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


27.3.08
  Henry and William at Carlisle Castle

Because we had German castles for a while now, I'll give you a Norman one for a change. And no, the title doesn't imply a slashy subtext, I very much doubt Henry II of England was wired that way, just ask Rosamond de Clifford.

I've mentioned in another post about Carlisle Castle that King David of Scotland captured it in 1135. David used the unruly times of the anarchy caused by the struggles between Stephen and Maud to attempt and add Northumbria (he was Earl of Northumberland) to Scotland. He finished the stone keep begun by Henry I.

David died at Carlise in 1153, and a year later Henry II ascended to the English throne and put an end to the internal strife for good.

Carlisle Castle, Keep

David's successor was Malcolm IV 'the Maiden' and no match for Henry, who promptly recaptured Carlisle in 1157 and put and end to Scottish ambitions towards Northumbria as well, or so he thought. He added a second curtain wall and the outer gatehouse to the castle.

Malcolm swore an oath of fealty for Northumberland to King Henry, thus further muddling up an already complicated pattern, because Malcom was king in his own right of Scotland and vassal of Henry II for Northumberland, while Henry II, King of England in his own right, was vassal of the King of France for the duchy of Normandy, and the possessions of his wife Eleanore, Aquitaine and Poitou. As Duke of Normandy, he was also liegelord to the Duke of Brittany, a relation not much liked by the ruling house of Brittany.

As Henry's vassal, Malcolm accompanied him on the siege of Toulouse in southern France, where Henry fished in the waters of the French king and proved a very disobedient vassal in his turn. Malcolm, on the other side, much as he called himself King of Scotland, had a bunch of Northmen sitting in Caithness and a bunch of Gaelic clans on the westcoast who didn't accept him as king; the latter were led by Somarled or Somhairle of Argyll. Somarled got killed in the battle of Renfrew and the west was a bit calmer for some time after that, but since Malcolm died shortly thereafter, it was of use only to his brother William 'the Lion' who succeeded him.

Outer Gatehouse

William was a very different character and a lot less willing than Malcolm to swear oaths to Henry, or leave one of the biggest castles in his earldom of Northumberland to him, claiming Northumbria to be part of Scotland.

Henry II over time managed to estrange his wife and antagonise his older sons - or maybe they were simply born a dysfunctional lot - so in 1173, William took his chance with Henry's eldest son, another Henry, who rebelled against daddy, and invaded Northumbria, laying siege to Carlisle while Henry the Son was busy causing troubles in the south.

The garrison of Carlisle was led by Robert de Vaux, who, confronted with diminishing supplies, unwilling soldiers and the aspect of being hanged outside the castle in chains (doesn't that remind us of someone? lol) considered surrender, but William's Scottish army left before they achieved their goal. I wonder if there were fresh problems on the westcoast and/or in Caithness that William abandoned the siege, because he laid siege to Alnwick castle only a few months later. But maybe his army was understrength then.

Battlements on the outer curtain wall

In 1174, William was captured at Alnwick (Susan Higginbotham has a pretty pic of that one in the header to her blog) and any Scottish ambitions to Northumbria ended with an oath of fealty not only for the earldom but for Scotland itself that King William had to swear to King Henry II; result of the treaty of Falaise. Yes, that's another Norman castle, this time in Normandy proper. Those kings got around a lot. (It's also the seat of Roderic's uncle in Kings and Rebels because I'm going to use the conflict between William and Henry as model for the conflict between Villembaud and Robert.)

Henry came once more to Carlisle in 1186 and ordered a room for his private use to be established in the castle. He obviously liked the place. Or maybe he liked the idea that his presence so near to Scotland would have riled William and made him uneasy.

Inner gatehouse with inner curtain wall, and keep in the background

After Henry's death in 1189, Carlisle didn't see a king for a decade because Richard was off to the Holy Land, Germany, and other places more southerly, but John visited Carlisle several times. He wasn't very welcome, because he always raised the taxes. William's son Allexander II joined the rebellious barons in 1216, and it was his men who undermined the outer curtain and managed to win the inner gate, damaging the gatehouse in the process. There was hand to hand fighting in the keep itself until the castle finally fell to the rebels.

But Alexander was not able to earn any lasting fruits from this, and the relationship between Scotland and England remained strained and unruly.
 


22.3.08
  Happy Easter

I wish everyone a Happy Easter. May there be lots of delicious food, yummy chocolate eggs, and a warm spring breeze.

The latter I won't get this year; we have snow. In March instead of January.

Lambs at Housesteads

Didn't see any bunnies in England though they are a plague in some areas. Hiding in the bushes when I walked past them, I bet. Plot bunnies, now they were another matter.
 


20.3.08
  Architecture of Imagination

Here are some more photos of York Minster. I've mentioned before that I had the minster in mind for the cathedral in Rhemuth when I read Katherine Kurtz' Deryni Rising. I've now read more books in the series, and the image remains. It is unusual - I do have strong mental images of places about which I read, but usually they are pure fantasy or a mixture of elements of several real places I've seen, not a single one like in this case.

Now to find a transfer portal in York Minster and visit Gwynedd, and meet some characters from the books. *grin*

(Left: Another outside view of the west side.)

As usual, older buildings preceeded the minster, but in this case the first church probably stood at a different place in York. It was built for the baptism of Edwin of Northumbria on Easter Sunday 627, who then ordered the small wooden church to be rebuilt in stone.

The stone church was enlarged over time. It survived the times of Viking settlement but was badly damaged by fire when the Normans conquered the city in 1069. Poor Normans, nobody really wanted them around, and York aka Jorvik had enough of the Nord-men since they sent Erik Bloodaxe packing in 954. But the Normans stayed, and eventually built a new church; it's assumed on a different spot than the Saxon one.

We know about those first versions of the minster from sources, but no archaeological evidence has been found so far.

(Right: Minster, view towards the quire.)

In 1080, the Norman archbishop Thomas of Bayeux started the new cathedral that would, over time, become the York Minster we know today. The first version of this new church was finished in 1100 and much grander than its Saxon predecessor.

During the mid twelfth century the cathedral was enlarged, and in 1215, the transepts were added under the reign of archbishop Walter Gray. His successor extended the western nave which was completed as late as 1360. The quire was completed in 1405, the central tower replaced after it had collapsed, and as last step, the western towers were erected between 1433 - 1472. Thus it took about 250 years to build the Minster we know today.

(Left: View towards the south entrance and the rosette window.)

After that, York Minster has changed but little (it escaped the Baroque interior 'improvements' so common in German churches). In 1984, a fire caused by lightning destroyed part of the south transept which has been restored. Renovations are going on on a regular basis since the 1970ies, and it was in course of the ongoing renovations that the remains of the preatorium of the Roman fort have been found under the minster.

Makes one wonder if the Normans had managed to kick a Roman garrison out as easily as the Saxon one.

(The picture to the left was taken freehand without flash and by use of Remaining View Enhancement. I've used that feature several times for interior shots, but this is one of the few examples where one can actually see the photo has been tampered with by its slightly pixeled texture. It gives the photo a look like an old postcard - I think it has its own charme that way.)
 


15.3.08
  Clifford Tower 2 - A Massacre and A Siege

Continuation of this post.

In the 1170ies, a Jewish community was established in York. Not only was there an increasing demand for credit among the lords, gentry, and even the Church, York also offered a castle - still a timber construction - where the Jews could find shelter in times of danger, or so they hoped.

The crusades (one of which started in 1187) inflamed feelings of antisemitism. It came to a riot during Richard Lionheart's coronation in Westminster Abbey in July 1189. Richard let some of the leaders hang and made it clear that the Jews were not to be molested in his realm. But after he went off to join Philippe Auguste on the crusade, new riots broke out in several English towns.

One victim of the West-minster massacre was Benedict of York, member of a deputation to the king. Troubles were not over for his family, though, because in March 1190, a band of men broke into his house in York, killied his widow and children, set the house on fire, and carried away Benedict's money chests and valuables. The riot soon spread and more houses were plundered and destroyed. The Jews, under their leader Josce of York, sought shelter in the castle keep, with an angry mob milling around outside.

Things got worse when the Warden of the Castle was denied admission because the Jews were afraid he might hand them over to their enemies. The warden returned with armed men led by the sheriff Richard de Malebys who happened to be deeply in debt to the Jews and laid siege to the castle. What finally burst the dam was the death of a monk who got hit by a stone from the keep, and the fact the Jews were short on rations. Facing torture and forced baptizm, many committed suicide, while others died in the flames of the wooden tower which the mob had managed to set afire, the few survivors were killed. About 150 Jews died in the inferno.

When the king's Chancellor learned about the incident, he dismissed the sheriff and the warden for failing to prevent the massacre and imposed a heavy fine on York's citizens.

Since the mob had also destroyed the records of debts due to Jews which were kept in the cathedral, Richard, upon his return from the Holy Land and captivity in Germany, introduced a system of duplicate records. It was not gratitude towards the Jews who paid the major share of his ransom, or any feelings of political correctness, but he wanted to ensure the Jews' fortunes were correctly listed so he could tax them.

Another view of Clifford Tower

York Castle also played a role in the Civil War that broke out in 1642. The Royalists under Henry Clifford Earl of Cumberland took possession of castle and city of York and garrisoned them. The castle was repaired and the walls strengthened so they would support cannons. In April 1644, anti-Roaylist forces marched in from three sides: a Scottish army under Alexander Leslie Earl of Leven from the south, Parliamentary troops under Lord Fairfax from the east, and somewhat later, Edward Montagu Earl of Manchester added a third contingent, bringing the forces that besieged York up to 30,000.

(Left: Model of castle and motte with tower)

The city was commanded by William Cavendish Duke of Newcastle, the caste garrison of about 200 men by Sir John Cobb. Despite bombardement, attacks on the gates and undermining (unsuccessfully, it seems), York held out throughout May and June. Then news came that Prince Rupert was on his way to relieve the city. Rupert did indeed manage to lift the siege, but the day after his forces were defeated by the Parliamentary troops in the battle of Marton Moor six miles west of York. It was the largest and most bloody battle of the Civil War.

On July 14, city and castle surrendered after a re-newed siege. The conditions seem to have been rather favourable, since the Royalists were allowed to march out with full honours. The castle was then razed.

Some rebuilding was going on after the restoration of Charles II, but York Castle never regained its former splendour and role in history. One of the heralidic panels over the gate displays the arms of Henry Clifford Earl of Cumberland (last of that line), and it's argued that Clifford Tower was named for him.

Since the Civil War is too late for me to have better information than what I could find online, I'm not sure about Earl Henry's role in the siege; he seems to have been strangely absent, leaving command to Cavendish and Cobb. I also got the impression the name Clifford Tower was in use before the Civil War and thus the theory that it came into being because of Roger's execution still is valid to me until I can find sure proof in favour of one or the other.

Clifford Tower, another inside view

A final little curiosity about the tower: One of the keepers in the 16th century was one Robert Redhead who became famous for having sold some of the stonework. Ten layers were already gone until anyone noticed the battlements were disappearing. Robert was hanged for that.
 


13.3.08
  Storms, Another Tower, and A Boring Book

Fine, this is the third major storm in three days. I'm tired of the lot, really. The low pressure gives me headaches and I don't sleep well with all that howling going on outside; there's a lot more traffic in my street because the Leine river has flooded the main road, and it's too warm for the time of the year. Can I blame the Woodvilles? It's easier if you can direct your curses somewhere. :)

To the left is another tower, the Altpörtel in Speyer. It's one of the highest (55 metres) town gates in Germany. It once was the west gate of the Mediaeval fortifications; here seen from the town side which is more beautiful. The outside has embrasures instead of windows. The lower part was built 1230-1250, the upper storey with its Gothic tracery was added in 1512, and the roof in 1708. Luckily, the tower survived the wrecking of the town during the Palatine Succession War in 1689 that also damanged the cathedral, and thus remains as one of the few rests of the Mediaeval fortifications.

The Altpörtel stands about hundred metres in direct line from the west side of the cathedral, connected by a street that today is reserved for pedestrians. When we visited Speyer, there was an event going on called Kaisertafel (Imperial Banquet Table) where tables were lined up almost all the way from the cathedral to the tower, and the restaurants and cafés along the street served food. Too bad they didn't use the chance to come up with some Mediaeval receipes; it was all Bratwürstchen, fish 'n chips, pizza and Mcdonalds. Argh. We finally found a café outside the tourist pathes which had some really good cakes and an Alsacien specialty I love: Flammkuchen (it's a bit like a giant, crisp crêpe with bacon, onions and crème fraîche). It shows that Rhineland-Palatinate, the county to which Speyer belongs, is close to France.

Some pretty half timbered houses in Speyer

Carla, I gave up on Jack Whyte's The Knights of Black and White. After his Arthur series which I liked, that book was a sore disappointment: Telling instead of showing, stilted dialogue interrupted by entire paragraphs of backstory and history, too many instances of As You Know Bob; and Whyte left out the chance to get some action in by glossing over the battles. In a book about the First Crusade. I want battle scenes in that sort of setting, especially with the MCs being Templars. I also wasn't enthused about the premisse Whyte used, the idea of an ancient order that existed all the way back before Jesus was born, Jesus' role as Christus as result of propaganda, lots of Catholic Church bashing, and the whole shenagian we know from a certain bestseller. Though I would have accepted it as alternate history if presented in a more interesting way. But this book is going to the second hand store and I'll stay away from the rest of the trilogy. Pity, he missed the chance to present an engaging tale about the real First Crusade which is less well represented in fiction than the famous Richard Lionheart / Saladin clash.
 


9.3.08
  The Local Nobility and Their Castles - Plesse

Here are some more pics and a bit of information about Plesse Castle.

Main keep in the centre and repaired hall to the left

As so often in the Middle Ages, we don't have an exact date when the first castle was erected on the Plesse mountain. The first mention in a charte dates from 1138 and names a Burggraf (Lord Commander) Robert who was likely commanding the garrison on behalf of a Count Hermann who held the Plesse as fief, but the origins likely date back into the 11th century.

(Left: another view of the reconstructed Keep)

Mountain castles (Höhenburgen) were a modern feature in the 11th century because they were more difficult to construct than the simpler motte and bailey castles protected by earth walls and ditches and maybe a partial stone wall, with an artifical hillock for the keep at best - the latter being a Norman feature and thus rarely found Germany.

Except for the flat land between Hannover and the coast, Germany is rich in hills and mountains, and so it was a logical step to use those natural defenses.

In case of the Plesse, a steep V-shaped ledge of 50 metres length that was separated from the main plateau to the east by an incline offered the best possible spot because it was already inaccessible from the two sides of the V, and it didn't take much to turn the incline into a moat. During the various changes and expansions of the castle, additional defenses were added and the eastern part with the moat and curtain wall broadened.

One disadvantage of the high situation was accessibility to water. Water veins can be found in a hundred metres' depth, but I'm not sure people had the technology to dig that deep through bedrock at least during the first periods of occupation of the Plesse. They would have relied on cisterns and probably got water from rivulets below in peaceful times. Not the favourite job for the servants, I bet.

The so-called Little Tower

The rise of the mountain castles falls into a period of internal struggles and changes in Germany. More than before, kings, nobility and high ranking churchmen got into conflicts with each other in the 11th century, which finally led to a stronger position for the latter two, and a weakened king. The quarrels Heinrich IV had with the Saxon nobles led by Otto of Northeim I've mentioned several times, fall into this period.

Castles were not only means of defense, but status symbols. Originally, only the king had the right to build castles; he then gave them to the nobles as fiefs or sometimes allodial possessions, but now whoever had the power and the means built castles. No wonder I have six of them within half an hours driving distance, lol.

(Right: Another shot of the Little Tower)

There are some dis-cussions about the liege of the Plesse counts. The most likeliest candidate is the bishop of Paderborn who also held the Krukenburg, among others (source: Kleiner Plesse-führer, 1997).

The first 'owner' was Count Hermann of Reinhausen-Winzenburg (no, I didn't make that name up) who had bits of land spread over a rather large area around Göttingen / Kassel / Weser. The above mentioned Lord Commander Robert held the Plesse for him. Hermann died in 1152, at which time Robert had been replaced by one Bernhard of Höckelheim who received the Plesse as fief his own right. The family then called themselves Edelherren von Plesse - Noble Lords of Plesse. They had land near Northeim as well, but in the 12th century the new name was used exclusively, though they kept their estate in Höckelheim besides the main seat Plesse.

The Plesse Lords began to accumulate other lands in the area between Hannover and Kassel, and at some point the connection to the liege lord, the bishop of Paderborn, seemed to have become defunct, because they claimed the Plesse to be an allodial possession (or the German variant thereof, a reichsunmittelbares Lehen). In 1447 the family became vassals of the Landgrave of Hessia; probably because they needed a protector.

The Plesse Lords held the castle for 400 years and lived there most of the time. Most of the structures and buildings visible today, or reconstructed according to old paintings and other sources, have been added by that family.
 


6.3.08
  Only a Gentle Breeze - A Short Story

I'll tell you a tale about weather. I know a bit about the subject, ye ken, me being a wizard. Of course, wizards aren't supposed to dabble with weather - all this fuss about the butterfly wing in China and the storm in the US, I'm sure you've heard that one. And a wizard can do considerably more than flap a butterfly wing.

To be honest, I'm not much of a wizard. I failed the examinations twice, and they let me pass the third time only because they were tired of seeing me dragging my sorry carcass along the corridors of the Faculty of Wizardry.

It was the language, ye ken. Spells are in Latin, and this is a language I doubt even the Romans were able to speak correctly. But well, I passed, Latin or no.

So, I went out of the University Main Building with this yellowish piece of paper, signed by the Chancellor, and looked for a job. Wizards aren't exactly the most sought-after specialists to begin with, and a wizard whose spells come awry more often than not, doesn't stand a chance.

I tried to transfer myself to New York, it being the largest city and all, but instead, I landed down in the south, in Tampa. It's a nice place, but they didn't need any wizards. Well, I finally found work in a rather shabby pub in East Tampa. But it wasn't bad, I got the beer and whisky free, and I had a room upstairs. I spent most of the days on the beach - when I didn't sleep, that is.

I went on like this for a year or so, when one evening a dragon entered the pub. Believe me, I had got used to some strange customers during my time, vampires and gnomes, and the odd orc, but a dragon had never frequented the pub before. It was not large as dragons go, only seven feet, its scales of a nice emerald shade, with a thick tail and folded wings at its back. It asked for a beer and emptied the mug quite neatly, considering the crocodile-like head; it spilled less than half.

"My name is Fenice," the dragon said, "and I'm looking for a wizard. Do you perchance know whereabouts I might find one?"

"Why would you need a wizard?" I asked.

"Mmmm," Fenice muttered, "that is not a matter to be discussed in a pub."

I nodded. "We can meet upstairs in my room when my shift is over." I felt just a wee bit curious, I admit.

So it came, we sat on my bed a few hours later, Fenice and I. No, don't you have any funny thoughts about the arrangement, it was only that both the chairs in my room suffered from broken legs and I was too lazy to mend them. I never needed chairs, I only needed the bed and the TV. And the fridge, but that's a different story. You want to know? Well, I love ginger ice-cream. It is hot in Florida.

So we sat on the bed, and Fenice told me his story. A sad story it was. There had never been many dragons, and now their number was diminishing even more. "People don't care about us," Fenice said, "Hell, most of them don't even believe in us any more."

"I never thought Enlightenment was a good thing," I agreed, "no more need of magical stones since they've invented electricity, and most wizards are out of work because of these blasted computers."

It turned out dragons were dependent on people to believe in their existence, else they would fade away. Getting smaller and smaller, and finally vanish. "There is no dragon taller than eight or nine feet any longer," Fenice said. "Imagine, we were once the mightiest species in the world! Hey, you know some of us came out the size of a ten-storey house some seventy million years ago."

I didn't know. In fact, I had no idea dragons were the descendants of giant dinos. But then, I always had some suspicions they did not teach us everything at school. State control and such, ye ken, keep people ignorant and they'll vote for you. Because they can't think.

But back to dragons, it is.

What about the weather, you ask.

I'll come to that, too, I promise. Just have a bit of patience, and have another wee dram. It is my story, after all.

Fenice and his kin wanted to emigrate to China where dragons were still treated with respect. And they wanted me to create a wind to take them there.

I know I should have told Fenice I wasn't supposed to dabble with the weather. But then, a little wind - this couldn't be so dangerous, could it? Just to get the dragons up into the jet stream which would carry them directly to China.

I must have looked a bit doubtful, I guess, because Fenice brought out this bag of gold - and that settled my doubts. I bet it would have settled yours, too.

Next morning, I took the bus to St.Petersburg/Fort Desoto where the dragons were hiding. Fenice flew above us, but no one cared to look up. He was right, people no longer acknowledge the existence of dragons. I had never seen a dragon flying before and it was a sight to behold. They are beautiful creatures, flashes of rainbow colours against an azure sky.

They would really need only a gentle breeze, I told myself, fingering the gold in my pocket.

I had looked into my spell-books last night, for the first time since I left the University. I now murmured the spell to myself several times.

I should not have done that.

I began to confuse the words, and the harder I tried to remember the sentences, the more messed up they got. Finally, I gave up. The moment I needed the spell, I would remember it - hopefully. Yes, ye're right, I'm an optimist.

There were a dozen or so dragons gathering at the Ladley Battery in Fort Desoto, a lot of flapping wings and big swishing tails all around me. Two or three of them blew a bit of fire and smoke, just for fun. I got a cigarette out of my pocket and lit it, inhaling deeply and blowing rings.

The dragons first stared, then laughed. They tried to imitate the smoke ring trick.

"You must indeed be a wizard," one of them said.

"Well, I know a spell or two," I replied. This was not modesty, it was an exaggeration. "Are you ready?"

They nodded their crocodile heads and formed a circle.

I tell ye, one thing I had been good at during my studies was performance. I stood up, donning the midnight blue cape I had brought with me, swirling it dramatically, extending my arms. I felt like d'Artagnan, "en garde."

Then, I began to invoke the spell.
***

A few minutes later I tried to figure out what the Hell had gone wrong.

Menacing dark clouds came flying from all directions. The temperature dropped at least thirty degrees within seconds. The sea got choppy and turned from turquoise to grey, soon high waves were building up and crashed ashore, and some of the sun-dried brushwood played tumbleweeds. The wind tore at my cloak. I knew there was a reason why even wizards had adopted blue jeans.

The dragons spread their wings, nimbly lifting of the ground. With the wind increasing the way it did, they would reach the jet stream in a few minutes.

I let my cloak go and hovered on the broken concrete floor in the shelter of the mortar battery. The storm howled like a score of demons escaped from Hell. A funnel formed out of the clouds, reaching down into the sea, drawing up water, mussels, seaweed and jellyfish. And of course, the whole wet and slippery mess dropped exactly on me.

Have you ever been buried in jellyfish, mussels and seaweed? No? Be glad. It feels really ewww. But it cleared my head right away, and I did remember what went wrong. I had confused paulum with pallor and invoked a wind of fear instead of a gentle breeze.

I shook the smelly things off me. Some of the damned jellyfish had burned my skin. I wanted to go home, but the storm was so strong now I couldn't keep on my feet. I used my girdle to tie myself to one of the cannons; I didn't want to play dragon and fly. I would never make it to China, not to mention I bet Chinese is as difficult as Latin.

Waves splashed at the boat ramp down by the Fort, creating havoc with the boats moored there. The owner of the pub would be furious, one of the yachts was his. Serves him right, showy bastard that he was, always impressing the girls with his boat and his Mercedes. You wonder how the owner of a shabby East Tampa pub can afford a Mercedes? Sex, that's how. Some of the vampires are gay, ye ken, and I have doubts about a few of the orcs as well. Not my thing, though. That's why I don't have a yacht.

Poverty can be an advantage, I thought when I saw all the boats crushing and sinking. Or would you have liked to see your yacht going bubble bubble and disappear?

Rain began to pour, or rather, it whipped through the air horizontally. The tornado continued its path of destruction, surging into houses and trailers like a giant vacuum cleaner, spitting them out in pieces some hundred metres further.

The sky turned from dark gray into black. Thunder rumbled. Fine, I thought, that's just what was missing so far, a thunderstorm. And albeit the spell was wrong, its result was amazing. The thunderstorm turned out to be the best I've ever seen. Too bad I was outside, crouching as close to the ground as possible. It might have been nice to watch it from the security of a warm room with a window where the water would not leak in through the frame. Well, I had no such room anyhow.

Must I describe a thunderstorm to you? The lightning zigzagging across the sky, the deafening thunder, the hail? I bet you've seen one or two of these. Only, you've never seen the likes of the one I was in the middle of. I really wanted to go home.

It took two more hours until I could do that. I called a taxi with my cell phone - wizards do make use of advanced technologies sometimes, especially if they can't trust in their spells. Fortunately, the tornado had gone off into another direction, and there was not much damage in Tampa. The taxi driver gave me a strange look when I paid with nuggets instead of dollars. But he took them. Don't ye wonder about that, they were worth much more than some crumpled green notes.

I got a whole bottle of Whisky from the tap room and went upstairs. I changed into dry clothes and threw myself onto the bed, switching on the TV.

Weather forecast had it, the tornado, which totally unexpected had formed over Tampa, was moving north and would hit a number of counties. The reporter pointed at a map with a lot of blue and green lines and yellow dots, speaking about low pressure systems, cumulus clouds, vortices and such.

I hope they will never find out.

People gave me suspicious looks the following weeks. Makes you wonder how fast the gossip grapevine proceeds in a town like Tampa. I had no idea anyone but the owner of the pub and that one elderly lady I once helped with her car did even know I was a wizard. Well, business was going fine for some time. There were some customers who wanted to see the Wizard of Tampa, snobs who would else frequent fashionable downtown places like the Chartreuse. I invented a new drink called Tornado - and believe me, I didn't use any spell with this one, only vodka (lots of), whisky (also lots of), tomatoe juice, jalapenos, chilies and a bit grenadine syrup. It left people breathless, I tell ye. Even the vampires liked it.

It was less fun when a reporter team from CNN came down to investigate. But I mixed them several Tornados, and when they left the next morning, they didn't even remember their names.

After some time, the town got back to normal. The rich snobs bought new - and larger - yachts, and again spent the nights at the Chartreuse. I continued to tap beer in the pub and go swimming on sunny days. I still slept a lot.

Then, one day, this large parcel arrived, with a warning written on it, "keep frozen". Do you want to know what it contained? Ice-cream. Lots of ginger ice-cream. And a postcard with greetings from Fenice, "They believe in dragons here in China. Thank you."

Did I mention I love ginger ice-cream?

Baltic Sea near Warnemünde
Not Tampa Bay but we do get some nasty storms, too.
 


  Another Tower in York

This one - today known as Clifford Tower - we can thank William the Conqueror for. Well, not the tower as we see it today, but the first installment of a motte and bailey castle he had built in 1069. Since William and his Normans weren't the most popular guys in the area, the wooden, earth wall fortified castle saw a lot of action and some destruction and rebuilding in the following years.

Clifford Tower, York

The castle was still a timber construction when King Henry II received King William's homage for Scotland in 1175. It was in 1244, with a big bunch of Scots milling at the borders (again), that King Henry III visited the castle and ordered it to be rebuilt in stone. It took some 20 years to accomplish; the bailey received a curtain wall and two gateways, and the motte was crowned with a stone keep, then called King's Tower.

A model of the tower, displayed inside the keep

King Edward I used the castle to keep his treasury while campaigning against the Scots in 1298, and so did his son Edward II in 1322. Ed II had problems not only with the Scots but with assorted rebels in his own realm. He defeated some of them at the Battle of Boroughbridge and had them executed at York. One, a Sir Roger Clifford, was hanged in chains outside the King's Tower which then was named Clifford's Tower. It's not clear whether he was hanged and the body displayed that way, or whether he was hanged there by his wrists to slowly die and rot which would be a writer's choice (*grin*). Whatever way, it was a demeaning punishment for a nobleman. Maybe Alianore knows more about the incident.

Clifford Tower, inside view

Our dear Queen Isabella has been to York, as did her daughter-in-law Philippa who married Edward III in the York Minster in 1328. During those times, the castle served as administrative seat, but already in 1358 the heavy stone keep was damaged because the ground gave way.

Another shot of the tower, this time against the sun

In 1484 the castle was in such poor repair that King Richard III ordered parts to be replaced, but since he didn't find a horse in the battle at Bosworth, his orders were never executed.

(Continued here)
 


4.3.08
  Squirrels and a Tower

That little guy is up to no good, I'm sure. If it's not covering up for Constance's gnomes, it's squirreling away a plot. Or the bones of a Roman. After all, I found the fluffy tailed critter near the Roman multiangular tower.

Grey squirrel in the Museum Gardens

Eboracum was built as legionary fort - that is, larger than the auxiliary forts at the Hadrian's Wall and the Limes - in 70 AD. A town soon developed around the fort and was protected by a wall. The Roman walls formed the basis of the Mediaeval town defenses.

Roman multiangular tower

The multiangular tower was erected during the time the Emperor Septimius Severus spent in York in 209-211 AD. Severus strengthened the walls and added a number of towers. One can't blame him; he had a lot of troubles with the tribes.

The tower that once stood in the west corner of the fortress has ten sides and rises to 30ft. The upper part with the different stones and archer slits is Mediaeval, but the lower rows of stones are Roman.

Another shot of the tower

It kept the tribes out, but not the Danes in 867. The Danes restored the walls and towers and added another layer of finds to the York soil some of which can be seen in the Jorvik Museum. During the Middle Ages, the town walls were fortified several times, and gates added, like Monk Bar Gate.

More would be left of the town walls if not part of them had been dismantled in 1800. Which proves that George II had less power than some of his Mediaeval predecessors who'd have put the heads of the members of that Let's Tear Them Walls Down They Cost Money-coporation on spikes to display on the walls.


Look, squirrel brought a friend. Notice the gleeful grin - he's just hidden a plot about Septimius Severus and his dysfunctional sons, plus assorted other characters and a battle or two. I bet the wee rascal has a red squirreled friend or two in Germany. But whatever comes out of it; the idea is shelved for now.
 


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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