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


27.2.08
  Trees and Old Stones

One of my favourite combinations. It can be found in the middle of York. The stones may not come as surprise, lol, but there's an entire park hidden behind a wall that stretches down to the Ouse: the Museum Gardens.

Museum Gardens with ruins of St.Mary's Abbey

The Museum Gardens were opened together with the York Museum in 1830. The Yorkshire Philosophical Society commissioned the museum, and they were also interested to preseve the ruins of St.Mary's Abbey which they had excavated in the 1820ies.

Another view of trees and the abbey

The society appointed the landscape architect Sir John Murray Naysmith to lay out a botanical garden with exotic trees and plants and integrate the Mediaeval and Roman remains. In Victorian times, the garden also held a conservatory for orchids and a pond with water lilies. Those are gone, but the ten acre park remains.

Exotic trees (in the foreground a monkey puzzle tree)

The park covers the ground that once belonged to the abbey. Parts of the walls from 1260 still remain.

After spending hours standing in front of exhibitions in the museum, it was nice to sit down in the green and have a cup of tea.

More exotic trees; to the right part of the Roman tower

There is more where this came from. You can imagine I could not resist the temptation to take lots of pics of the old stones. Luckily, there were moments I could catch them without a bunch of school kids in red jumpers running all over the place.
 


25.2.08
  Two Heinrichs, a Cathedral, and Richard Lionheart

Part of the Speyer Cathedral we can see today goes back to the Emperor Konrad II who began the building in 1030 in replacement of an older church. Konrad was very impressed by the grand cathedrals in Italy he saw when traveling to Rome for his coronation as Emperor, and he wanted to erect the largest sacral building of western Christendom.

But it was his grandson Heinrich IV who gave the cathedral its final splendour. After the humiliation at Canossa and the ongoing strife with the pope, he used Speyer Cathedral as political demonstration. Heinrich rebuilt the eastern part with choir and apsis as well as the transept with its decorated gables, gave the main nave a cross grain vaulted ceiling (it had a wooden cassette ceiling before), and added the four towers and the arcade decorations on the outside.

There is another post about the history of Speyer Cathedral here. As it stands today, the building is close again to its original form it got during Heinrich's IV reign.

Speyer Cathedral seen from the south
To the left choir with towers and apsis, and crossing tower dome,
to the right narthex tower and Westwerk with towers

Would Richard Lionheart visit Speyer today, he might well recognise the cathedral. Part of the eastern walls as well as those in choir and apsis are the very stones he had looked at during his two visits in Speyer.

How did he get there? Well, most of you will know the story of Richard's capture by Duke Leopold of Austria in 1192, when Richard fled across the Alpes in disguise in hope to get to the lands of his brother-in-law Heinrich the Lion of Saxony who had returned from exile in England.

Southern transept, decorated gable with arcades

Leopold handed Richard over to the Emperor Heinrich VI, son of Friedrich Barbarossa (though I bet he got a nice share in the ransom). And that is where politics come in. By the marriage of his sister Mathilde to the Heinrich the Lion, Richard was related to the Welfen family, while Heinrich VI was a Staufen. Those two houses didn't get along since Barbarossa exiled Heinrich the Lion, and the fact that Heinrich revolted against the son of his old enemy as soon as he came home, didn't improve matters.

Also, Heinrich VI needed money to reconquer Sicily, and Richard was a fat fish in that aspect. Since Philippe Auguste of France, another of Richard's enemies (he had a talent to make those) offered to pay the ransom if he got his hands on Richard, the latter decided to better go along with Heinrich VI's demand and pay. It fell upon his mother Eleanor of Aquitaine to gather the money.

Main nave, facing east towards choir and apsis

Since the Church considered it a crime to capture a crusader, Heinrich staged a process during a Reichstag in Speyer where he tried to prove Richard's guilt in various points. Richard managed to not lose his temper for a change but to defend himself in a noble way, and thus the process came to nothing - except that Richard was kept prisoner in Trifels Castle until the better part of the money was paid. Heinrich escaped excommunication, but Leopold suffered that fate for the capture of Richard.

The final required payment took place in January 1194, and Richard was officially released. He had to swear an oath of fealty to the Emperor Heinrich, but that was nothing more than a gesture and never influenced the power constellations in Europe. Richard celebrated the Christmas before that event in Speyer, then already more a guest than a hostage, and we can be sure he has been inside the cathedral during masses. Probably already during his first stay since no one would have refused him religious assistance.

Choir with apsis

Heinrich VI and Duke Heinrich the Lion made peace as well, though I couldn't figure out if Richard had a hand in that. Back home, Richard had to deal with his brother John, while Heinrich VI managed to conquer Sicily. And the rest is legend. *grin*
 


  More About the Imperial Cathedral in Speyer

I explained the two first stages of the architecture of Speyer Cathedral in this post. The main nave and choir thus belong to the second Romanesque period while the aisles and the crypt show the architecture of the first, the Konradinian stage.

South aisle, facing west

Speyer Cathedral suffered during various wars, especially the Thirty Years War and the Palatine Succesion War (1688-1697). While the eastern part survived with little damage, the Westwerk was completely destroyed and replaced by a much simpler version in 1770. Later, some idiot in Napoleon's administration wanted to tear the entire building down and replace it with a park; luckily, the bishop of Mainz managed to stop that nonsense. The cathedral escaped the bombs of the World Wars.

North aisle, facing west; seen from the quire;
You can see how similar both aisles are

In the 19th century, the cathedral interior was richly decorated with pseudo-historical, so called Nazarenian paintings which were duly ereased during a renovation 1957 (fortunately; there's a picture in the guide book: lots of gold and kitsch). By then, the cathedral was valued for its burials of Mediaeval Emperors. One of the better changes in the 19th century was the re-erection of the two-towered Westwerk. The architect Heinrich Hübsch used old paintings and tried to come as close to the original as possible - much better than the previous Baroque version.

Another major renovation 1984/85 got rid of more later additons and reestablished as much as possible of the Romanesque building. The latest change (1996) was the banishment of market stalls outside the church, and the reconstruction of the narthex tower of the Westwerk. The tomb vault of the Imperial burials was opened to the public.

Speyer Cathedral, seen from the north facing east

The crypt, one of the largest in a Medieaval church, never suffered destruction and thus represents one of the finest examples of the early Romanesque style. I'll get back to it in another post.
 


20.2.08
  More York Impressions - Seen from the Ouse River

On the second evening, I took a cruise on the Ouse river. It was nice to sit for a change after all that walking. Though the British weather played tricks; after a rather warm day it grew cold, and of course, I took my lighter jacket. After all, you bring warm clothes to leave them in the hotel room.

One of the bridges

The old town and thus the Roman founded part of York lies to the right.

Houses at the riverside

I think some of them must have been old storage houses that have been modernised and equipped with additional windows; they reminded me of the Mediaeval part of Lübeck* where I took a Trave cruise. I love river cruises as a way to explore towns and landscapes.

Pretty houses

This pic was taken some way outside the town centre. A nice place to live, I suppose, but probably expensive.

Ghostly evening on the Ouse

* Lübeck is one of the Hansa Towns in Germany and a beautiful place. Since I now have a scanner, I'll get some of the pics I took there in 2004 online. Though I didn't take as many pics with the old camera - those rolls were too expensive.
 


17.2.08
  Walking in York

Here are some pics from York's Old Town I took while walking around and enjoying the pretty views. Since it was already late afternoon, it was not too much of a pushing your way through clusters of tourists. It was worse the next day, so I was glad I had already taken a bunch of pics.

The place reminded me a lot of Stockholm's Gamla Stan which has equally narrow streets. Göttingen has some fine old houses, but the streets are broader.

Low Petergate

Low Petergate is the old via principalis of the Roman fort. My hotel was situated in that street as well, which I thought very fitting.

Market Street

One of the broader streets in the centre. There is at least enough space for cars, but only taxis and buses are allowed.

The structure of the half timbered houses is different from the German one; we have more square structures and not those long, vertical beams, as can be seen here.

Little Shambles

It is a common feature for Mediaeval houses all over Europe that the second storey is built standing out over the first. The reason for that were taxes depending on the space of the foundations.
 


12.2.08
  More Old Architecture, This Time With Colour

The pics are taken inside the other church in Heiligenstadt, St. Mary. There is more light, 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.
 


11.2.08
  More Old Architecture

I have some more pics of the Gothic St.Martin Church in Heiligenstadt for you. Several of the interior shots turned out quite nice.

Main nave, view to the west

You can see the rosette window behind the organ. The west part is the youngest; rosette windows are a sign of the perpendicular style. Though Heiligenstadt can't compete with York in size, the interior still gives the impression of great harmony.

I aimed the camera slightly towards the ceiling so you can see the late afternoon light coming in through the clerestories while the lower part of the nave remains in twilight. It was a very peaceful atmosphere the day I visited the church.

Main nave, view to the east with the choir windows

I've mentioned the architectonic tricks like the heavy bundled pillars and the unadorned walls that lend the nave greater height. Fortunately, the changes from the Baroque times, like wall paintings, additional altars and pulpits and probably some of those gilded chubby angels had been removed as early as 1862, so the original structure is visible again.

Of course, the church could have been whitewashed or painted in the Middle ages as well. But 14th century frescoes would have fit better with the architecture, I'd say. I have not found any mention of traces of Medieaval colours on the walls in the guide book, so I don't think any have been found under all that Baroque stuff.

As it is, I prefer the unadorned stone.

Pulpit on the north wall near the quire

Heiligenstadt had strong connections with the archbishopric of Mainz, which is interesting because it is a good distance east of the Rhine. The influence of the archbishops of Mainz in Saxony will tie in with the posts about our friend Otto of Northeim. For now I'll only say: men of the Church were probably worse intrigants than secular nobles. :)
 


9.2.08
  Ouwie

If my characters ever again complain about being flogged, tortured or left with 3rd degree burns on the legs, I'll tell them I'll give them an infected root canal next time.

After a night of toothache no amount of Ibuprofen would bring down, I went to see the dentist on Friday morning. The one I usually go to was on holiday, but there's another one in the same building, so I saw this one. He prodded the offensive tooth, drilled a hole and poked around for the roots, filling the whole thing with a bit camphor drenched cotton. Then he gave me a prescription for antibiotics (I've never had antibiotics for a root channel treatment) and a stronger painkiller and left me to myself.

Followed 24 hours of tootache even the stronger painkiller didn't really help with except the special night pill which allowed me a few hours of sleep. After that nightmare I did what I should have done in the first place and went to the University Dental Emergency. The guy there took one look at the tooth and and asked who was responsible for that crap work. He then cleaned out the canals properly and put in a local antibiotic, and by now I'm finally almost free of pain (it's down to a level I can live with, and ceasing).

So I didn't get anything done yesterday. I could only watch crappy TV channels and read a bit. I don't know if that's a compliment, but the book I managed to stick with was Lynn Viehl's Evermore. How's that for a back cover blurb? 'Evermore is a novel that will distract you from toothache.'

The only good thing is that I don't have much of an appetite, and I can do with eating less for some days. Nice, soft things, too, like yoghurt and mashed potatoes.
 


5.2.08
  Aelius Rufus Visits the Future, part 3

After admiring the artefacts, we took the elevator up to the glassed discus (you can see the tower in the background of the picture with the recruits here). Constructions to move people and goods to a higher level were not unknown to us, but this elevator covered a greater hight than anything I'd seen - 34 metres, and again I wondered how many slaves it would take to move it so fast. But Merlinus told us there were no more slaves in the future but the elevator, cranes and many other machines worked with something called electricity.

The view from the tower was splendid. Merlinus pointed ahead to a flat area with lines of stone and explained that was our fort, or what was left of it. During time people had taken the stones from our buildings and erected new houses on the area, and those had been taken down and rebuilt many times over until the existence of a Roman fort was all but forgotten.

Segedunum, foundation outlines of the fort

But some people remembered and researched, and during a new phase of construction where old houses were pulled down, excavations took place and remains of the Roman fort were discovered. Since the foundations were still pretty much intact (albeit not much more than those), it was decided to mark them and build the tower so people could get an overview of the fort from above. Archaeologists also reconstructed a Roman style bath and a little section of Hadrian's Great Wall. The park was opened to the public in 2000, Merlinus told us, and has developed into one of the main tourist attractions at the Wall.

We could distinguish the outlines of the headquarters and the commander's building in the foreground, and the barracks where we first entered the future back to the left. Everything looked small from here, and the tourists walking around resembles children's toys.

View towards the harbour with part of the fort's outer wall outlines
The white house outside the fort is the reconstructed bath house

Tourists seem to abound in the future even more than the Romans who visit Greece. And no Roman ever got the idea to dig in the ground for shards of old amphorae. Though I began to wonder what you might find in those old graves in Aegypt.

We moved our gaze towards the Tinea river they now call Tyne, and the harbour. Everything had become so large and wrought of steel and iron. If we could move goods in amounts like that, our supply problems would come to an end. Too bad we could not capture an engineer from the future and have him build some cranes and ships for us. Merlinus grinned at my suggestion and murmured something about 'plotbunny'.

The weather was something that had not changed in the future. We could have seen to Arbeia, Merlinus told us, but for the low clouds. Yet the view over the Tinea winding its way west was splendid enough. I had walked along it in a time where there were few houses outside the Roman forts and the vici near them, and most of the indigenous buildings were mere huts.

Tyne river at Wallsend

On the street of the other side vehicles moved that were not drawn by horses or oxen. "They use combustion engines," Merlinus said. "Basically, they burn that black liquid you find in the Arab deserts and make the cars run."

Gaius shook his head. "This is all so strange. Can we visit the bath? I might feel more at home there."

Merlinus agreed. But I caught myself wanting to ride in such a car.

Continued here.
 


2.2.08
  Playing in the Mud

For Kirsten, who got accepted as volunteer excavator in Vindolanda come summer.

Here's a glimpse of what you can expect.

Excavation site

It wasn't so muddy when I visited the place in June 2007, but I suppose after the rains later in summer the digging sites had turned into lakes.

Peek inside the hole: Victorian time drainage pipe in the foreground,
remains of wooden posts of older Roman fort in the background.

I hope you'll enjoy your time in Vindolanda. It's a great place. I spent some time hanging around the excavation site and discussing the Hedemünden finds (aka The Romans at my Backdoor) with the guys. They hadn't heard about those and were very interested.
 


1.2.08
  Weather Fun. Not

Anyone want a blizzard with ice rain? I've got one for free. It's a luxury edition that comes fully equipped with floods and falling trees and all. :)

I wanted winter, but must it come with such a bang? It'll probably leave after some days anyway.

On another note, I finally managed to coax my muse back (he used my computer crash as excuse to leave for Wyoming and visit some gnomes), so there will be a Friday snippet later today.
 


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 and Scandinavia.

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 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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