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


28.7.10
  The Kugelsburg - Part 1: The Rise of the Counts of Everstein

Like so many other German castles, the Kugelsburg near Volkmarsen was built on a hill in order to protect a road or crossing. In this case it was the ford across the Twiste river on the road from Fritzlar to Paderborn, both important towns in the 11-12th century.

The Kugelsburg changed hands several times, and there are traces of Romansque and Gothic styles mixed together.

Kugelsburg, hall with the round keep

The land was held by the family of Everstein as fief from Corvey Monastery. The main seat of the Counts of Everstein (first documented appearance in 1122) was Castle Everstein at the Weser, but few remains of that are left, so the Kugelsburg makes for much better illustrations. They obtained the lands around Volkmarsen by marriage: in 1120 Konrad of Everstein married Mechthild of Itter, daughter of a noble Saxon family that existed since the time of Charlemagne. It was the first step to a nice little realm of allodial and feudal possessions at the Weser and in northern Hessia.

Kugelsburg, the square keep

The male line of the Itter family had died out in 1123, and the heiresses of Folkmar of Itter gave their allodial land to Corvey - a good way to get protection with no men around. As feudal overlord now Corvey was bound to assisst them.

Corvey at that time enjoyed imperial immediacy (Reichsfreiheit; it was under the direct authority of the emperor) and was a very powerful Benedictine monastery with possessions in several parts of northern Germany. This worked well under the north-centered Salian House, but when the Staufen family became kings and emperors and moved the centre to southern Germany, Corvey lost some of the royal protection. As a result, the monastery gathered even more land and got into conflict with, among others, the dukes of Braunschweig and the archbishops of Cologne. Therefore the abbots of Corvey had their vassals build castles at the borders of the lands Corvey owned, among them the Kugelsburg.

The rise of the family began when Albert II of Everstein supported Friedrich Barbarossa in his war with Heinrich the Lion. His feudal links to Corvey, Cologne and Mainz (for various possessions the family had gathered) put him on the Emperor's side except for the conflicting position as Vogt (reeve) of Helmarshausen which belonged to Heinrich, though there was another, perhaps more important reason:

In 1167, Albert II of Everstein had maried Richeza (Riquilda) of Poland, the daughter of Wladislav II 'the Exiled' Duke of Poland and Silesia and Agnes of Austria. Richeza was a cousin of the Emperor Friedrich Barbarossa and by her marriages Queen of León and Castile, Countess of Provence and Countess of Everstein. I'll try to sort out that mess.

Her mother Agnes of Austria was the daughter of Duke Leopold II of Austria and Agnes of Waiblingen (1072 - 1143), daughter of the Emperor Heinrich IV and Bertha of Turin. Her brother, Emperor Heinrich V, was married to Mathilde, daughter of Henry I of England.

Agnes of Babenberg-Waiblingen had first been married to Friedrich I Duke of Swabia (1050 - 1105), with whom she had two sons: Konrad who would become the first Staufen king as Konrad III, and Friedrich II of Swabia. Friedrich II married Judith, daughter of Heinrich 'the Black' of the House Welfen and Wulfhild of Saxony. Their son would be known as Friedrich Barbarossa (1122 - 1190).

Another son of Heinrich the Black and Wulfhild was Heinrich the Proud, father of Heinrich the Lion (1130? - 1195).

After Friedrich's death, Agnes married Leopold of Austria (in 1106) with whom she had several children, among them Agnes of Austria, the mother of Richeza (1135? - 1185).

Kugelsburg, inner curtain wall with the round keep in the background

Let's add some more geneaolgy fun: Before she was married to Albert of Everstein, Richeza had first been married to Alfonso VII of Castile (from 1152 - 1157) with whom she had a daughter, Sancha (later married to Alfonso II of Aragon; their daughter Constance would 1209 become the wife of Friedrich I of Sicily, rival for the position of Holy Roman Emperor to Henrich the Lion's son Otto IV).

Alfonso of Castile had priorly been married to Berenguela of Barcelona and was father of, among others, another Sancha who married Sancho VI 'the Wise' of Navarre. They were the parents of Berengaria, the future wife of Richard Lionheart of England (1157 - 1199)

Alfonso's sons from his first marriage didn't get along with Richeza who fled to Aragon where she met her second husband (1161 - 1166), Raymond Berenguer II Count of Provence. Their daughter and sole heir Douce of Provence was ousted by the husband of her half-sister Sancha, Alfonso II of Aragon. The whole Spanish / southern French lot was more than a bit dysfunctional.

Let's hope Richeza found some peace in her third marriage to Albert II of Everstein.

The square keep against the evening sun

Their son Albert III Count Everstein was married to Agnes of Wittelsbach, and those two had 12 surviving children. One daughter was married to Gottschalk Lord of Plesse, another to Burchard IV of Scharzfels - both linking back to two other castles I have visited. *grin* One of their sons, Otto II (1219 - 1282), would become imperial reeve (Reichsvogt) of Göttingen.

Albert III (1170-1217) is said to have built Kugelsburg Castle, but the statements on the websites are somewhat contradictory; it could well have been Albert II who built the first castle.

Another mess is the presentation of the feudal relationships. One site says the town of Volkmarsen had been a fief held from the Archbishop of Mainz, but another says the Itter heiresses gave their lands to Corvey, and Konrad of Everstein held them as fief from Corvey. If it's correct that pope Hadrian IV confirmed Corvey's rights to Volkmarsen in 1155, the second version is more plausible. Maybe there was some quarrels between Mainz and Corvey about who owned the land.

View from the bailey into the vale

After the fall of Heinrich the Lion in 1184, Albert III became vassal of Philipp of Heinsberg, Archbishop of Cologne and Duke of Westphalia (1130-1191; he won big time in that war). Philipp used to buy the castles of his vassals and returned them as fiefs. That way Philipp remained vassal of the emperor and his vassals still held their fiefs as imperial ones, but there was a stronger personal connection between the archbishop and his vassals nevertheless. Now, this is something that could not have happened for the lands around Volkmarsen which the Eversteins already held as fief and could not sell. It can only mean their allodial possessions of Everstein Castle and the lands around that one. If Albert held Everstein from Cologne and Volkmarsen and the Kugelsburg from Corvey, it could have led to some problems.

View from the bailey to the remains of the outer curtain wall

In 1233, another pope - Gregor IX - confirmed Corvey's rights to the Kugelsburg and the town of Volkmarsen. Again. Why did he need to do that, was there another a discussion about feudal rights and Mainz' claim to Volkmarsen?

Well, whatever lay behind all that, the Counts of Everstein lived in the Kugelsburg from 1239-1293, obviously quarreling with the town of Volkmarsen a few times. In 1255, Konrad II of Everstein had to pawn out part of the Kugelsburg to the monastery of Gehrden - looks like a few lawyers got rich on those feudal quarrels. The decline of the family continued when they could not defend their ancient seat of Everstein against the Welfen who conquered the castle in 1284.

Part 2 can be found here
More about the Counts of Everstein can be found here
 


23.7.10
  A Short Note

I've taken down the three posts about the Varus Battle and Germanicus' campaigns. I had done some research before I wrote them and they didn't contain any mistakes, but those posts represented my knowlege in 2006. As I mentioned before, a good number of new books and essays have been published last year, plus I had the luck to attend a series of lectures and seminars by Prof. G. A. Lehmann here in Göttingen during the last months. Therefore I want to present you with some better and up-to-date essays about the Romans in Germania. They will be a bit more academic in tone than my usual posts; I hope you'll bear with that. I can still promise some photos to illustrate them. :) It's going to be a loose series, starting with Caesar's crossing of the Rhine 55 BC until the campaigns of Germanicus 14-16 AD.
 


17.7.10
  More About Roman Transport

There were basically three ways to pack wares for transport: barrels, sacks, and amphorae. Barrels were the most widespread variant and could come in different sizes. Including an XXL variant.

(Roman barrel found in Oberaden, LWL Museum Haltern)

We even know what was in that big barrel: Wine. Lots of wine. Those legionaries were a thirsty lot, it seems. It's a lucky find since timber seldom survives 2000 years in the ground. Besides being thirsty, our legionaries also liked their olives, salted ham and lots of other food that would have been transported in barrels. Not to forget garum, the fishy Roman ketchup. :)

A little aside: Barrels were still used in the Middle Ages; there are some lanes in the Hansa town of Lübeck just wide enough that you can roll a barrel along. At that time, even cloth would have been rolled up and packed into barrels but I'm not sure if the Romans did that.

Rolling barrels was surely more fun than hauling heavy sacks around. Though the lanes in Lübeck go uphill, and so did the roads to several Romans forts - maybe not that much fun, after all.

Wheat was usually transported in sacks but one of the better preserved barges shows the grain had been put in loose. Maybe the transport company had run out of sacks and sent the much needed wheat off anyway. At the destination harbour, some poor sods on extra service probably had the ungrateful task of shoveling the stuff into sacks and carry it to the fort. Makes you wonder how much got lost that way, though maybe the legionaries were a bit tired of porridge. *grin*

Some amphorae, AP Museum Xanten

Amphorae were mostly used for luxury items that came in smaller amounts. First class olive oil for the general's table and such. To make sure the amphorae won't break, they often were put into a chest with sand. Better than those modern styrofoam packing peanuts that stick to curious cats. Ask Constance.

There are some XXL sized amphorae around, but most of them seem to have been used on seagoing vessels; the gound of the Mediterranean is littered by shards from the ones that never made it to their destination. It's difficult to approximate the amphora / barrel ratio, because timber decays more easily.

Wooden chests were also used, mostly to transport private belongings and tools (the chest found on the carpenter's barge).
 


12.7.10
  Ships on the Rhine, Roman Style

A Roman legionary got 960 gram wheat every day, for bread or porridge. A full strength legion had about 5000-5500 men, and Varus fielded three legions in 9 AD (plus two left behind in Moguntiacum). Do the maths - that's a lot of wheat. Plus wine, olives, cheese, bacon and other food, leather and cloth, iron to repair weapons .... The supplies for the army were always a logistic nightmare, and even more so in countries with no Roman infrastructure. Nor did the German tribes grow enough grain to feed that swarm of mail-clad cicadas.

Rivers played an important role in the supply lines. The area in question (middle and northern Germany) was framed by the south-north running Rhine and Elbe, with the Ems and Weser cutting their way in the same direction in between. Two larger rivers run east-west towards the Rhine, the Lippe (which confluences at Vetera/Xanten) and the Main (which meets the Rhine at Moguntiacum/Mainz). Those two rivers became the main deployment lines into Germania during the conquests of Drusus (11 BC) until Germanicus' campaigns (16 AD).

Remains of a Roman transport barge, APX Museum Xanten

Even a smaller barge like this one found in Waadt near Xanten could transport 10 tons of cargo, way more than a mule cart or ox waggon. It was originally 14-15 metres long but had a draught of only 50 cm which allowed manoeuvering in flat waters. The curve of the prow allowed to drag it onshore without needs of a proper quai. It was discovered in 1991, in a place that once had been a canal leading from the Rhine to the harbour in Colonia Ulpia Traiana (Xanten*). According to dendrochronology it dates to 95 AD but the barges used in earlier times were much the same.

Larger barges could be up to 35 metres long and 6 metres wide, with a draught of 1m - they looked much like a smaller version of the modern transport barges. Often they were dismantled when they were in bad repair, and the hulk used as foundation for dykes and such, but some better preserved finds show that at least some of them had a cabin or two at the back.

Model of the De Meern barge (Utrecht / Haltern)

This model of a barge found near Utrecht (Netherlands) represents one of those lucky finds not part of the Roman reuse program, but probably a shipwreck. The bulkheads are well preserved as are traces of the cabin and the open kitchen with a tile stove. The cabin contained a bed and a clothes chest that also served as chair, and the bargee was the proud owner of several saws, a hovel, a drill, and other tools of a carpenter as well as a stylus and wax tablets. The vessel shows traces of a new caulking and has been upkept for some 30 years.

This barge, dating to 148 AD, is unusually slender, 14.7 metres in length but only 1.7 metres wide. Maybe it was a repair barge that would mostly carry things needed for the work of a carpenter who travelled to the forts at the Lippe river to help with kaput furniture and other items. Though timber itself was the one thing you could easily find in Germania.

Close to this one another barge has been found that transported 20 tons of wheat. Analysis of weeds mixed in has shown that it came from Gaul.

Remains of the Zwammerdam 3 barge, Utrecht
(lent to the LWL Museum Haltern for the Imperium exhibition 2009)

This one, another find from Utrecht displayed in Haltern last year, is particularly interesting because it follows the structure of a dugout, not the usual Roman plank techinque, though several features have been added that turn this one into a Roman ship, like holdings for a mast, gunwale and frames. With a size of 10.7 x 1.25 metres it's another slender barge, suited for use also in smaller rivers with even more meanders than the ancient Rhine.

Roman tranport barges were mostly hauled, though they had a sail as well. The average distance was 15 kilometres a day upriver, that would mean a boat could cover the way from Vetera to Haltern in four days. Since the rivers changed so much, no traces of hauling paths have been found.

Not all of this work was done by the Roman army, it's assumed that some of the transport business was given to private companies.

The Neumagen wine ship

A somewhat younger (220 AD) and different ship is represented in this stone carved grave monument found in Neumagen-Dhron at the Moselle (which confluences into the Rhine at Koblenz). That area belonged to the province of Gallia Belgica and was thus Romanised. The Moselle was part of the river system infrastructure that connected Gaul with Germania back when the Romans were present in the latter. The Gallic wheat mentioned above may have come down the Moselle.

The monument can be seen in the Rheinisches Landesmuseum Trier. It was commissioned by a wealthy wine merchant and originally consisted of two ships. That guy surely liked it big. The display side of the ship shows four large wine barrels, six oarsmen but 22 oars, and a helmsman.

The ship has been reconstructed in 2007, using this monument and other finds as foil. It's 18 metres long with 42 oars, but it has a modern engine as well. The Stella Noviomagi (Star of Neumagen) can be rent for cruises on the Moselle.

The reconstructed Victoria

With its oars and the dragon heads at prow and stern the Stella Noviomagi looks more like the Roman war ships, esp. the light river patrol ships like the reconstructed Victoria which dates to the first century AD.

A question still disputed is whether some of the patrol ships would serve as escort of transport barges, or whether the barges may rather have added some soldiers to the crew. It could even be that the Romans felt so secure in Germania after the mass surrender to Tiberius in 4 AD that they didn't protect their transports.


* Vetera is the Roman fort, Colonia Ulpia Traiana the town that developed near it and was granted rights of a colonia under Trajan (53-117 AD; its remains are now part of the Archaeological Park Xanten).

Sources:
The catalogue to the exhibition: 2000 Jahre Varusschlacht, vol 2, Imperium. Theiss/Stuttgart 2009
 


3.7.10
  Ships on the Rhine

All that water looks even better now than it did on a rainy day in May. Though you can't swim in the Rhine anyway, the currents and the traffic are too dangerous. The photos were taken during the cruise from Boppard to Bingen.

A paddle steamer

Most of the ships of the fleets that offer Rhine cruises are modern, but there are also more nostalgic ones around, like this paddle steamer. Not quite the Mississippi tour, but still nice. Some of the larger ships offer cabins for a longer journey, including a luxury variant with lots of gold, mahoganny, and velvet.

A cargo vessel

This is one of the typical cargo ships trafficking the Rhine. As I mentioned before, they have a house at the stern, including a parking lot for the car. What you can't see in this image is how long those vessels are.

Another transport barge

I didn't catch the entire barge even here, there are some metres missing at the bow. Except for the cabin part, they are very low profile though sometimes the cargo is higher than the railing, with the covers remaining open.

Another cruise ship

Another of the cruise ships going downstream. In the background is one of the many castles along the Rhine, Ehrenfels, framed by vineyards. There's even a bit of blue sky. In a way, it's the archetypical Rhine picture.
 


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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