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


31.10.09
  Happy Halloween

Or should that be Scary Halloween, lol?

Get out of the woods before it's dark.

A way in the Harz National Park

 


25.10.09
  Doune Castle - A Virtual Tour

This post is not only aimed at my regular readers, but also at the fans of George RR Martins' epic Fantasy series, A Song of Ice and Fire on the Westeros forums. The books may be turned into a TV series by HBO, and filming of the pilot has started this weekend. Besides shootings in Belfast and Morocco, Doune Castle will be used for some settings, most probably Winterfell, the seat of Lord Eddard Stark (played by Sean Bean; it can't get any better than that *wipes drool off keyboard*).

The rest of the cast for the pilot can be seen here. They acquired a number of good actors, and with Jason Momoa as Khal Drogo another hottie besides Bean (says I, lol).

If you are interested, please, follow me on a virtual tour of the castle:

Doune Castle, north front

Contrary to most castles in Scotland that have been altered over the times, Doune is the product of a single building period and has survived relatively unchanged - albeit somewhat renovated - until today. It was built by Robert Stewart, Duke of Albany (1340-1420, duke since 1398), son of King Robert II of Scotland and Regent of Scotland since 1388, ruling first for a weak father and then for his nephew, James I, who was a prisoner of the English. He may also have had a hand in the untimely demise of another nephew, David Duke of Rothesay, but that could never be proven.

Robert Stewart became Earl of Menteith by marriage to the heiress Margaret Graham, and was granted the lands on which Castle Doune stands in 1361. It's the earliest date construction may have started. The castle was at least partially complete in 1381 when a charter was signed there.

Courtyard seen from the Lord's Hall
(The windows are glazed today, thus I could not avoid some reflections)

Doune was obviously planned as courtyard with buildings on all sides (there are windows in the southern curtain wall, fe.), but the only buildings that were completed are the gatehouse tower with the rooms of the lord and his family, the great hall, and the kitchen tower with kitchen and guest rooms. Those buildings range along the north and part of the west side. Doune can be seen as development towards the palaces arranged around a courtyard like Linlithgow, built in the 15th and 16th century. Though the curtain walls of Doune were much stronger than the defenses, if you can call them that, of Linlithgow Palace. The remaining stonework is still mostly from the later 14th century.

The castle displays the wealth and status of its owner, who was called the 'Big Spender' - though Doune was not the only castle he spent big on, albeit it became his favourite residence.

Doune Castle, Gatehouse Tower

The rectangular gatehouse tower has a size of 18 x 13 metres (59x43 ft) and rises to 29 metres (95 ft), according to Wikipedia. The Historic Scotland guidebook gives no measurements. There is a projecting round tower on the north-east corner; I guess one possible function could have been to shoot missiles at attackers of the gate. The somewhat older Dunstaffnage Castle once had a corner tower serving that purpose.

The gatehouse tower held the lord's hall and three storeys of chambers. The function of most of those can only be guessed at since comparable architectural features have not been found in other castles

Entrance archway

The 14 metres long vaulted passage was once secured by timber doors and iron grilles, so called yetts, on both ends. The outer one can still be seen. On both sides are guardrooms; one serves as castle shop today. The entire entrance was separated from the rest of the castle, and the thick stone vault protected the tower from fire.

It could be used to film Lord Stark of Winterfell or even King Robert riding through. *grin*

Kitchen Tower, seen from the courtyard

The kitchen tower can be considered as second tower house, measung 17 x 8 metres (56x26 ft). The kitchen is on hall level, beneath are storage cellars. The kitchen had an oven for baking bread, and an 18 ft wide fireplace, large enough to roast entire animals on a spit. The vaulted ceiling has smoke holes above the windows, and there are slop-drains on one side.

A staircase leads to the so-called Royal Appertments on the upper floor. They are also known as Queen Mary's Chamber, though we can't be sure she ever visited Doune Castle. The chamber plus adjacent sleeping closet and latrine were fit to host guests of high rank. The location over the kitchen made the rooms some of the warmest in the castle.

Servery, seen from the entrance to the Great Hall

The righthand staircase on the photo of the kitchen tower leads into a triangular lobby, the servery, which links kitchen and hall. You can see two arched serving hatches on the left, big enough to pass a roast hog through; a feature unusual for the period. There's a nice drawing in the guidebook of servants retrieving platters from the hatches and carrying them into the hall, where the guests are seated. I bet GRR Martin would approve of a feature like that - after all, King Robert will want his meat hot and juicy. In other castles like Caernarfon, the way between kitchen and hall was much longer.

The Great Hall

The great hall is an impressive room of 20 x 8 metres (66x28 ft) and 12 metres (39 ft) high, with a timber roof (reconstructed in the 19th century) spouting a smolke hole in the middle. The hall has no fireplace and was probably heated by a central fire in a the fire basket like the one you can see today, though I wonder how much use that would be in a room of such dimensions. A roaring fireplace or two should have worked better.

The entrance is on the opposite side of the photo, with a wooden minstrel's gallery (also reconstructed) above, and a staircase leading down to the buttery where the wine and beer were kept. The walkways on the battlements could also be reached from the gallery.

Five windows of different shapes lit the hall. One large dais window hides a little side door to a latrine.

The Lord's Hall
(The mason must have been a bit drunk, compare the lines of the fireplace to the candelabrum.)

This large room above the entrance in the gatehouse tower and adjacent to the great hall is also called the Duke's Hall. It would have been used for smaller parties and audiences. The room has an unusual double fireplace which is original, but the furniture dates to the renovation of 1883. A staircase on the north side (not seen in the photo) gives access to the minstrel's gallery and the battlements. The staircase on the pic leads to a chamber above.

Said chamber has a fireplace and a latrine closet. It is assumed that it was the duke's bedchamber. As I said above, the function of some other rooms in the gatehouse tower and the annexed round tower are not easily to determined, but a similar chamber above the duke's could have been the duchess' bedchamber.

The Duchess' Hall

The second hall above the Lord's Hall that is supposed to have been the duchess' hall. Midway along the courtyard side is some sort of alcove that may have been screened from the rest of the room and served as oratory or private chapel (on the right side of the photo). On the wall is a so-called credence which held the consectated vessels and a basin to wash them. There would have been a small altar as well.

The ceiling of this room is missing today (you can see a glimpse of an upper floor window on the right). Originally, the topmost floor might have been divided into smaller chambers for the duke's family and higher ranking members of the staff and the duchess' ladies-in-waiting. A man of the social status of the Duke of Albany would have had a permanent staff of some 50 people - most of those had to bed down in the great hall and kitchen. Though the latter was probably not the worst place because it was warm. :)

Cellars in the Kitchen Tower

The crypts of Winterfell. Well, not really, those were storage cellars in the kitchen tower.

The Duke of Albany died in 1420, and both dukedom and Regency passed to his son Murdoch (born 1362). When King James I finally returned to Scotland after his ransom had been paid in 1424, he was not happy about the way some nobles had taken up control of the kingdom. He had Duke Murdoch of Albany and his sons arrested for treason and executed in 1425. Doune Castle fell to the Crown and served as hunting lodge for the Scottish monarchs during the next decades. In the end, the Stewards of Albany lost the Game of Thrones.

Some more pics are here.
 


24.10.09
  More Doune Photos

In addition to the above post with a virtual tour of Doune Castle, here are some additional photos of some places in the castle seen from a different angle.

Great Hall and Gatehouse Tower

Great hall in the middle of the pic and gatehouse tower to the right. The Pisa tower to the left is the kitchen tower. My camera can't prevent those funny angles from some perspectives, but I'm sure HBO has better equipment.

Great Hall

Another view of the Great Hall, towards the entrance side with the minstrel's gallery above. No party without music, lol.

View down from passage way

A shot down from the way between lord's hall and gallery. It was a sunny day when I visited Doune Castle; I don't know how dark the place will be on a rainy day. No wonder there seem to be lights outside the windows for the filming.

Lord's Hall

The lord's hall seen from the double fireplace. The wooden screen covering the stairs to the battlements is from the 19th century, but there may have been one in the Middle Ages as well. The flagstones are 19th century, too.

Courtyard

Seen from the entrance. I'm not sure what they're going to do about the pretty green grass that's probably turning into mud soon if many people tramp on it in the rain. It's not original anyway so the film crew is probably going to cover it somehow.
 


18.10.09
  Vintage Cars

I mentioned that we also visited the VW Works in Wolfsburg, a visit that turned out interesting even for a non-car geek like me. We saw part of the production but of course, it was not allowed to take photos there. But it was OK to do so in the Vintage Cars (Oldtimers in German) exhibition. So here are some fun old cars.

A very old oldtimer

It looks more like an XXL bicycle that has sprouted a third wheel, but the thing does indeed have a motor. Unfortunately, my brain didn't remember all the names of those cars. There were more than just VW models in the exhibition, though.

A coach without horses

Also a very old model. It looks like bit like a horse coach, but the power of the engine was more like that of a barouche landau. Though I'm sure Mrs Hugh Elton would have found it stylish had she lived a bit later. Or she might have prefered the model below.

A beautiful, large one

That one looks like the typical oldtimer. They had a number of those big beauties, all polished to a shine. But while the presentation background was really cool, it made for difficult photographing.

Front view with eyes

The front view of one of those big, beautiiful vintage cars. I think that one already has electrical lights, not carbide lamps, but I'm not sure. Maybe my father will remember. But it does have a shiny bumper. :)

A shiny rocket - a Cadiallac

It looks really flashy with those rocket-like thingies (tail fins, thank you Hank and Carla) along the back. A show off car, I bet. Probably drank gasoline like a blood-starved vampire, too. *grin*

A Star Trek model

Well, it's not really a car used in Star Trek, but it looks the part. You can imagine Spock looking at it in his usual expressionless way, "and I am supposed to ride in that?"

An Isetta

An Isetta, or bandaid-bomber (because you could repair it by slapping some bandaid on it). I asked my father to stand beside it so you can see how tiny those cars were. The entire roof opened for the passengers - it can hold two - to climb in.

A row of Beetles

Now we come to some of the true stars of VW, the Beetle or Käfer as they are called in Germany. That model was around with slight changes for I don't know how long, a true Volks-Wagen (people's car) because it was affordable for many.

'Our' Käfer

We had one, too, back in 1968 when I was a kid aged seven, my father's first car. We lived in Stuttgart then and I still recall tours to places nearby like Ulm with its great cathedral, and Lichtenstein, a castle that became famous thanks to Wilhelm Hauff's novel in the tradition of Sir Walter Scott's historical fiction.

Interior of the Käfer

Yeah, the interior of cars has changed a lot since the 60ies. But no modern AC and heating system beats the old hole under the backseat where the warm air came out. It was the only car in which I never had cold feet.
 


13.10.09
  Europe's Largest Quadriga

The quadriga atop the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin may be the most famous, but the one on the portico of the palace in Braunschweig is the largest in Europe. The present one has been standing there but a year, but its history goes further back.

The neo-Classicistic facade is in fact hiding a modern shopping mall. Of course, the shopping centre is larger than the former palace, but the modern part with its glass facades is so well integrated that you don't see it when approaching the palace from the direction of the castle square.

Front of the Palace in Braunschweig, with the quadriga on top

The original palace, residency of Duke Wilhelm of Braunschweig-Lüneburg, had been built in 1833-41 to the plans of Carl Theodor Ottmer. The quadriga was part of the original plans but was left out - together with other expensive statues and colonnades - because the duke wanted to save money.

In 1856 Duke Wilhelm celebrated 25 years of government, and the citizens of Braunschweig gifted him with the quadriga. Sculpturer Ernst Rietschel from Dresden designed the model; the quadriga was then crafted in copper repoussé technique by Georg Ferdinand Howaldt, a coppersmith from Braunschweig.

Closeup against the sky

A fire destroyed part of the palace in 1865, and the quadriga became its victim as well except for the head of the charioteer - or charioteeress, the allegoric town goddess of Braunschweig, Brunonia. Howaldt made a second, somewhat smaller version that was installed on the restored palace portico where it remained until the end´of WW2.

Much of Braunschweig itself and parts of the palace were destroyed by bombs during the war, but the quadriga survived only to fall victim to metal thieves after the war - copper was much sought after. The remains of the destroyed palace were further dismantled and for many years a park marked the fomer residency of the Dukes of Braunschweig-Lüneburg; a line of the House Welfen and thus related to the Import Kings of England George I - III.

Seen from the side, with a furtive ray of sunshine tinting the bronze golden

During the last years, the palace has been reconstructed using old plans and photos, as well as about 600 original pieces salvaged from the WW2 debris. The mall hiding behind the palace facade opened in 2007, and in October 2008 the new quadriga was installed on the portico. It is based on the original 1:3 gypsum model by Ernst Rietschel which still stands in the Albertinum in Dresden (a sculpture museum), but this time it was made of silicium bronze which is cheaper than copper. Duke Wilhelm of Braunschweig-Lüneburg wasn't the only one who had to look at his budget. Though they did go back to the larger version.

Seen from the other side, with a good view of Brunonia

The entire group is about 9 metres high, 9.5 m long, 7.5 m wide, and weighs 25.8 tons. Brunonia alone stands at 5.30 metres; her head was modeled after the original that had been saved from the fire in 1865. The bronze has its original, red golden colour now but it will develop the typical green patina over time.

The platform on which the quadriga stands can be visited at certain times, but that's an endeavour for sunnier weather than we had.
 


7.10.09
  Autumn has Arrived

The leaves begin to turn yellow and red, and on a hazy day, a golden shimmer lies over the woods. We've had the first autumn gale that sent the leaves dancing and the crows swirling towards the town with angry croaks. Mists veil the valleys in the morning, and the air smells of wet leaves and coming frost.

Woods at the Weser

It is my favourite time of the year. Somehow I always wax a lot more poetic when describing fall than spring. Maybe it's the gentle melancholy of this time that responds to my mood, the muted light and warm colours.

I just realised when looking through the archives that I wrote an autumn post every year. Blame it on the ton of autumn photos I have. Or on my sentimental side; whatever you want.

A hidden lake

Of course there are other days, too, days of what one website called Varus weather. Torrential rains and icy blasts that make the ground slippery and bend the branches. Days where you want to stay inside with a cup of hot tea and listen to the rain drops singing on the window panes.
 


2.10.09
  Mediaeval Braunschweig

I'm back from the Braunschweig (English 'Brunswick') visit. I got photos but not from the exhibition - I really don't know what's the problem with Medieaval exhibitions in Germany, since the Roman ones I've seen all allowed to take pictures. Culture is for sharing, not for hiding in vitrines for a privileged few to see. Ok, rant over.

I got exterior shots of the Burgplatz (Castle Square), though, and pics of the cathedral.

-- Dankwarderode Castle

Dankwarderode, palas building

This one's not on a hilltop for a change. It dates back to the 11th century and was expanded by Heinrich the Lion in the style of the palatine castle in Goslar in the 12th century. The entire castle took up the island in the Oker river and was considerably larger than todays 'castle square'. Dankwarderode and most of the old town of Braunschweig were destroyed in a fire 1252.

In the 17th century only the two storeyed palace building - rebuilt in Renaissance style - was still in use, and in the 19th century even that lay in ruins. But the palas was reconstructed on the ground plan of the Medieaval building in what's called Neoromanesque style. Except for the unhistorical staircase and the arrangement of the windows in the upper floor, it's a pretty adaequate representation of the exterior of Heinrich's palace, though.

-- A Romanesque cathedral

Braunschweig Cathedral

The cathedral was founded by Heinrich the Lion as chapter church in 1173 (after his return from a pilgrimage to Jeruslalem) and dedicated to St. Blasius and John the Baptist; later Thomas Beckett was added as patron, a pretty unusual patron saint as far as I can tell.

The building was only finished in 1226 - there seems to have been a break in construction during Heinrich's exile. Heinrich was buried in the cathedral after his death in 1195; the main nave, crypt and choir had been finished at that point.

Cathedral, main nave

The cathedral is built in the basilica style (which my readers should meanwhile be able to recongise) with three naves ending in apsides, transept and high quire, and a so-called Saxon Westwerk, the mostly unadorned western wall with the two towers. The ceiling of the main nave has one of the earliest surviving barrel vaultings in Germany.

There have been several changes, as usual with Mediaeval buildings. During one of those alterations a special feature was added: the pillars and cross grain vaults in the northern nave are of the English perpendicular style that was not normally used in Germany, the windows have so called Tudor bows.

-- Mediaeval murals

Cathedral, murals in the apsis

The crossing and apsides had been painted in secco mural style in 1230-1250. Those paintings have been recovered under layers of whitewash paint in 1845 and were 'reconstructed'. Unfortunatley, in the 19th century that meant not only refreshing the colours but also adding a few elements people thought looked Medieaval. But there are still enough orignal elements to give a good impression of 13th century sacral paintings esp. in the southern transept where the orginals have been recovered as far as possible. Murals in places where there had been none in the Middle Ages have also partly been ereased.

The photo above shows Christus Pantokrator, a motive that has its origins in the Byzantine art.

-- Shinies

Decoration of a casket containing bones of a martyr

There is a permanent exhibition of Medieaval art in the Squire Hall (Knappensaal) of Dankwarderode Castle, mostly of the sacral variant like crucifixes, reliquaries and a few tapestries with religious motives. It is part of the Duke Anton Ulrich Museum in Braunschweig.

Since that one's not part of the Otto IV exhibition, taking pictures without flash was allowed.

-- Some lions

Original of the lion statue of Heinrich the Lion

The Lion of Braunschweig, the heraldic animal of the Welfen family (Welf means lion cub) was commissioned by Heinrich the Lion in 1166. It demonstrated his ducal position and power. The lion is the oldest remaining large style sculpture north of the Alpes - the bronze cutie is 1.78 m high and 2.79 m long - and probably forged in Braunschweig itself. Its models are the Capitoline Wolf (the one that's causing discussions whether it is Etruscan or Medieaval), the Lion of Venice and the Marc Aurel statue in Rome. Heinrich had seen those sculptures during Emperor Barbarossa's first two Italian wars.

There is a copy on the castle square, standing on a big stone pedestal. You can see it in the first pic. The original is kept in the museum because pollution would damage the bronze.
 


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.

My Photo
Name:
Location: Germany

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.


e-mail

Twitter