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


22.4.10
  Spring in the Hardenberg Castle Gardens

Spring took its time this year, but now it's making up. All that pretty green comes out faster than you can look. Too bad the birch pollen come out faster than you can sneeze as well.

Hardenberg Castle Gardens

But that blasted allergy isn't going to keep me inside, not on a warm and sunny day. So I took a walk in the gardens of Hardenberg Castle last Sunday. I've mentioned in an older post that the family eventually left the castle on the mountain and built a Renaissance style palace in the valley, surrounded by a park. Part of it is open to the public.

View from one of the high paths

It's an English style landscape park where the plants are allowed to grow more or less naturally, and since the grounds reach from the valley up a slope, there are several levels of paths, opening to new views.

A carpet of blue flowers

Spring is the time where the sunrays still reach the ground, and the flowers are making good use of it. Soon the foliage will be too dense to let much sunshine through, but right now the light effects of a late afternoon sun can be amazing.

Closeup of a blue flower

I don't know what those blue flowers are called, but they are pretty. Anyone got an idea what those are? I'm not sure if it's a wild flower or maybe some domesticated sort that has run out of control and reconquered the forest ground.

A carpet of white flowers

More spring flowers, this time in white. Birds where everywhere, too, but they are too fast for my camera. There were not many visitors around, so everything was quiet (except for the birds, but I don't mind their 'look ate me; look at that pretty nest I built' chirping) and peaceful.

Garden art

The Hardenberg family also has a distillery plus shop, and a restaurant on the castle grounds, so my father and I had a nice dinner on local venison. And I got me a bottle of a special Hardenberg herbal liquor which is very yummy.

Garden art, a different angle

The distillery can be seen in the background of this photo. The Castle Gardens are sometimes used for art exhibitions, and there's a Mediaeval tournament in summer, riding competitions on the grounds outside the park, concerts, and other events.
 


17.4.10
  The Gospels of Heinrich the Lion

The Evangeliar Heinrichs des Löwen may be somewhat less well known than the Book of Kells, but it's more expensive. And very pretty, too. The book is kept in a safe in the Herzog August Library in Wolfenbüttel (near Braunschweig) and is only shown to the public on rare occasions. But facsimiles are displayed in several places connected with Heinrich and/or the manuscript, fe. in the cathedral in Braunschweig and the parish church in Helmarshausen. Thus I've collected some photos last year.

Double page displayed in the cathedral in Braunschweig

The Gospels with their 50 miniatures had been commissioned by Duke Heinrich as donation for the St.Blasius Cathedral in Braunschweig, in particular the altar dedicated to Virgin Mary. The book was crafted in the Benedictine Abbey of Helmarshausen, one of the rich Mediaeval abbeys along the Weser (I've mentioned the abbeys of Bursfelde and Lippoldsberg in several posts, but not much remains of the buildings in Helmarshausen). Construction of the cathedral in Braunschweig started in 1173, the altar of Virgin Mary was consecrated in 1188. Thus, and because historians never agree on something, we get two possible dates for the Gospels: 1173-75 or 1188.

St.Blasius Cathedral in Braunschweig; the crypt,
with my father standing in the glow of the illuminated Gospels facsimile

The Gospels of Heinrich the Lion became a private possession of the Welfen family in 1866, who transfered the manuscript to Austria where it disappeared during the world wars. It popped up again as an anonymous delivery to Sotheby's in London in 1983. After it had been confirmed to be genuine, the German government, the counties of Lower Saxony and Bavaria (once Heinrich's dukedoms), the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, and a number of private donators threw together a truckload of money and bought the book at an auction for 32.5 million D-Mark (£ 8,140,000, more worth in 1985 than today). Only Bill Gates spent more on a manuscript when he bought Leonardo da Vinci's so called Codex Hammer in 1994.

The Creation

The facsimiles are quite expensive as well and kept under glass which makes photographing a bit tricky, but I managed some unblurred shots.

The Gospels of Heinrich the Lion contain 266 pages with the text of the four gospels, decorated with 50 full page miniatures, and further embellished with some 1500 smaller and 84 larger initials laid out in purple, gold and silver ink. It is one of the finest examples of Mediaeval manuscripts and counts as one of the most important works of Romanesque book illumination. The book was displayed in an exhibition in Braunschweig in 1986, so I had the rare chance to see the original.

The Coronation, closeup (cfr. first picture, lower left)

One of the most famous illuminations is the Coronation. It shows Heinrich the Lion kneeling in the centre, behind him stand his father Heinrich the Proud, his mother Gertrude, and her parents, Emperor Lothar of Süpplingenburg and Richenza of Northeim. Mathilde is accompanied by her father, King Henry II of England and his mother Maud (Mathilde). There is another 'unidentified person' on her side, but Henry didn't bring the rest of his dysfunctional family along which I find quite telling. Both Heinrich and Mathilde are richly dressed and hold golden crucifixes. The crowns which Jesus presents to them are probably to be interpreted as crowns of eternal life, not of some worldly rule, which is confirmed by the text in the banners.

Another double page, displayed in the parish church of Helmarshausen

Heinrich was never crowned, but one may wonder if there is not a political subtext to the picture, a claim to the position of emperor - Heinrich's claim was as good as Friedrich Barbarossa's in whose favour he had stepped down (in exchange for Saxony and Bavaria). If we assume the earlier date for the manuscript, it would fall into the time when Heinrich's conflict with Emperor Barbarossa started, while the latter date would be after Heinrich's first exile, thus in a time when he had lost most of his power and was less likely to have any ambitions towards a crown. Though Barbarossa never trusted Heinrich; when he went on crusade (where he died), he sent Heinrich back to England. The omission of Eleanor and any of King Henry's sons points to a time when that family had broken apart for good.

The Burial of Jesus

We can't say for sure, and a double meaning may well have been intended. The Gospels stand in a tradition of religious foundations to gain bonus points towards a place in Heaven, and it's clearly stated in the Dedication picture and text that Heinrich and Mathilde dedicated this 'gold-gleaming book' to Christus in hope of eternal life.

Mathilde's love for books extended to the vernacular - she comissioned the German translation of the Chanson de Roland. In that she was a worthy daughter of Eleanor of Aquitaine.

Christ's Ascension

When I saw the original I was amazed how well preserved the mansucript is. The facsimile versions don't tamper with the colours; all that gold, silver, purple and indigo is so bright and clear - in fact, the gold is somewhat duller in the facsimile version. A few letters have faded, but that's about it.

The codex stands in a tradition of book illumination that had its first peak at the time of Charlemagne. But also the Ottonian emperors comissioned some beautiful manuscripts (pity that photographing wasn't allowed in the Magdeburg exhibition I visited some years ago).

Helmarshausen, seen from Krukenburg Castle

Another interesting aspect is the fact that we know the name of the artist: a monk Heriman who names himself at the end of the Dedication poem. Abbot Konrad II had ordered him, Heriman, to create that codex which was comissioned by Duke Heinrich. It is very unusual for that time for an artist to identify himself. There were a few writers who added their name, beginning with the mysterious Turold who wrote the Chanson de Roland, to Jehan Bodel, Chretien de Troyes and others, but it was even less common for artists like manuscript illuminators. Though one can't blame Heriman for being proud of his creation.
 


9.4.10
  Rhine Tour 2010

I'll be doing a somewhat shorter tour this year: 8 days along the Rhine in May, in search of Romans and other fun. I'll start with Xanten, the ancient Colonia Ulpia Traiana (and the castellum Castra Vetera) which has a shiny new Roman museum, an Archaeological Park, and some other remains, plus a Gothic cathedral. Xanten is also connected with the Song of the Nibelungs (there's a new Nibelung Museum as well), where it is named as the home of Siegfrid the Dragonslayer.

The next station will be Moguntiacum, aka Mainz. That one has two Roman-themed museums, the Römisch-Germanisches Nationalmuseum and the Nautic Museum, and other Roman remains spread all over the town: a temple, remains of an amphitheatre, aqueduct pillars and more. Gotta do some walking there. There's also another splendid cathedral, the Gutenberg Museum and other interesting things.

We're back to the Nibelungs with a visit to Worms. It was at the main gate of the cathedral where the two queens, Brünhild and Kriemhild (Gutrun in the Edda versions), quarreled about who was to enter the church first, which led to a really big desaster. I've seen the cathedral - another Romanesque one - as kid right at the age when I read all those epics for the first time, so it will be interesting to see the place again.

The mountains framing the Rhine between Mainz and Koblenz are dotted with castles (though a number of them are 19th century reconstructions which look a bit more Victorian than Mediaeval), so I'll try to catch at least one: the Rheinfels where old remains meet with 17th century fortifications. It's the largest castle in the area. I'll also plan for a ship cruise on the Rhine. Hold your thumbs for sunshine. :)

A little jewel will be Baudobriga, better known as Boppard today, a Celtic settlement turned Roman fort, turned Medieaval town. What put it on my list is the fact that it has the best preserved Roman walls in Germany. It may be of interest to Carla that a church has been built on the remains of the Roman baths, and later the bishop of Trier (or, according to a new essay, Richard of Cornwall) put a big rectangular donjon right into one corner of the old Roman fortifications; the one castle along the Middle Rhine not perching on top of some mountain.

In case anyone wonders why Cologne didn't make it onto the list - that one only has a big, gaping hole in the middle of the town and a dusty church right now. I'll wait for the underground to be finished before I go there.

The photos shows the trees outside my balcony with raindrops sparkling in the sunshine.
 


3.4.10
  Happy Easter

I wish everyone a happy Easter.


 


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.


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