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


31.10.08
  Happy Halloween

Happy Halloween to my friends in countries that celebrate this day.

I found a suitable picture to go with this post in my collection of stone carved monsters in Mediaeval buildings. Enjoy.

Semi-relief capital in the cloister of the Romanesque chapter church in Gernrode / Harz

I also wish everyone who joined that particular craziness Happy Nano-ing.
 


27.10.08
  The Colours of Autumn

Autumn is my favourite season, and it has truly arrived here. Not only with the flame coloured leaves and melancholical mists, but also with storms and rain, and the first hoarfrosts. But I captured some peaceful photos the other day, taken at my favourite spot at the Weser river.


The fields are plown, the winter wheat starting to sprout. Brown leaves rustle in a breeze still warm with memories of summer.



Grazings and orchards down at the river, woodcovered mountains, haze-veiled, rising behind.



I love to just sit and watch the dark waters flow by and the sun vanish behind the hills. And I think maybe Arminius has sat here as well, finding a moment of peace.



Traces of the past: the the west towers of the Romanesque abbey church in Bursfelde, surrounded by some former abbey buildings.



Sluggish currents weaving their way to the sea. A river of history and myth.
 


23.10.08
  A Fancy Palace

I've already posted some photos of the part Rococo, part English landscape garden of Wilhelmsthal. This time we'll have a look at the palace building which - against the rules of landscape architecture of the time - lies in the vale, not on top of the hill.

Wilhelmsthal Palace, front side

Landgrave Wilhelm VIII of Kassel wanted a summer palace, a maison de plaisance, outside the town, and had the construction of Wilhelmsthal Palace started in 1743. But he died before palace and park were finished.

Wilhelmsthal Palace, the so called 'seaside'

The famous Rococo architect François de Cuivilliés the Elder who mostly worked as Bavarian Court architect in Munich, developed the plans of the two storey main building with side wings and guard pavillions. The interior stuccoes and wood carvings were created by Johann August Nahl who had already worked in Berlin and Potsdam for Friedrich the Great; the paintings by Johann Heinrich Tischbein the Elder. Most of the tapestries and furniture came from England.

Another view from the park

Wilhelmsthal Palace in one of the most important Rococo buildings in Germany, but the palace is in dire need of some fresh paint. I haven't been inside this time, and I only have some vague memories from a visit some twenty years past, but somehow the place has lost some of its splendour. Let's hope there'll be money for renovation.
 


19.10.08
  Ancient Beauty Shines Again

I mentioned in the post below that the renovation of Lippoldsberg Abbey Church is completed inside as well. The pillars have been sandblasted and are now a nice cream colour, showing the original stone structure, the walls and ceiling vaults have been whitewashed.

Lippoldsberg Church, main nave

Lippoldsberg Abbey Church is a fine example of pure Romanesque style in the basilica structure. Since the light comes mostly through the upper windows, the illumination of the main nave gets this ethereal atmosphere, despite the heavy pillars and massive walls.

View towards south aisle and upper windows

In Mediaeval times, churches usually were painted, but in case those frescoes are lost today, the renovation process either involves cleaning the stones or apply a neutral white colour. Though there are examples of mostly 19th century Mediaeval-ish paintings that are today considered history and have to remain. Fortunately, Lippoldsberg has none of those.
 


15.10.08
  More Castle Picspam - Weidelsburg

This one was a journey back the memory lane. The castles I'll present today are some I've seen as teenager when we lived on the other side of Kassel and the Habichtswald Forest. My father came along, because for him those places hold memories, too.

Weidelsburg, inner curtain walls

The Weidelsburg, first mentioned in the 12th century, is the largest castle in northern Hessia. It doesn't stand comparison with places like Pembroke or Caernarfon, but it's still a pretty impressive sight. It's also situated on top of a hill as usual, and the parking lot is on the foot of the hill. But the mountains of the Habichtswald are not as bad as some of those in the Harz.
Weidelsburg, eastern palas building

The Weidelsburg has two palas (the word is related to 'palace') buildings. A palas is the central house with the great hall on the lower floor and the family rooms above. The west building is undergoing renovation right now and mostly wrapped in scaffolding. They're cleaning the stones and replace the crumbling mortar. Next year, the east palas will get the same treatment.

Weidelsburg, view through the east door into the bailey

The Weidelsburg, like so many castles in Germany, was built to protect tradeways. In 1266 it was sold to the archbishop of Mainz, and it came to a quarrel between the archbishop and Landgrave Heinrich (again *sigh*) of Hessen during which the castle was destroyed. The parts remaining today date to the rebuilding about hundred years later.
 


13.10.08
  The Local Nobility and Their Castles - Hardenberg Castle

I've been castle hunting again. This time I got the remains of Hardenberg Castle. It's some 15 minutes drive from where I live, but since the ruins are dangerous, you can only visit the castle on a guided tour. It was a pretty, warm Indian summer afternoon today, and I felt like visiting a castle and take a few pics. Here are some.

Hardenberg Castle, remains of the Vorderhaus

The land where the Hardenberg lies is old Saxon territory that was conquered by Charlemagne. It seems that soon thereafter a fortified building was erected on the sandstone promontory that overlooks the south-north route towards the Harz and one of the west-east going trade ways. The place is first mentioned by the name of Hardenberg in a charte of 1101, as belonging to the archbishop of Mainz. The castle - more a fortified house then - was held by ministeriales, administrators of a noble birth, a feudal class particular to Germany.

The sandstone rock promontory on which the castle stands

The lands of the archbishop of Mainz bordered to those of the Saxon dukes of Braunschweig, thus there had been a number of border skirmishes and the Hardenberg was besieged several times, but never taken. But nevertheless, the evacuations of the village people in the surroundings and the upkeep of the castle cost a lot of money, and the archbishop of Mainz got indebted to the counts of Hardenberg. In 1357 he thus granted them castle and lands as allodial possessions.

View from one of the windows

The castle was expanded over time, and at some point developed an interesting structure. Since there were two heirs in the 14th century, they divided the area where the castle stands and the surrounding lands belonging to them, and a second main hall and some outhouses were built. They came to be known as Hinterhaus (back house, the older buildings) and Vorderhaus (front house), and the two familes as 'back house' and 'front house' line.

Back house main hall, seen from the tower

There are some legends about family quarrels and fights, but those are not true; on the castle ground peace was kept (the so called Burgfrieden), and the families shared the well and the gate house.

But the structure makes for an odd mix of building styles from the 12th to the 17th century. In the end it was impossible to find the first house in the tangle, the one that theoretically belonged to the archbishop of Mainz. It became an issue when the Hardenberg Counts adopted the Protestant faith, a fact the archbishop didn't like one bit. He wanted his part of the castle back by legal means, but lost the process.

Front house main hall

At the end of the 17th century, the front house suffered severe damage during a lightning storm, and the family moved to Göttingen until a new Renaissance palace was built nearby. The family moved to that place in 1710 and their descendants still live there.

The line holding the back house died out without male issue, so the castle was abandoned and fell into ruins until some preservation took place in the 19th century. It's a picturesque place today, but dangerous to climb around. When I stepped onto the remains of a wall to get a better shot, the guide warned me to be careful or I'd end up in the trench.

View from a front house cellar to the back house

Both castle and Renaissance palace, as well as the buildings at the foot of the hill and most of the land is still in possession of the Counts of Hardenberg. They've opened the park to the public, built a destillery and a luxury hotel plus restaurant in the estate houses, a golf place on some of their land, and host riding tournaments and other events.

The Hardenberg liquors are very good, too, and you can buy them in the distillery. *grin*
 


8.10.08
  Some Medicine Fun For Writers

One of the members of Forward Motion, a writer's site I frequent, is a IR nurse and knows a lot about medicine. I've discussed third degree burns with her (Thorgil can thank her if he survives and it's realistic), and torture (Roderic will probably not thank her, lol) in the FM chat. Since I'm not the only one to pester her about all things medical, she started a blog where you can learn about the symptoms of the plague, how to have a character die of tetanus, breastfeeding and lots of other interesting stuff. It's called Muse Medicine, and Arizela will add more articles to it. Be warned, though, it has pictures, and some are not pretty.

It reminded me that I have some fun things to share in my photo archive as well.

Another view of Caerphilly Castle

As I already mentioned, the day I visited Caerphilly Castle there were fencing demonstrations, archers and musketeers in the yard, but entertainment was also going on in the great hall. The time was Civil War, not really Medieaval, but it was very interesting. Too bad I forgot to grab a flyer of the reenactment group.

The Great Hall, interior

One lady made butter (tasted yummy), another showed how to card and spin wool, a third made soaps and scented lotions, to name some examples. One of the guys was a surgeon, and he brought some tools of his trade. Ouwie.

The omnipresent enema syringe, and bullet removal tongs

In the foreground are tongs for removing bullets from a wound. The surgeon would first poke around with the lancet and when he found the bullet, he'd insert the tong which worked a bit like a reverse screw driver. The bullet was caught and drawn into the metal stick and dragged out that way. No aneasthesia in sight except for filling the victim up with wine or stronger spirits. Mwuhaha. Chance that the wound channel would get infected was pretty strong.

Amputation knives

Amputations were common since often severe infection or gangrena would set it, and in case a limb was afflicted, cutting it off was a chance to save the patient's life. For some reason, the survival rate of an amputation was a bit higher. The knives were used to cut through skin and muscle down to the bone.

Bone saw

The really nasty part. Sawing through a bone hurts worse than hell, as anyone who'd had a broken bone can attest (I can't *knocks on wood* and I don't want to try; my love for research has its limits, lol).

So I rewrote the end of the innibränna scene to give the treatment of Thorgil more realism, and all scenes with Roderic after the torture in the dungeon of the Avodrite have been rewritten, taking into account he's left with several stiff fingers from the thumb screws and problems with his left shoulder due to the strappado. Which makes for a lot of fun if he tries to use a sword. Evil, me? Nooo.
 


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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