Illustrated essays on Roman, Dark Age and Mediaeval history, Mediaeval literature, and Geology. Some poetry translations and writing stuff. And lots of photos of old castles, cathedrals, Roman remains, and beautiful landscapes from Germany, the UK, Scandinavia, and the Baltic States.

All texts (except comments by guests) and photos (if no other copyright is noted) on this blog are copyright of Gabriele Campbell.

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I'm a writer of Historical Fiction and Fantasy living in Germany. I got a MA in Literature, Scandinavian Studies, Linguistics and History, I'm interested in Archaeology and everything Roman and Mediaeval, an avid reader, opera enthusiast, traveller with a liking for foreign languages and odd rocks, and photographer.


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