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


31.12.08
  Happy New Year

We're close to the beginning of the New Year, and it's time again for making resolutions that won't be kept until January 10th or so. Personally, I've given up on that, but some historical characters have made New Year Resolutions that can be found here and on the blogs of Susan Higginbotham and Nan Hawthorne.

  • Alexander the Great: Come up with other town names than Alexandria.
  • Hannibal: Take some lessons in Italian geography.
  • Arminius: Kick the Romans out of Germania and myself into German legend.
  • Chariovalda: Take swimming lessons.
  • Nero: Win Roman Idol and tour Greece.
  • Septimius Severus: Spend some quality time with my sons.
  • Caracalla: Get a bigger bathroom.
  • Louis the Pious: Tell my sons I'm the king and can send them to bed without supper.
  • Maud: Have an equal opportunity commisioner present at the royal succession debate.
  • Heinrich IV: Rehearse that contrite expression.
  • Richard Lionheart: Be nice to Johnny.
  • Edward I: Take a course in accountancy.
  • William Shakespeare: Do more research.
  • Sir Walter Scott. Stop collecting antiquites. My house is cluttered already.
  • Richard Sharpe: Settle down. Well, maybe..


  • I wish everyone a Happy, Healthy and Prosperous New Year.
     


    29.12.08
      Summer in the Harz. With Castles

    After all those posts with lots of text and few pictures, I thought I'd go back to some picture posts for a change. Summer impressions on a cold winter day.

    View to the north-eastern Harz foothills

    Seen from Regenstein Castle. Somewhere in the distance lies Quedlinburg


    Michaelstein Monastery, cloister

    Remains of a 12th century Cisterciensian monastery. The cloister and some of the outhouses have been preserved and today house a museum for music instruments, a school, and a restaurant.

    Michaelstein Monastery, herbal garden

    I want a garden like that.


    Falkenstein Castle

    Falkenstein Castle was originally built in 1115 and altered several times during the following centuries. It was never conquered, but in the 18th century it was a ruin until the then owner reconstructed most of the buildings.

    View from Falkenstein Castle to the Selke valley

    Germany can be very green, too.


    Arnstein Castle

    A picturesque ruin. And a nice uphill walk in 30°C summer heat.


    Bode River

    One of the many shots I took of that one. I love running water.


    Rappbode Reservoir

    The sun had given way to some thunderclouds, and the air was very still.
     


    26.12.08
      Historical Christmas Wishes

    Trust Susan Higginbotham and Nan Hawthorne to come up with some fun. What some historical characters would like to find under the Christmas tree.

  • Varus: To just get OUTTA HERE.
  • Arminius: Roman baths.
  • Segestes: An obedient daughter.
  • Caligula: Shiny new boots.
  • Nero: An e-guitar.
  • Agricola: Caledonia.
  • Calgacus: More PS to my chariot.
  • Maximinus Thrax: More wine.
  • Honorius: Some sheets to hide under until the Visigoths are gone.
  • Charlemagne: A new rearguard.
  • Heinrich I: Fowling equipment. A crown would be nice, too.
  • Heinrich IV: A pope's head or two in a vinegar jar.
  • Heinrich the Lion of Saxony: My lands back.
  • Friedrich Barbarossa: A life jacket.
  • Eleanor of Aquitaine: Marriage counselling for my husband. It's not my fault.
  • Henry II: Family therapy for my wife and sons. It's not my fault.
  • Llywelyn Fawr. Glass windows for Criccieth Castle.
  • Richard III: A horse.
  • William Wallace: The director of Braveheart.
  • Duke of Wellington: Night. Or the Prussians.


  • Here's the reason why Llywelyn wants new windows
     


    24.12.08
      Frohe Weihnachten

    I wish everyone a Merry Christmas. May Santa Claus, the Christkind or whoever is responsible for the task, bring you lots of books and other presents.

     


    17.12.08
      Those New 'Romans at My Backdoor'

    The series about the Kalefeld battlefield is under revision. An updated version representing the knowldege of autumn 2010 will appear soon.

    Shiny things - Some of the finds
    Copyright original photo: Der Spiegel Online

     


    15.12.08
      Books and More Romans

    With Christmas drawing closer with scary speed (it's been third Advent already and I have no idea where the time has gone), I ordered some books for my Christmas money. We're pretty unsentimental about presents in my family - I order books and DVDs I want and my father pays the bills. *grin* Here are some of the goodies I got from the Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft Darmstadt (an academic book club).

    Wofgang Giese, Heinrich I (also known as Heinrich the Fowler), first of the Ottonian kings, and sometimes refered to as first German king. I've mentioned him a few times already, and this new biography will come handy to learn more about him. His role in the historical context has been reevalutaed lately.

    Heinrich is not only connected with Quedlinburg but also places closer to where I live. One is actually located in what is today a suburb of Göttingen, the former palatine castle of Grona. No traces are left of it except some remains of earthen walls overgrown with trees, and a little memorial monument. As with many old sites, the buildings were used as quarry after the castle had been abandoned.

    Another place in the surroundings is the famous palatine palace of Pöhlde, today a little village. Of that one, nothing is left either, except some foundations and a 17th century church that has been erected on the remains of the main nave of the old Romanesque church. It's quite pretty inside, and after the 17th century timber interior and paintings have been renovated the last years, I should visit it again.

    Ulrich Knapp, Stätten deutscher Kaiser und Könige im Mittelalter (Places of German Emperors and Kings in the Middle Ages) presents a number of important historical sites in Germany within their historical context. Most of them I have visited some time in my life (though not all with a digital camera).

    Besides those two, I got some books about the Romans in Germany. There are a number of new ones, with the 2000 year anniversary of the Varus battle coming up soon.

    The church in Pöhlde

    And there are more fascinating news: I got even more Romans at my backdoor. A battlefield has been discovered near Northeim (my regular readers may remember the name in connection with the posts about Otto of Northeim). Because we got a lot of problems with illegal diggers, the exact location and details have been kept a secret so far, but a few days ago the archaeologists in charge, Dr. Petra Lönne and Dr. Henning Haßmann, said that they found about 600 objects, dating from the 3rd century AD. And that's what makes this discovery so interesting since it was assumed that Rome didn't get involved in northern Germany after Germanicus left the not-to-be province in 16 AD. I'll keep you informed when I learn more.
     


    11.12.08
      Romanesque Ornaments

    I mentioned that one of the features of the Chapter Church in Quedlinburg is the decorative frieze that runs around the main nave. It does so on the outside as well. I got a good view at a piece of it from a window of the abbesses' Renaissance palace that today houses a museum.

    Frieze on the main nave of Quedlinburg Cathedral

    It is an architectural element that found its way from Italy into German buildings. While in Königslutter the monsters and figures are restricted to the apsis, and the other parts of the frieze (they can be seen on these photos) are merely patterned, Quedlinburg Cathedral shows a mix of monsters and ornaments all the way on the outside - the interior frieze has no monsters, though.

    Frieze detail, showing some monsters and animals (partly restored)

    Not all Romanesque churches have such friezes (the Weser abbey churches of Lippoldsberg and Bursfelde don't) whereas others take the ornaments a step further, like the Imperial Cathedral in Speyer with its decorative arcades running around the entire building.
     


    9.12.08
      Chapter Church Quedlinburg

    The old town of Quedlinburg is dominated by the Chapter Church St. Servatius (also refered to as Quedlinburg Cathedral) on the Castle Hill. There's no exterior shot except the one on the post about the town because of the scaffolding, but I got some nice interior ones.

    Main nave, view to the choir

    The hill had been the site of a palatine castle and a chapel when Mathilde, widow of Heinrich I, commissioned the building of a chapter church to replace the smaller chapel where her husband lay entombed. It took from 997 to 1021 for the church to be finished, and after a fire part of it had to be rebuilt. The present church was consecrated in 1129, in presence of King Lothar of Süpplingenburg, the later Emperor and founder of Königslutter Cathedral.

    View towards the north aisle

    The Romanesque interior shows the so called Niedersächsischer Stützenwechsel (Lower Saxonian Pillar Alternation) with rows of two slender pillars, one square column, two pillars again, one column. The pillars divide the main nave from the lower aisles (basilica style). The west wall holds the Imperial Lodge behind the upper row of interior windows (see post about town) which was proabably used not only by the Emperors during their visits to Quedlinburg but also by the abbesses and ladies of the chapter.

    An example of the Stützenwechsel

    The choir to the east was rebuilt in the Gothic style under the Abbess Jutta von Kranichfeld in 1320. In 1938 an attempt was made to restore the Romanesque interior by adding an apsis wall to the choir. It is a high choir (like in Lippoldsberg) since the crypt is not built into a cellar but on one base with the nave, though using lower vaults - in case of Quedlinburg I suppose the sandstone bedrock was the reason.

    Crypt

    The crypt is undergoing renovation so I could only get a sneak photo through the iron grilled door. I think the two tomb plates in the background are the ones of Heinrich I and Mathilda.

    There is also a relief frieze running around the entire main nave. This as well as the decorations on the pillar capitals and the window frames show a strong Lombardian influence; much the same as Königslutter Cathedral. The ceiling is not a cross grain vault but the older timber cassette structure.

    View to south aisle - you can see the frieze under the upper windows

    The transept has very short wings with separate rooms that today are used to display the famous Domschatz (Cathedral Treasure) parts of which have been given back from the US. Because of the dim light it was almost impossible to get photos, though, and I don't use flash near objects that may react badly to stark light.

    Room in the transept with treasure exhibition

    During a restoration under Ferdinand von Quast in 1882 two 'Romanesque' towers with the wrong sort of gables were added, so that the most outstanding feature of the church is actually the youngest. I hope they use the ongoing renovation as chance to replace those roofs with something more authentic looking.
     


    4.12.08
      Aberystwyth Impressions

    Aberystwyth was a flyby visit on my way from Pembroke to Caernarfon, though should I ever come to Wales again, I'd like to spend more time there than two hours. It's a lively place because of the many students, but less hectic than Bangor with its connection to the train line to Manchester. James from the Sir Benfro blog (that's not a title, but Welsh for shire, btw.) gave me a qick tour to the promenade and the castle remains.

    View to the Pier at low tide

    The pier had once been 900 feet long, but only about 300 remain today after the sea reclaimed parts of it. The sea tends to do that; Ceredigion Bay is also the location of the legendary Cantre'r Gwaelod, one of the sunken cities that line the coasts - its legends are related to Kêr Ys in Brittany.

    The history of Aberystwyth goes back to the 4th century BC when Iron Age settlers fortified the hilltop called Pen Dinas. The remains of that large hillfort can still be seen. Albeit the Romans had been in the area (there's a stretch of arrow straight road the way I came that stands out among the winding Welsh tracks, and James told me that a few remains of a smaller Roman fortress can be found near where he lives) there is no trace they ever tried to establish a Roman fort on the site.

    Pen Dinas, seen from the castle

    To the far right is a slender pillar; a monument erected in 1852 to honour the Duke of Wellington's victory at Waterloo, paid by public funding. It's interesting to see what people in the 19th century were willing to support financially - we got the misplaced Hermann (Arminius) monument much the same way. Try that today and you'll get laughed at.

    In the foreground are some of the stones that form a bardic circle of 13 standing stones symbolising the 13 old counties, pre the 1974 reform. The castle ruins have become a park today, a change Edward II might have liked better than his father.

    Aberystwyth Castle, one of the towers

    But it was not Edward I who started the castle building at Aberystwyth, it was one of the Gilbert de Clares who erected an earthen and timber ringwork castle down at the river Ystwyth in the 12th century.

    In the early 13th century, after he ousted the de Clares and other Norman chaps, Llywelyn ap Iorweth 'the Great' decided a hill by the sea was a better place for a castle than a valley and built the first one in the present spot. Makes one wonder why he didn't chose Pen Dinas, either. Like so many castle at the time, the one of Aberystwyth changed hands several times after Llywelyn's death as the Norman/Welsh wars moved to and fro.

    Aberystwyth Castle, remains of the inner bailey and hall

    Edward I was the one who got really serious about the castle thing once he conquered the Welsh, and turned Aberystwyth castle into a structure as formidable as Caernarfon or Conwy. Our friend Master James was the official overseer though he soon left his associate Master Giles of St. George in charge and returned to north Wales. The modernising of Aberystwyth castle according to the standards of 1294 cost 'only' some 4,300 pounds.

    The reason the castle is damaged much worse than Ed's other biggies lies in the fact that the sea is only a few yards away, and on a bad day not even that. Add to that the gales and torrents of a typical Welsh day, and even stone and mortar will crumble within time. The castle was beginning to succomb to decay as early as 1343, and the Civil War saw the end of it.

    Old College with Constitution Hill in the background

    What we got here is not a castle or cathedral, though it looks a bit like a mix of both, but the Castle Hotel, built 1872. It soon went bancrupt and was bought by the University College of Wales. It still houses some departments of the university, besides the newer locations at Penglais Campus and Llanbadarn Campus. The students surely got a pretty place to work in, but I wonder how often they'll find the Atlantic in the cellar. Let's hope they at least have a functioning central heating, something the Llywelyns, Owains, Henrys and Edwards will have sorely missed. Maybe that's the reason the Romans stayed away from the rain- and windswept Ceredigion Bay.

    I was lucky, I had a nice day when I visited Aberystwyth.
     


    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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