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

  The Palatine Seat and Monastery of Pöhlde

Or what is left of them, which is not much. Pöhlde is a sleepy village today, especially on a warm Easter sunday afternoon, but it once played an important role in history as one ofthe palatine seats of the German emperors. Today only a few foundations of those old buildings are left, and a 17th century church with some pretty Renaissance wood paintings showing Biblical themes. The interior has been renovated last year to protect the wood from water damage.

Pöhlde Church, seen from the west

Pöhlde is first mentioned as Polithi in a charte dating from 927 in which Heinrich I 'the Fowler' (919-936) gave the palatine seat, at that time more or less a country estate, to his wife Mathilde. She lived there as widow and gifted parts of the land to the Church to have a monastery built. Her son Otto I granted the monastery of Pöhlde a number of priviledges; and it developed into an important and rich one with territorial possessions and tithing rights spreading as far Frisia. The palatine seat at Pöhlde became the so called Weihnachtspfalz of the Ottonian emperors, the place where family and court would meet during Christmas.

Pöhlde Church, interior

Not all events having taken place in Pöhlde were peaceful. In 1002, Siegfried and Benno of Northeim and Heinrich and Udo of Katlenburg (another small town between Göttingen and the Harz) killed Ekkehard Duke of Thuringia who spent a night in Pöhlde castle. He claimed a right to the throne, and the men might have hoped to be rewarded by Heinrich II for that rather cowardly murder. They were mistaken, though, and instead lost their titles and land. It took several years until Benno of Northeim became reconciled with the king and regained his rank as count and his possessions. He was the father of Otto of Northeim whom my readers may remember from some posts.

View from the gallery

The Romanesque church was destroyed by a fire in 1200 and re-erected in the Gothic style. Both church and monastery were damaged during the peasant war (Bauernkrieg) in 1525, and shortly thereafter the Reformation was introduced to Pöhlde. During the Thirty Years War the church was destroyed and a new, smaller one construced on the foundations of the main nave (1668). Parts of the former aisles and the cloister have been discovered during excavations. It once must have been a pretty large church.

Closeup of the gallery balustrade with some of the paintings

The remains of the palatine seat had been excavated as well in 1964-70. It lies north of the church and once encompassed an area of about 1700 square metres with 12 buildings with stone foundations (there may have been more buildings without those), including a great hall which dates back to the 10th century. A passageway connected the palatine seat with the church. The foundations have been covered again to preserve them - not the best way if you ask me. Today the village priest has his garden there and I doubt the roots will do the old stones any good. It would have made more sense to add a bit mortar to keep the remaining walls from tumbling further and display them to the public. But that's more expensive. ;)

The chuch seen from the east - the side where the cloister had been

Below the remains of the palatine seat older finds have been made, mostly dating to the younger Iron Age and Imperial Rome which prove a long tradition of settlements in that spot. The Roman items sound intriguing in the light of the new finds in the area - were they more than just a few traded goods?

There is no plan of the excavated palatine buildings in the guidebook (which is but a leaflet anyway), but it confirms the finds of Tilleda: Those 10th century palatine seats were divided into several buildings, mostly timber or wattle and daub on stone foundations, and encomprised a great hall; the whole area was surrounded by earthen walls and palisades.

  What Germans Fought at Kalefeld?

A commenter on my latest Kalefeld post wondered if Maximinus Thrax fought Alamanni, as the sources state, when the campaign led him so far north. My first reaction was to assume it would have been Saxons - like the Alamanni, a larger group of Germans that assimilated smaller tribes. The Romans might not have known the difference, or cared much about it (big, bad Germans are big, bad Germans). But it turns out things are more complicated.

Saxons are indeed mentioned at the time in question, but only as a coast-dwelling tribe that already then enjoyed its favourite pastime: piracy and visiting England.

What makes matters complicated is the fact that sometimes German tribes kept their name despite changing location and/or combination of its members, while in other cases tribes that didn't change in itself yet changed their name (1) The Alamanni later would become one of the major Germanic tribes. (like the Franks, Saxons and others) with its settlements in southern Germany, but at the time of the so-called Alamannic wars they were still a more loose and flexible conglomeration of Germanic people - the 'all men', men from everywhere.

Tribes fought each other, or formed alliances, and sometimes groups of young men broke off from a tribe and looked for more booty and riches with another chieftain. It was a shfiting and slow process until the larger groups were fully formed.

The Cherusci who settled in the Harz/Leine/Weser area during Arminius' time had decreased in size and importance and at some point been swallowed by another tribe, the Chauci; while the Chatti who settled south of them remained a large and important tribe.

According to Prof. G.A. Lehmann, Göttingen (2), it is well possible, that tribes from the Harz/Leine area participated in the attacks on the Limes of 213 and again 233 AD, and thus would have been part of the foederatio of the Alamanni. When Maximinus Thrax led his punitive campaign assumedly as far as the Leine valley and the foothills of the Harz, he fought Alamanni, 'all men', indeed.

Though we don't know what the northern people called himself at that point. - did they continue to see themselves as part of a larger group upon return home, or did they retake their old tribal indentiy (as perhaps Chauci), I wonder?

(1) Bruno Bleckmann, Die Germanen, München 2009
(2) I had a nice chat with him after a lecture.

  Spring at the Rhume Springs

The Rhume river, a tributary of the Leine that flows through Göttingen, has an unusual source: a karstic spring south of the Harz mountains. The rock there is gypsum karst, and the water that seeps into the ground from the Harz rivers Sieber and Oder flows under the ground until it comes to light again in the funnel shaped well of the Rhume.

Colour tracking done in 1930 showed the connections between the Harz rivers and the Rhume. The karstic stone is rich in hollow spaces where water can find its way, and the Harz rivers bring with them a lot of rain that leads to the high output of the Rhume well.

2000l litres of water per second press up from the ground, most of it into the 500 square metre main bassin, but there a minor springs as well. The water has a temperature of 8-9°Celsius all year round and drinking water quality. The main funnel is about 8 metres deep.

In 1999 the well was cleaned after a severe storm had thrown some trees into it. Among the finds was not ony modern trash (some people deserve to be drowned for their manners) but also relics from prehistoric and Germanic times. The Rhume spring must have been a holy place once.

This is no surprise considering the unusual properties of the spring, including its turquoise colour that can be seen in the pic below which I took from a nearby hillock. The bassin is surrounded by trees and in former times probably by a larger wood.

The surroundings are a bit on the swampy side, esp. now with the water levels still high from winter. The Romans would not have liked the place. *grin*

The photo below shows the sping in summer.

I took that one a few years ago; you can see how rich the foliage will soon become.

There is a path and a bridge so one can walk around the main bassin and the side wells. The pictures above show the spring from different angles.

  Happy Easter

I wish everyone a Happy Easter.

May there be lots of eggs, preferaby book sized ones, and love. (I got the 3 volume illustrated edition of Lord of the Rings since my old single volume is falling apart).

The spring photos were taken this afternoon. Those last warm and sunny days really brought the green leaves out.

The weather is going to be fine tomorrow as well, so the travel saison will officially start with a visit to the aforementioned Pöhlde.

  Edinburgh, Antonine Wall, and Then Where to Go?

It looks like a trip to Scotland is a possibility this year (preferably late May/early June). I know I want to visit Edinburgh again and then explore the Antonine Wall / Falkirk area. After all, Falkirk Councillor Adrian Mahoney promised me the wall would be tidy, so I should have a look. *grin*

But I'm not sure what else to see. Of course, there are places I would love to revisit, but it won't make much sense to do a Highlights of 1998 Memory tour. I do know I want to go further north and/or west, into the Grampians or Argyll. What I have seen on my past round trip are Edinburgh, the Border abbeys Melrose, Dryburgh and Jedburgh, Dunfermline Abbey, the castles of Craigmillar, Tantallon, Aberdour, Dirleton and Stirling, Bannockburn, Fort William with Glen Coe and Ben Nevis, Eilean Donan Castle, part of Skye (with Armadale), Inverness, Urquhart and Cawdor Castle, Culloden.

I may put Stirling Castle on my list again since part of it was closed due to renovation, but for the rest I'm rather overwhelmed with possibilites and the problems to reach places by public traffic. So I'm looking for some suggestions, preferably not found on the tourist sites, or places I should see despite the tourists. My readers will know what I'm looking for: Roman remains, Mediaeval castles and cathedrals (ruins or still intact), and nature. Any of my Scottish friends got some ideas?

  Spring Has Finally Arrived

And so have the birch pollen. Achee.

But a warm breeze and sunshine are an improvement to blizzards, allergies nonwithstanding.

Nature is really catching up, though the pics are from May last year; there is not that much green yet.

Photos taken in the Kiesteiche park only a few minutes walk from my flat.

Miscellaneous musings of an aspiring Historical Fiction 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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Location: Germany

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.