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


31.10.07
  Happy Halloween

It hasn't really found its way to Germany yet, at least I could not get any Halloween candy anywhere, and the houses aren't decorated with vampire toothed pumpkins and green plush Cthulhus. But most people know about it and some kids figured it's a way to get some sweets. That's why I wanted chocolate spiders.

This one is real, a tarantula in the Snake Farm Schladen.
Fortunately behind glass.

And here's what happens to people who don't give treats.

Mediaeval pillory, Hanstein

The holes for the wrists were pretty wide, and I have slender hands, so I got them through without problems. The head was another matter. The pillory was locked, probably to make sure no one would get hurt playing with it.
 


30.10.07
  Windows Into the Past

Here are some more shots from the Hanstein, situated on a mountain at the Werra river in Thuringia.

View from 'Kunigunde's Window'

Kunigunde is the German name for a noble lady - Edelfräulein - in folk songs and tales. She had a splendid view from that bower, but I hope she also had a warm, fur lined cloak to wrap herself in, the wind is really cold up there. And glass was a luxury in the Middle Ages, only few windows would have been glassed; most were covered with wooden shutters in winter, making the rooms even darker.

Closeup of a bush growing on a windowsill

Some shrubs grow everywhere. It's images like these that show the power of time. They also make ruins look so picturesque.
 


29.10.07
  More Castle Ruins - Hanstein

I could see the towers of the castle above the trees for years without being able to visit it. In the 80ies, my parents lived in a small town south of Göttingen, and both road and railway between the towns ran close to the German border. Castle Hanstein was on the East German side and thus out of reach.

Hanstein seen from the southeast

Of course, we had visited it as soon as the passage was open, and it was pretty impressive already then. Efforts to prevent further decay and some renovations had been going on, partly financed by West Germany. Today, more parts are accesible, and the great hall has been repaired and is used for concerts sometimes. So when after several days of autumn mists the sun played nice yesterday, I decided to give it another look, accompanied by my faithful camera.

The road meandering through some villages no longer is East German concrete with cracks, but it still is small and a better fit for the almost extinct Trabis than for a Mercedes. I left the driving to my father who came along. *grin*

Inner curtain wall and connected hall with natural stone foundations

The Hanstein is quite different from the Plesse. For one, while it has two curtain walls, there is no clearly distinguished outer ward, but the entire living complex is behind the inner wall. Second, a lot more of the buildings remains, an interesting maze of roofless walls in various stages of crumbling. Often two to three storeys are left, and some of the towers stand amost to full height.

One of the many views from inside the bailey ruins

Castle Hanstein had been in possession of Otto of Northeim and later Henry the Lion of Saxony in the 11th and 12th century. At that time, the inner bailey was still a wooden construction. In 1308, the brothers Heinrich and Lippold of Hanstein were granted the right to build a new stone castle. They had to pay for it, and in exchange the family held the hereditary right to the fief. The family still exists today.

The construction of the Hanstein was finished in 1414; afterwards only small changes took place. The castle was partly destroyed in the Thirty Years War, and while repairs were made, it yet was abandoned in 1683. I suppose one of the reasons was the changing life style - castles no longer offered sufficient protection, and palaces in the valleys were more comfortable and probably warmer. Constance owes me some really good chocolate cookies for the pics - there was an icy blast and my hands got very cold. :)

A view of the inner towers, main hall and various annexes from the west

When interest in the old times grew in the 19th century, the main hall of the Hanstein was rebuilt in 1840, and further repair went on in the early 20th century, and then again since 1985.

Despite the cold wind, my father and I had a blast with the ruins. So many interesting motives for pics, and few tourists around to spoil them.

Here's a bit more about the history of the Hanstein.
 


23.10.07
  Heiligenstadt - St. Mary Church

I got another church. *grin* It's fun collecting them.

St Mary Church (Marienkirche) Heiligenstadt is less famous than fe. Königslutter orSpeyer, but it's a very pretty one. The building is a three nave Gothic hall church, that means the aisles have the same height as the nave, different from the basilica type with the lower aisles which was prevalent in the Romanesque style. There is no transept.

St. Mary Church, Heiligenstadt

Heiligenstadt is a small town in Thuringia, centre of the Catholic enclave called Eichsfeld. I had been there shortly after the frontier was opened, and things have changed a lot since then. The old houses in the centre and the churches have been renovated, and the place looks really pretty.

In the Middle Ages, Heiligenstadt belonged to the archbishopric of Mainz (which is interesting, because Mainz is pretty far away), and archbishop Siegfried II granted Heiligenstadt the rights of a town in 1227. It is centre of the Eichsfeld since 1540.

St Mary Church, south side

The oldest part of the church is the Westwerk with its two towers, erected about 1300. The naves date from the end of the 14th century, and the high choir to the east is the youngest part, built about 1420.

There must have been an older building, because a St Mary Church is mentioned in a chronicle from 1239 as the church of the town comunity.

There is quite some light inside, because St. Mary is a hall church with aisles and nave the same height, so the light can come in through large windows at the aisles instead of smaller clerestories in the upper part of the nave.

St Mary, Heiligenstadt, interior - the shot was taken with a wide angle objective

The white paint adds to the effect as well. The paint was added during the 1970ies restoration, based on some traces of old colours, while the 19th century neo-Gothic decorations got ereased.

If you look closely, you'll see that the bundled pillars are not much different from St.Martin, but to enhance the hall effect, the choir was rebuilt in the late 14th century in a larger scale and to the same height as the nave and aisles.

View towards the choir ceiling which is painted as well

I experimented with wide angle shots in that church. I'm really looking forward to the new computer and the photo edition programs which should give me some tricks to deal with the 'falling' effects of the pillars.
 


21.10.07
  Plesse Castle Tour - The Outer Defenses

The Plesse, as the castle is called by the locals, is a fine example of a typical Mediaeval castle. Though pretty large for the area, it is not as formidable as fe. Edinburgh and Stirling in Scotland, the Norman castles in Wales, or the Wartburg in Thuringia, but it's also less tourist infected. The manor of the lord has been reconstructed and holds a restaurant, but it's closed on Mondays, so I chose a Monday to visit the place.

Let's follow Jannes the Black, mercenary in some undefined late Mediaeval army, on his adventures:

We carried our armoured bodies up the hill and attacked the outer gate. A weasely man our captain had paid let the drawbridge down for us, though his comrades didn't like the idea. But after some fighting we managed to get in. The guys trying to scale the walls failed miserably, though. A lot of them lies dead in the moat, impaled on wooden spikes. I've always prefered gates.

Outer gate seen from the inside

We pressed through the first gate and came into a corridor between the outer curtain wall to the left and the chalk cliff and inner curtain wall that protects the bailey to the right. It's not a nice place to get stuck, a wall and a steep slope on one side, and the inhabitants of the castle throwing all sorts of interesting objects on the attackers from the other. But it's my job and there should be good booty. Ouw, that was a stone hitting my helmet. My ears ring.

Curtain wall corridor with arcades, seen from the bailey wall

The way is left-winding to expose the unprotected right side which makes our shields pretty useless. Always the same old trick.

We got our swords and pikes out and went for the inner gate. Only a few men can attack at the same time, and some guy is pouring hot liquid out of those windows. I think I'll stay in the second row this time, booty or no. Don't want to get roasted.

Second gate with gatehouse

Those of our poor lads who crawled up the slope in a flanking attack had gotten shot by crossbow bolts from the arcade embrasures in the outer curtain wall. We managed to wipe the men manning them off, but it was too late. Clever chaps built them so they could defend the slope and the area in front of the outer gate. Not that it would have been easy to scale the wall anyway, it once was much higher than on the photo. And you can't get trebuchets up this damn mountain, much less find a place to set them up.

Closeup of an embrasure in the arcades

But we got the enemy, finally, though our captain fell while fighting in front of the second gate. We have the outer ward now, but not the bailey. And even if we'll manage to breach the second line of defenses, the family of the lord and the surviving retainers can withdraw into the keep.

Hey, is that a monk scurrying out of the scriptorium in an attempt to gain the bailey gate? As if the garrison would let him in now, with us milling in the outer ward. Nice catch, he can deliver us the lord's books so we can find out how much gold the man has, and where. Damn, Matthes has found the storage house with the beer. He'll be useless for the rest of the assault.

Note:
We don't know for sure if the Plesse has ever faced a major assault, but we do know it was never taken and destroyed.
 


  Plesse Castle - Outer Gate and Curtain Walls


The Plesse is a castle close to Göttingen. It has only been of local importance during history, but it's a pretty place, and a typical representant of the many hilltop castles this country has. Mediaeval German lords couldn't see a hill without wanting to get a castle up there, it seems. Some more important noble families collected them.

Plesse, outer gate
(The white structure you can see gleaming through the foliage is the reconstructed keep)

The Burg Plesse was founded some time before 1100 and in use until 1660. During those centuries, the castle underwent several changes to adapt it to changing ways of warfare. Today mostly ruins are left (except the reconstructed keep, manor house, and the so-called Little Tower).

I got there before the nasty weather set in and took the chance to get a series of photos of the castle ruins in the autumn sun, so there will be more pics to come.

Plesse, remains of the outer wall

They built their walls big back then. Add a moat to it, and the fact the castle stands on top of a 300 metres high hill, and you can imagine it was no fun to try and conquer the place. Constance should have a field day with it. *grin*

Plesse Castle, outer curtain wall

Oops, looks like someone has been there before Constance.

Well, not really, the enemy who did that was time and nature with its storms and rain. The place has been rediscovered in the 19th century when the remains of old castles were considered picturesque and romantic. Which fortunately led to attempts at preserving the ruins, and some reconstructions of varying historical correctness.

Remains of the curtain wall with a breach near the gate

And because it's fun, I imagined how a siege and attack on the castle may have been like
 


19.10.07
  Rain Again

After almost three weeks of Golden October, the nasty version of autumn is back with a vengeance, rain, storm, snow and cold. Much as I like the snow, I'm afraid if we have winter in October, we're going to get spring in January, much like we had summer in April and autumn in July and August this year.

I would mind less if the owner of my appartment buidling hadn't decided to give the balconies a new layer of Kemperol right now. The work gets delayed and the damn stuff won't dry.

The picture to the right is me in the rain, taken on the Limes path Walldürn in the Odenwald forest. At that point I had decided to grin at the rain instead of getting pissed. And since my shoes were already soaked (because I have some 25 pair and yet forgot to bring decent ones), I didn't mind wading through more wet grass and puddles. I'm a tough German, not a spoiled Roman who needs hots baths and hypocaust heating. *grin*

BTW, the Friday snippet will be late. I got delayed by a trainwreck.
 


16.10.07
  Coincidences

I did some research for Eagle of the Sea and checked lists of consuls and officers to get the right ones, resp. make sure that I put invented characters in places where the historical ones aren't known. I found more than I had looked for.

A character in A Land Unconquered I thought I had made up, did exist - our all favourite Publius Cornelius Lentulus (Scipio). He is listed as consul under Tiberius 24 AD, and a Wikipedia article mentions he was commander in 22 AD which is confirmed by the information on Livius.org and Ritterling's essay 'Legio / Realencyclopädie der Klassischen Altertumswissenschaft, 12' that name a Publius Cornelius Scipio as legate of the VIIII Hispana during the Tacfarinas rebellion in the Africa province.

Looks like our Lentulus has grown some military guts. His age in A Land Unconquered fits to make him old enough for the position of a legate in 22 AD, and I have always seen him as Tiberius' man (while Horatius Veranius has the protection of Germanicus).

But it gets even better. Publius Cornelius Lentulus Scipio was married to Poppaea Sabina, the mother of Nero's future wife. It was most probably a second marriage taking place after Poppaea's first husband died in 31 AD, but Cornelius Lentulus had a son, another Publius Cornelius Lentulus Scipio by a first marrige (who would be the half-brother of Nero's wife) who was consul in 56 AD, the time for the backstory of Eagle of the Sea; and the one I researched first.

There is another of the lot, a Publius Cornelius Lentulus Scipio who was legate of the newfounded II Adiutrix in 70 AD. There is no proof that he was closely related to the Cornelii Lentuli above, but I think he did belong to the same clan, so I made him part of my half invented, half real family tree.

Caius Horatius Veranius (and his descendants) get a connection to historical characters as well. There is a Quintus Veranius Nepos who was governor of Britain in 57 AD, the time of the backstory of Eagle of the Sea* again, and his father, another Quintus Veranius who was governor of Cappadocia in 18 AD. He can be Caius' uncle or something.

* I have decided to use the backstory about Aquila's father Marcus Horatius' involvement in the whole Cartimandua/Venutius mess in an active way in form of letters or a diary. Complicated plots are fun, lol.

On another note, the always kind and thoughtful Bernita posted a flattering analysis of the dialogue in my last Friday snippet on her blog. It is wonderful to learn that something works for the readers, esp. since I have a hard time coming up with good dialogue.

Picture: Walltown Craigs, Hadrian's Wall
 


15.10.07
  Ferry on the Weser River

It's one way to get from one side of the Weser to the other. Those ferries have been more frequent in former days; I remember a tour along the river as teenager where we crossed by ferry on several points to get to interesting places on both sides.

Nowadays there are some more bridges, but mostly, it's longer ways to get to a bridge because many of the ferries are out of service. This time there are only hikers and cyclists on the ferry, but it can carry several cars.

Setting off

This is one of the few ferries left; at a place called Gieselwerder. It's a so called Strömungsfähre (current ferry) because it works by the power of the water current alone, without a motor. The ferry is connected to a thick wire across the river, and by angling the connecting lines it is directed so that the current will drive it sort of riverwards/shorewards. I suck at physics thus I can't explain it better. The crossing takes less than ten minutes with the current as strong as this wet summer. The ferry is not used in winter.

In the middle of the river

It makes one wonder how the Romans crossed. Did they build ponton bridges or did they use ferries? The Batavians under Chariovalda crossed by swimming, together with their horses, during the battle of Idistaviso, that much we know, but they're Germans, not Romans (though on the wrong side in that war, lol).

Close to the other shore

I had no need to cross, or I'd have taken the chance to get some pics from the middle of the river. I took the pictures from the eastern, the Gieselwerder side.
 


10.10.07
  Königslutter Cathedral - Exterior Decorations

The construction of the Imperial Cathedral Königslutter was begun in 1135 by the Emperor Lothar of Süpplingenburg and finished by his grandson Henry the Lion of Saxony in 1170.

The cathedral is surrounded by trees which makes photographing a bit tricky, but it led to some atomspheric pictures.

East choir and transept

I like the play of foliage and the glimpses of the building, like a past hidden in an enchanted forest. It is easier to imagine people in Mediaeval garments on the scene than with churches surrounded by modern houses and parking lots.

North side and crossing tower

To the left of the crossing tower (the part belonging to the east choir) you can distinguish more ornaments particularly under the roofs, while the naves to the right have simpler lines; they date from the younger period. The difference can be more clearly seen inside. Unfortunately, the choir is undergoing restoration and has been closed up.

West side seen from a hill

The western part is a typical Romanesque Westwerk, massive, with small windows and short towers, almost a fortress. It's impressive when you stand in front of it. Later westworks like Speyer Cathedral have already begun to break up the solid walls with ornaments and rosette windows, a process that would continue in the Gothic style.

Apsis of the east choir

The Hunting Frieze (Jagdfries) outside the apsis of the choir is most probably the work of Nicolaus himself. It shows a number of hunting related scenes, and the one in the very center is the curious motive with the hares binding the hunter.

Imperial Cathedral Königslutter, Hunting Frieze, detail

And those below must be plotbunnies taking over. *grin*

Another detail from the Hunting Frieze; the hares binding the hunter

Mediaeval humour or the philosphoy of the Upside Down World where Creation is out of order - those who have read Eco's Name of the Rose may remember some of the book illustrations are described to show similar motives.

Königslutter Cathedral, Lion Gate

The lions of the Lion Gate display the same style of sculpture. The lions are 19th century replicas; the time gnawed originals are kept inside.

Closeup of the right side lion.

The originals date from the 11th century and were created by Italian masons.

Closeup of the left lion.

I really need to look some more information in the guidebook to flesh out this post.
 


7.10.07
  Leaves and Monsters

The northern side of the cloister annexed to the Imperial Cathedral Königslutter belongs to the older part created by masons from northern Italy under the lead of Nicolaus of Verona.

With its ten different pillars, this part of the cloister is very unusual in German Mediaeval architecture. Every pillar is fully ornamented, and the capitals abound in delicate stone mason work.

Königslutter Cathedral, cloister

The akanthus leaves shown below are a variant of an ornament form already used on classical Greek pillars of the so-called Corinthian style.

Closeup of an akanthus decorated capital

The half pillars at the outer wall between the windows show ornaments as well. Some of them display the abundant Mediaeval monster style, creatures put together of several animals, and demons. The one below is my favourite. It is also the best preserved.

Demon capital

Some years ago, the cloister has been renovated, some of the pillars cleaned and the windows glassed to avoid further destruction because of environment influences. The cloister had no glass windows in the Middle Ages.
 


3.10.07
  A Lake of Darkness and Mystery

I finally got some pics from one of my favourite places in the Harz, the Oderteich reservoir. It is the oldest in Germany (built 1715-1722 for the needs of mining) and until the end of the 19th century it was the largest as well, but today its 1,700,000 cubic metres pale in comparison with reservoirs like the Edersee.

Oderteich on a September evening

The Oderteich is no longer used for mining water supply and has become a recreational area. It is part of the National Park and not touristically developed. There are no places selling ice cream, no walkways easing the way into the water, and the parking lot is a mile off.

Dark water and gathering clouds

Moreover, the Oderteich lies in the higher mountains of the Harz range, and the water remains cold even in summer (it's about 14°C now). It comes from the surrounding moors and has a brownish colour that makes the lake look dark and forbidding.

A glimpse of sunshine

Therefore, it's a quiet place with few people hanging around even on sunny days. When I'm not bathing or sitting at the beach reading, I often walk in the woods and moors around it, playing with plots in my mind and breathing the clean, fragrant air.

A tree fallen into the lake

This year, after a rainy summer and a stormy September, the lake holds more water than ever before. The Oderteich reservoir has no floodgates, so if it gets much higher, they'll have to close the road across the dam. Already now, some trees have fallen into the water, their roots been washed out.
 


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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