My Travel and History Blog, Focussing mostly on Roman and Mediaeval Times


16/06/2019
  To Drink the Waters since the Middle Ages - The Spa Town Karlovy Vary / Karlsbad

I only took a brief walk through the centre of Karlovy Vary (Czech Republic). The town has a lot of pretty, and even splendid, buildings of the Neo-Classicist, Art Déco and Art Nouveau styles that have been lovingly restored. Nevertheless, the overcast sky and lack of green (except for some willows in the park) early in the year made it look a bit grey. I'm sure Karlovy Vary will be lovely when the sun sparkles in the water, the trees are green, and the façades of the houses shine in their bright colours. You'll have to deal with the less colourful photos, I'm afraid.

Karlovy Vary, square at the Teplá river

Karlovy Vary is situated at the confluence of the river Ohře and the warm water river Teplá; site of 13 main springs and about 300 smaller ones. The healing properties of the waters have long been known; traces of settlements in the area date to the Bronze Age. The first mention of the place in the Middle Ages is the Breve testatum, a charte dating to 1325, signed by King John 'the not yet Blind' of Bohemia, which mentions hunting grounds at the 'horké lázně u Lokte' (= the hot springs near Loket).

The date of the charte disproves the legend according to which it was King Charles of Bohemia (1), John's son, who found the well during a hunt when he watched a hind drinking from the waters. Charles was in the Loket area a few months after the battle of Crécy (August 1346) where his father died, but he did not discover the warm springs which were already known. He might have made use of their healing properties, though, since it seems he still suffered from a leg wound he received during his retreat from the Crécy battlefield (2).

Pretty houses along the Teplá river

Charles built a hunting lodge near the springs which developed into a settlement. He granted the place the privileges of a town in 1370. The town was then called Karlovy Vary (= the warm baths of Charles); Karlsbad in German. No buildings or ruins of the Mediaeval town remain.

At first, the waters would only be used for baths; the internal use by drinking the waters only started in the 16th century. One doctor Wenceslas Payer from Loket wrote a "Disquisition about the Thermal springs of the Emperor Charles IV Situated near Elbogen and St. John's Valley, Issued by Doctor Wenceslas Payer from Elbogen, Devoted to the Venerated and gracious Count and Lord Stefan Schlick" (3) in 1522, in which he suggests drinking the water in addition to taking baths.

View from the Teplá river to the houses uphill

The town was hit badly by a flood in May 1582 - the houses were mostly along the valley at the time and not up the slopes of the surrounding hills - and again damanged by fire in 1604. Karlovy Vary recovered slowly, but in 1707, it got its privileges a royal free city confirmed by the emperor Joseph I. Bohemia at the time was a consituent part of the Habsburg Empire. Sojourns by the Russian tsar Peter the Great in 1711 and 1712 increased interest in the healing properties of the waters, and more people of standing visited the town.

Empress Maria Theresa commissioned the Mill Colonnade in 1762. A special spa tax was introduced in 1795; the money was used for the upkeep of the public buildings. There were also hospitals for the poor who else could not have afforeded a stay in the spa.

Mill Colonnade, interior

An important figure in 18th century Karlovy Vary was the physician and balneologist David Becher (1725-1792) who established a 'modern' use of the waters. He was born in Karlovy Vary, studied Medicine and Chemistry in Prague, then traveled to Italy and Austria to further improve his knowledge. Later, he became dean of the Medical Faculty in Prague, but returned to Karlovy Vary in 1758.

At the time, baths and drinking waters were applied according to the principle 'the more the better' (drinking several litres of the lukewarm stuff while lying in bed, fe.). Becher changed that to 'less is more'. He also recommended walks in the fresh air and diets, and thus started a use of spas not so different from today. One of his more famous patients was the German writer and historian Friedrich von Schiller who suffered from indigestive problems.

Becher analysed the properties of the waters and noticed that one important component was carbon dioxide, in addition to several minerals. The waters were - and still are - used for all sorts of indigestive, gyneological and metabolic problems (drinking) and afflictions of muscles and joints (baths).

View from the Mill Colonnade

Visiting Karlovy Vary became popular in the 19th century. Among the visitors were the emperor Francis Joseph I, the composers Ludwig van Beethoven and Frédéric Chopin, the German writer and polymath Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, the Russian writer Nikolaj Gogol, the psychologist Sigmund Freud and others. Taking the waters was not only a medical process, but a society event (and half of those visiting were not really ill). Spas became fashionable.

They still are: Nowadays, Karlovy Vary hosts a film festival which has been attended by stars like Antonio Banderas, Robert de Niro, John Malkovic, Renée Zellweger and others.

Mill Colonnade interior, different angle with a well in the foreground

I got a British connection for you as well. *grin* One of the more popular, and definitely more generous, visitors of Karlovy Vary was the Scottish Lord James Ogilvy, 7th Earl of Findlater and Peer of Scotland (1750 - 1811). He studied at Oxford, then went to Brussels where he married Cristina Teresa Murray, though they only lived together for a short time. It is assumed that he spent so much time out of Scotland in some sort of self-imposed exile due to his homosexual orientation.

Findlater spent a lot of time in Karlovy Vary, called Carlsbad in English, since 1794. He gave large sums of money to local charities and improved the surroundings of the town - he was an amateur landscape architect of considerable skill and taste who worked in other places as well, for example in Dresden where he settled for good. He built a palace overlooking the Elbe river and lived there with his personal secretary Johann Georg Fischer (4).

View from one of the bridges across the Teplá river

The spa became even more popular with the construction of railway lines from Cheb and Prague in 1870. Another building boom followed suit. Most of the prior buildings followed the Neoclassical style, but the new houses followed the Art Nouveau style. Many fine examples can still be seen today. They were financed by donations, the sale of the Carlsbad Salt (an extract of the minerals from the wells), and the spa tax.

The number of visitors reached 70,000 plus in 1911, but the outbreak of WW1 disrupted the tourism.

Park Colonnade

A large number of the west-Bohemian population was German-speaking, and Karlovy Vary mostly known as Karlsbad. But after WW1, Bohemia was incorporated into the new state of Czechoslovakia, and suddenly speaking the Czech language was required. Many German inhabitants of Karlovy Vary protested.

Unsurprisingly, most of the German-speaking population of Czechoslovakia welcomed the return of the newly named 'Sudentenland' to Germany in 1938. The controversial Munich Agreement between Germany, Great Britain, France and Italy allowed the annexation of the border lands of Bohemia and Moravia. So Karlovy Vary became Karlsbad again.

Karlsbad was an internationally acknowledged hospital town during the war. The town was nevertheless bombed in April 1945. The railway station, together with two Red Cross trains, was destroyed, but the spa quarter escaped damage. The town was conquered by the Americans in May 1945 and handed over to the Red Army a few days later.

The Park Colonnade from the inside

After the war, the German-Bohemian population was expelled and expropriated in accordance with with the Potsdam Agreement and the Beneš Decrees. Karlsbad was again named Karlovy Vary.

All wells and sanatoriums in Karlovy Vary were nationalised in 1948. Afterwards, visitors mostly came from the countries of the former Soviet Union. Tourists from western countries returned after the 'velvet revolution' in 1989 and the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991; their number is steadily increasing.

View from the bridge, other side

Russian business and presence is strong in Karlovy Vary - the town is basically bilingual. It is the only place during my visit in central Europe where I felt OK speaking - a rather rudimentary - Russian. The language else isn't so popular in the countries of the former Soviet Union.

Like most other towns in the Czech Repbulic (and the other ex-Soviet states), Karlovy Vary has been restored to its former splendour, and its wells are still used. A specially shaped cup with an elongated hollow handle to drink the waters is sold everywhere, but there are 'no photographing' signs which I respected. Though I didn't feel like spending an extra tourist sum on buying one of the rather kitchy things just for a photo and a sip, and used the cup of my water bottle instead. *grin*

View from the Park Colonnade

Footnotes
1) Charles (May 1316 - Nov. 1378) had been elected King of the Romans in July 1346, though he did not hold the title undisputed. He became King of Bohemia upon the death of his father, and Holy Roman Emperor - as Charles IV - in 1355.
2) Maybe the wound led to cramps and muscle problems; that would be something to improve by baths in warm mineral water. I could not find any details about the injury, though.
3) The original title is "Tractatus de Termis Caroli Quarti Imperatoris, sitis ppe Elbogen & Vallem S. Ioachimi, editus a Doctore Vuenceslao Payer de Cubito, alias Elbogen ad Generosum & magnificum Comitem & D. Dominum Steffanum Schlick". Elbogen is the German name of the Czech town and castle Loket. The Count of Schlick was the lord of Loket castle at the time.
4) He bequeathed the Dresden palace to Fischer, but his Scottish family protested at court, arguing that Fischer had been given the palace for 'immoral consideration'. Judging by the one geneaological site where I could trace him, Fischer kept the heritage. Both men were buried together in a parish church near Dresden after Fischer died in 1860.


 


02/06/2019
  Adventures of a Future King - Henry Bolingbroke and the Siege of Vilnius 1390

When I was researching the Teutonic Knights and the forging of the union between Władysław Jagiełło of Poland and Vytautas of Lithuania (see this post), I came across a paragraph mentioning that one of the participants in the siege of Vilnius in 1390 was Henry Bolingbroke, the future King Henry IV of England, who had joined the Teutonic Knights with a number of household knights and archers. That intrigued me and I hunted down more information about Henry's adventures in Lithuania. I'm sure my British readers will be interested in that probably little known piece of history.

Małbork Castle, column capital with carved knights

A short biography of King Henry IV will suffice here (1). Henry IV, also known as Henry Bolingbroke after his place of birth, and Henry of Derby (he held the honorary title Earl of Derby since 1374), was born on April 15, 1367. His father was John of Gaunt, a younger son of King Edward III; his mother was Blanche, heiress of Lancaster (and in turn descended from Henry III; 2). In 1380, Henry married Mary de Bohun, daughter of Humphrey de Bohun, 7th Earl of Hereford.

Henry's relationship with his cousin, King Richard II, was a troubled one. John auf Gaunt, who had always supported Richard, went to in Span 1386, trying to claim the throne of Castile by jure uxoris of his second wife, Constance of Castile. At the same time Henry joined the Lords Appellant, a group of barons who wanted to curtail King Richard's power and get rid of some royal favourites. But Henry, together with a small group, disagreed with some of the executions. Moreover, his father returned from Spain in 1389, without a crown, but a fat purse full of gold as recompensation, and John slowly worked to restore Richard to power.

Small wonder that Henry didn't feel particularly at home at court and in England at that time. He went on traveling and jousting, and in 1390, he partook in a crusade in Lithuania, which I will detail below.

King Richard II finally was in a position - with the help of John of Gaunt - to reclaim power and deal with the Lords Appellant. At that time, Henry and the Earl of Mowbray, stood with the king rather than the Appellants, but nevertheless managed to fall out with each other and with Richard (3). Henry and Mowbray were condemned to exile.

In Feburary 1399, John of Gaunt died. Richard extened Henry's exile sentence for life and snatched his heritage, including the rich Lancaster lands. Well, if he thought Henry would meekly dangle his legs in Paris, he was much mistaken. Henry made contact with other exiles and disgruntled lords in England and gathered an army. When Richard was off in Ireland, they landed in Yorkshire, gaining still more support on their way. Richard returned, but half of his army deserted to Henry, he himself was captured, forced to abdicate and brought to Pontefract Castle where he joined the club of Important Captives Who Mysteriously Died in Prison (4). Henry was crowned King of England on October 13, 1399.

But Henry had to face his share of rebellions in turn. Only a few months after his ascension to the throne, he had to deal with a group of followers of the deposed Richard II in the so-called Epiphany Rising which he successfully subdued. The Welsh rose under Owain Glyn Dŵr, and the Percys of Northumberland, long time his supporters, felt slighted on promises made and turned against Henry. Their famed scion Henry Percy, nicknamed Harry Hotspur, died at the battle of Shrewsbury in July 1403. Two years later, the Percys joined the rebellion of Archbishop Richard Scrope.

Henry IV managed to deal with those rebellions, both internal and external. But his health detoriated; he suffered from a severe skin condition many of his contemporaries thought to have been leprosy, and acute bouts of another, rather mysterious, illness (5). Henry died on March 20, 1413.

The Keep of Warkworth Castle -
a Percy stronghold besieged by King Henry IV in 1405

Nowadays, Lithuania seems to be a more exotic travel destination than Thailand, but it was different in the high Middle Ages. Ever since the war against a group of Slavic pagan tribes east of the Elbe river was acknowleged as full fledged 'Wendish Crusade' with all the spiritual benefits in 1147, crusades against the tribes along the eastern shores of the Baltic Sea became popular. Henry Bolingbroke was not the only English knight to join in a so-called reyse. Henry's maternal grandfather, Henry of Grosmont, 1st Duke of Lancaster, had fought in Prussia in 1352, his father-in-law Humphrey de Bohun in 1351 and 1362, and Henry 'Hotspur' Percy in 1383 (to name just some examples). Chaucer mentions those crusades in his Canterbury Tales.

After the fall of Acre in 1291, which marked the end of the crusades in the Holy Land, the northern crusades increased in attraction. The Teutonic Knights, founded in 1128 along the establishment of other orders like the Templars and Knights Hospitaller to protect pilgrims in the Holy Land, expanded their interest north-east already in the 1230ies. Their northern branch soon merged with the Brothers of the Sword. In 1309, the Teutonic Knights established their main base at Małbork Castle and continued to expand their power. One of the main targets were the still pagan Baltic tribes in Lithuania, Samogitia, and Livonia.

When the Lithuanian princes Jogaila (who became King of Poland as Władysław Jagiełło) and Vytautas were baptised in 1386, the people of Lithuania were to follow the conversion; therefore the war against Lithuania could not really be called a crusade any longer. But the cousins fought each other, and the Teutonic Knights, who supported Vytautas, proclaimed that most of the people were still pagan and the war could indeed be called a crusade, thank you very much.

I doubt that the young men who joined the call to arms in 1390 understood all the intricacies of Lithuanian and Polish politics, the shifting alliances and convoluted family relations, and thus were unaware that they basically fought in an internecine war against the ruler - Jogaila / Jagiełło - who had incited the conversion of Lithuania.

Mediaeval transport - the reconstructed cog Wissemara

Originally, Henry wanted to join in a military expedition against the Barbary pirates in Tunisia (6), but King Charles IV of France refused to grant him a safe conduct. So Henry chartered two ships (7) under the captains Hermann and Hankyn of Gdańsk and got them equipped with all sorts of foodstuffs for a cruise, including exotic spices like ginger, nutmeg, saffron and pepper, and fruits like dried dates, raisins and figs. He also took live chickens with him and a cow, plus large quantities of ale and wine (8). And his fine silver cutlery. Well, his father provided a generous amount of money for the expedition and the sea journey would take about three weeks, so why go nibble on hardtack if you could get spiced pastries instead.

Henry's entourage included two dozen knights and squires, his Derby herald, his standard-bearer, his chamberlain, his chaplain, his chief falconer, six minstrels, and a troop of longbow archers as well as a few gunners. His household consisted of 70 to 80 men and about two dozen horses. He also would recruit more men on his way from Gdańsk to Vilnius (9).

The ships left the harbour of Boston (the one in UK) on July 19 and arrived at Rixhöft near Gdańsk on August 8 where Henry sent a messenger to the marshal of the Teutonic Knights, Engelhard Rabe. While waiting for the messenger's return in Gdańsk, Henry organised an imprompty jousting bout, one of his favourite pastimes.

Upon learning that the marshal was already on the way to Vilnius, Henry and his men chased after him along the coast, through Elbląng (Elbing) and Kaliningrad (Königsberg). From there they turned into the forests and swamps of Samogitia, refered to as 'le Wyldrenesse' in some Medieaval chronicles. Henry had to acquire additional draft horses for the wagons which got stuck in the boggy ground.

Coast of the Curonian Spit -
likely the way Henry took to reach Kaliningrad

He finally met with Marshal Rabe and Prince Vytautas at Ragnit at the Nemunas (Memel) river on August 22. They learned that the army of Skirgaila (Jogaila's regent in Lithuania) camped a few miles off Kaunas on the other side of the river, so the the Teutonic Knights, together with Henry's knights and archers, rode off to meet them. It is not entirely clear how the battle proceeded, except that Henry's archers covered the knights with their arrows as they attacked Skirgaila's host. The question is whether they crossed the river first, likely out of sight of Skirgaila, and continued on the other shore of the Nemunas, or whether they crossed the river under cover of the archers.

The fight was a severe one, it seems. One of Henry's knights, Sir John Loudham, was killed, but the host consisting of Teutonic Knights, Vytautas' warriors, and Henry with his men managed to capture several of the inimical leaders - three Russian 'dukes', the sources say, and a dozen other lords (boyars). Three or four more 'dukes' were killed, together with some 300 men. It was a victory, for sure, though the accounts that made it to England via the story of an eyewitness may likely have been exaggerated. Nevertheless, Henry of Bolingbroke, celebrated champion of tournaments, will have fought bravely, and his longbowmen were a decisive factor in the outcome of the battle.

Lakes and forests, a Baltic landscape

Skirgaila fled to Vilnius. Henry sent Loudham's body back to Kaliningrad for burial, and the army slogged through the mud in pursuit of Skirgaila. At Vilnius, they were joined by a company from the Livonian branch of the Teutonic Order.

Vilnius at the time was a town of timber buildings surrounded by earthen walls, but protected by a strong castle (10) and some outlying forts. In May 1390, Jagiełło gave the position of starosta and the command of the Vilnius garrison to his Polish vice-chancellor Clemens Moskorzew. That act was not intended to replace Skirgaila as regent, but it seemed to have caused bad blood nevertheless. The starosts of the Polish provinces held considerable power, and some Lithuanian nobles thought that Jagiełło tried to incorporate their country into the Polish realm.

The first attack on the outer fort, the Crooked Castle, took place on September 4. The valiant attacks of the English knights and archers decided the capture of the castle, and it was an English squire who planted a flag bearing the cross of St.George - symbol of Henry and the Teutonic Order alike - on the parapet. The fight must have been a fierce one: Jagiełło's brother Karigaila fell, as did one of Vytautas' brothers, Tautvilas

But the other two castles that protected the town withstood the siege. The besiegers probably couldn't bring heavy engines like trebuchets through the mud and had to work with attacks by the longbowmen and gunners, and scaling ladders. There were several more attempts to break the walls. During one of those, two of Henry's men, Thomas Rempston and John Clifton, were captured, while the besiegers captured some Lithuanian and Russian nobles and citizens of Vilnius in turn.

But autumn came and with it heavy rains that turned the muddy ground even muddier. Henry and his entourage had eaten all the fancy foods - maybe they should better have brought some hardtack - and had to rely on Vytautas for supplies. Diseases broke out. The gunpowder got wet. After a month the once splendid, but now rather bedraggled host had enough. The siege of Vilnius was lifted on October 7; two weeks later the army was back in Kaliningrad.

Clemens Morkorzew resigned his position as starosta as soon as he saw the back end of the army. He too, had enough of the rain and of the constant quarrels with Skirgaila. Jagiełło would find it difficult to replace him with another of his reliable Polish officials; the job was not high on anyone's wish list. In 1392, Jagiełło would make his final peace with Vytautas. The unpopular Skirgaila was foisted off to govern some Ruthenian duchy.

Gdańsk, closeup of the gate to the Artus Court -
the facade is from a later time, but the court itself existed when Henry stayed in Gdańsk

Henry stayed at Kaliningrad (Königsberg) until the beginning of February 1391. For one, the autumn gales would have made the journey back home difficult. Second, he needed time to negotiate the freedom of his captured men. He sent the Derby herald to Jagiełło in Krakow and had his father John of Gaunt write to the Polish king as well. And third, he may have hoped for a winter reyse to Vilnius once the swamps got frozen and could be crossed.

Meanwhile Henry spent his time partying with the Prussian and pro-Vytautas Lithuanian nobility and the citizens of the town - he threw an extra one when he learned that he had become father for the fourth time (in November). He listened to the music of his six minstrels. He went hunting with Marshal Rabe. He wrote letters back home. He gave alms to the poor. He gambled and lost. He ate lots of fine food and drank good wine. He spent a fair amount of money on fur cloaks and other finery. In short, he had a pretty good time far away from daddy, King Richard II, and court intrigues.

Henry had captured some women and boys during the crusade whom he now had baptized. He provided the women with new clothes and found places for them to stay. The boys were educated in his own household. Two of them - John Ralph and Ingelard of Prussia - would accompany him back to England. At some point his captured men got released, but there would not be any winter crusade, so Henry moved to Gdańsk in early Feburary.

Gdańsk, St.Mary's Church, interior - Henry attended services there

Henry lived pretty much in the same style of parties and hunting in Gdańsk as he had in Kaliningrad. He lodged at the house of one Klaus Gottesknecht (meaning 'God's Servant') while some of his retinue stayed at the bishop's house in town. Besides having parties and going on the hunt, Henry gave more alms to the poor and provided his servants with warm cloaks. He also made a minor pilgrimage to some important Polish churches during the Holy Week.

There was only one setback during those months: Henry fell gravely ill in February and was tended by the grand master's own physician. The illness is not specified in the sources and even the exact date is unclear.

At the end of March 1391, Henry left Gdańsk with a lot of presents, among them a fine hawk and three young bears he got from Conrad of Wallenrode, the grand master of the Teutonic Order. Four weeks later, the ships arrived at Kingston-upon-Hull, and on May 13, Henry was back with his family in Bolingbroke. There is no account about the fate of the bears, but the minstrels brought some new songs with them. :-)

On the military side, the expedition was a moderate success at best, but it increased Henry's reputation as warrior and crusader. Not only did all that show with heralds and gold-embroidered clothes, the parties and largesse, serve to present a representative of England in the best possible way, including the supremacy of the longbow archers; Henry's victories at the Nemunas and the conquest of the Crooked Castle were considered English victories at home. Richard II, himself not much of a warrior, was probably not happy about his young cousin's fame.

Henry spent the next fifteen months in England, mostly jousting and showing off. His wardrobe would make any Influencer girl jealous, and got his tailors and cloth merchants rich. But this was an important aspect of the life of a Mediaeval nobleman of wealth, and wealth Henry surely had (or rather, his father did). He stayed away from court, but one can imagine that his traveling around in England, jousting and hunting, included a number of meetings with like-minded young noblemen; a sort of networking.

The Royal Palace in the Hradčany in Prague -
where Henry stayed as guest of King Wenceslas on his way to Jerusalem

In summer 1392, Henry wanted to go on another reyse in Lithuania. He set off for Gdańsk and Kaliningrad with some 250 men. But in Kaliningrad - which he reached on September 2 - he learned that peace negotiations were going on between Vytautas and Jagiełło and that there would be no crusade this year.

So Henry sent the archers back home and changed his plans for a pilgrimage to Jerusalem instead. He asked his father to send some money to a bank in Venice, and set off with an entourage of about fifty men. They traveled via Prague, where they were guests of King Wenceslas of Bohemia for several days, and Hungary to Venice. The group then continued across the Mediterranean to Rhodes and Jaffa, and arrived in Jerusalem in January 1393. Henry spent ten days in the Holy City, visiting the Holy Sepulchre and the Mount of Olives. They were back in Jaffa on February 6. They contined to Venice and from there to Milan, across the Julian Alpes and Savoy, through Burgundy to Paris and on to Calais (looks like Henry got a safe conduct this time). Henry and his entourage crossed the Channel to Dover on July 5, 1993.

That dry itinerary does not show the grand way Henry and his entourage traveled. He was preceeded by a herald and a trumpeter, announcing his arrival in every city and town. Henry rode his favourite white courser, accompagnied by his standard-bearer, a score of mounted knights and squires, his chamberlain and his chaplain, his falconer, minstrels ... The baggage waggons trundled in tow. The men were resplendent with expensive brocades, silks and furs, sparkling with gold embroideries and jewels - it must have been quite the sight. Despite the show, the cortège managed to cover an average of 15 to 20 miles per day.

Wherever Henry stayed longer than a night, he had his arms painted on his lodgings (he already did that in Gdańsk). Of course, he met with a number of rulers, like King Wenceslas of Bohemia, King Sigismund of Hungaria, Albrecht of Hapsburg Duke of Austria, the Duke of Milan, the Duke of Burgundy, the grand master of the Knights Hospitaller, members of the Senate of Venice (to name just a few) as well as important merchants and bankers in Venice and Lombardy.

Henry also received gifts, including exotic animals like a leopard (who got his own cabin on the way back to Venice). But more important was the formation of a tight-knit circle of loyal knights who would stand with Henry in the years to come. Moreover, he added the image of a pious pilgrim to that of a warrior and crusader - a Mediaeval public campaign.

Sunset on the Baltic Sea - Henry may have seen some of those

Footnotes
1) His taking the throne from Richard II is a complicated topic that deserves a more detailed post.
2) His father was Henry Grosmont, son of Henry, 3rd earl of Lancaster. Henry in turn was the son of Thomas of Lancaster who is best known for his opposition against King Edward II. Thomas was a son of Edmund 'Crouchback', first earl of Lancaster, who was the second son of King Henry III and Eleanor of Provence. Got it sorted? *grin*
3) The events of 1397/98 were a mess that needs to be sorted out in another post.
4) He died, it is said, of starvation. The discussion about 'was it suicide or murder and what did Henry know?' still goes on. After the Epiphany Rising, Henry would have had a reason to prefer Richard dead instead of a rallying figure for another set of disgruntled barons.
5) The skin condition may have been psoriasis or a side effect of syphilis. The other illness is likely cardiac related or - less likely, imho - a form of epilepsy due to a head trauma or encephalitis (neither of that is confirmed in the soucres, though).
6) A Franco-Genoese expedition led by Duke Louis II of Bourbon, with the aim to capture the harbour town of Mahdia in Tunisia, a stronghold of the pirates. The siege ended in an armistice, some recompensation money paid, and a few less pirate attacks on Genoese trade ships.
7) Mortimer mentions one ship, while Given-Wilson mentions two and their captains. I think two ships is more realistic considering the size of Henry's entourage (I've been on a cog myself and can sort of judge how many horses and men would fit in).
8) Ian Mortimer gives a detailed list of the items loaded, which he collected from household rolls and other sources (which makes it the more surprising he only mentions one ship).
9) The 300 archers Frost mentions are an exaggeration made by Henry himself in a conversation many years after the event about his 'gadling days'.
10) I couldn't find out anything about the structure of the castle at the time. Vytautas built a brick tower in 1409, so maybe the castle was a brick construction as well. A timber building might not have withstood a four weeks siege so well.
11) They conquered the castle, not the town of Vilnius, as Mortimer has it. The reports that reached England sounded as if the town had been conquered, though.

Literature
Robert Frost: The Oxford History of Poland-Lithuania, vol. 1, The Making of the Polish-Lithuanian Union 1385-1569; Oxford 2015, paperback ed. 2018
Christ Given-Wilson: Henry IV (Yale English Monarchs); London 2016
Ian Mortimer: The Fears of Henry IV. The Life of England's Self-Made King; London 2008
William Urban: The Teutonic Knights. A Military History, 2003; reprint by Frontline Publ. 2018

 


19/05/2019
  Decorative Bones - The Sedlec Ossuary (Czech Republic)

Sedlec is today a suburb of the Czech town Kutná Hora, about an hour's drive from Prague. The place has become popular with tourists due to a somewhat morbid and scary attraction: the Ossuary of Sedlec. The town of Kutná Hora (Kuttenberg) is a UNESCO site and worth a visit as well. But in this post, let's get down to the bones. :-)

Bone decorations in the Sedlec Ossuary

Literally, in fact. The ossuary is located in the basement of the All Saints' Chapel in the cemetary of Sedlec. So, how did some 40,000 skeletons end up in this place, and part of those as decorations to boot?

View from the entrance down to the chapel

Well, for one, Sedlec was once more than a part Gothic, part Baroque chapel. From the 13th century to the Hussite Wars in the 15th century, Sedlec had been an important Cistercian monastery. A semi-legendary tale has it that King Ottokar II. Přemysl of Bohemia sent the abbot Jindřich (Henry) to Palestine on some mission in 1278. Upon return, Jindřich brought with hims a jar full of soil from the Calvary Mountain at Golgatha, the place where Jesus died. He spread the earth over the cemetary of the monastery.

Candelabra with pillars

The tale of the Holy Soil spread, and soon people not only from the surroundings, but from other countries as well, wanted to be buried in Sedlec, the closest they could get to Jerusalem without a long pilgrimage. Some 30,000 people were buried in Sedlec during the plague epidemic in 1318, often in mass graves. The cemetary was expanded to 3,5 hectares.

Closeup of the candelabra

The monastery was destroyed by the Hussites in 1421. The Hussite Wars (1419-1434) were are series of wars fought between the Hussites (a reformatory movement prior to Luther) and the Catholic Church. Most of the Czech population were Hussites; they faced contingents sent by the pope, the Holy Roman Emperor Sigismund and other European monarchs. Nevertheless, they were sufficiently successful on the field to finally be able to negotiate a peace that would allow them to practise their religion.

Entrance hall

A two storeyed chapel was erected on the grounds of the cemetary in the early 15th century. The churchyard was decreased, the remains of the buried exhumed and deposited in the basement of the chapel. According to tradition, a half blind Cistercian monk later piled the bones into six pyramids (1511).

The entrance and the upper floor of the chapel were altered in the Bohemian Baroque style (a mix of Gothic and Baroque elements) by Jan Santini Aichl in 1710. He also put some touches to the ossuary in the basement, adding carved crowns above the bone pyramids and some candelabras.

View to the ceiling

The Schwarzenberg family, members of the Bohemian and German high nobility, bought the chapel and comissioned the wood carver František Rint to do a house makeover in 1870. But instead of wood, he would use some of the bones to create decorative elements.

He dissembled two of the six pyramids (the bones of about 10,000 people). The bones were bleached with chlorinated lime prior to use; the rest buried in the park outside the chapel.

Arms of the Schwarzenberg family

One feature Rint created were the arms of the Schwarzenberg family. In the lower right quarter you can see a raven hacking at the eye of a skull. That motive was granted the family due to their service fighting the Turkish Ottomans in the 16th century.

Detail shot of the ceiling

The most outstanding part of the decoration is the grand candelabra with the four pillars you can see on several photos above. Rint used every bone of the human body in the construction. Garlands of skulls and long bones (mostly upper arms) also adorn the ceiling and the archs.

One of the two chalices

On both sides of the staircase leading down to the ossuary, Rint placed bone chalices in niches in the wall. They were probably never used, though.

Stack of bones

Four of the bone pyramids still remain in side rooms of the chapel. Some of the bones in those collections, esp. the skulls, show signs of violence, mostly suffered during the Hussite Wars.

Monstrance

Excavations are going on outside the ossuary; and the bone pyramids are carefully dismantled for research, the reassembled again. After all, bones can tell quite a few things about the living conditions of the people in the Middle Ages.

The All Saints' Church, exterior

Footnotes

Information obtained from the guidebook by Jan Kulich (translated into English by Madeleine Štulíková) which is avaliable on site.

 


04/05/2019
  From Political Movement to Bronze Figures - The Wrocław Dwarfs

Well, some of the Wrocław Dwarfs - impossible to find all of the 163 official dwarfs (krasnale) spread over the town, plus the 150+ additional inofficial ones. The tourist office offers a map to help you hunt down the wee chaps, but I thought that's pretty much like seeking Easter eggs with a GPS; therefore I just kept my eyes open in hope to notice some of the dwarfs. Let me show you the guys I found.

Welcome to Wrocław

Some are cheerful, others cheeky, and a few even look grim. But this wee chap is surely of the welcoming sort.

Happy dwarf with sunflower

But the bronze guys, which are about a foot (20-30 cm) tall, have nothing to do with garden gnomes. They are the reverberation of a legend and, more important, a political movement.

Tourist dwarf with map and camera - right in front of the Tourist Info office

The legend tells that dwarfs assisted the first settlers to build the town of Wrocław. The people were plagued by the Oder river goblin, a nasty, mischievious creature that kept damaging the houses until the dwarfs imprisoned him in a mountain (where he probably still lives). The inhabitants of Wrocław were so grateful that they offered the dwarfs to live in the town together with the humans.

I loved those two bearded guys with the old fashioned fire engine

In the 1980ies, an anti-communist and anti-sovjet movement called 'Orange Alternative' (Pomarańczowa Alternatywa) took up the legend and used the dwarfs as their signature. Led by the student of arts Waldemar Fydrych, called 'Major', and mathematician Wiesław Cupała, they organised peaceful, dadaistic meetings and demonstrations that mocked the communist regime in an ironic way.

A grim looking dwarf - the blacksmith

Wherever the militia covered up anticommunist slogans on building walls, paintings of dwarfs would appear soon thereafter, forcing the officials to have scores of perfectly harmless dwarf graffiti removed. Another action were demonstations where the participants wore orange coloured dwarf hoods and made the police look ridiculous if they tried to arrest people for participating in an 'illegal meeting of dwarfs'.

That naked dwarf with umbrella takes up the motive of irony

One action had members of the movement distribute single sheets of toilet paper - which was a rarity at the time - to people, forcing the police to search bags and pockets to confiscate single sheets of toilet paper. Another time they met in front of the chimpanzee compound in the zoo, singing songs that praised Lenin. Well, it looks a bit silly if you arrest people singing pro-Communist songs just because they wear orange hoods.

This one is called Sisyphos - good luck moving that ball if the other guy is leaning against it

The Orange Alternative was loosely connected with the Solidarity movement. Their actions were not without danger, of course, and arrests did happen, but overall the ironic approach proved a strong weapon. The movement culminated in a demonstration of 10,000 people in dwarf hoods marching through the city, singing "Freedom for the dwarfs".

Prisoner

A few years after the fall of communism, the first dwarf, known as Papa Krasnal, was unveiled on the spot where most of the Orange Alternative protest meetings started, the corner of the Ulica Świdnicka and the Ulica Kazimierza Wielkego (Street of Casimir the Great), in 2001 to honour the movement and its victims. I missed that chap, though.

Dwarf on a motor bike

The council commissioned the local artist Tomasz Moczek to create some more dwarfs in 2005, and things went mad from there. The little guys proved so popular with the inhabitants and tourists alike that Moczek created more of them (about a hundred overall). Soon not only the town council ordered bronze dwarfs, but also local businesses commissioned them and brought other artists into the fray.

Handicapped dwarfs: deaf-mute, blind, and paraplegic

Some figures have a more serious background. The three handicapped dwarfs which were added in 2008 are part of the Wrocław Without Barriers campaign which aims to enhance the awareness for the requirements of handicapped people.

Dwarf eating chocolate in front of a chocolate shop

Not all the dwarfs are officially acknowledged. To get an 'approved' dwarf, businesses have to go through a long and expensive process. So they tend to shirk that and commission a dwarf anyway.

Dwarf with gift parcel in front of a gift and knick knack shop

The reason for the rise in illegal dwarfs is the fact that a dwarf in front of a shop increases the attraction to customers. But the wee chaps are so well liked by tourists that it pays off for the town as well, which is likely one reason the authorities tolerate them. Another reason, so my guess, is the political background.

Scholar

This is the story behind the bronze figures. Below are some more dwarfs which I found.

Dwarf with laptop

The modern variant of a scholar. Or maybe a travel blogger updating his Instragram account with the latest dwarf photos.

Glutton

That guy was digesting his latest meal in front of a Pizza Hut. (You can't escape those dang chains even in central and eastern Europe. I prefer to look out for local restaurants.)

Drunk dwarf

That one is surely having fun. I wonder what's in that jug, judging by his swaying around it might have been vodka.

Sleeping dwarf

Let's hope our drunk friend found his bed as well. This figure stands in front of a hotel (of course *grin*).

Pastry thieves

And last there are those two suspicious chaps stealing pastries from a bakery - after the one on the windowsill already filched an ice cream cone which he doesn't want to share with his accomplice below.

Pastry thieves

I hope you have as much fun looking at those wee dwarfs as I had hunting down and photographing the chaps.
 




The Lost Fort is a travel and history blog based on my journeys in Germany, the UK, Scandinavia, and central / eastern Europe. It includes essays on Roman and Mediaeval history and architecture, as well as some geology, illustrated with my own photos of old castles and churches, Roman remains, pretty towns and beautiful landscapes.

This blog is non-commercial.

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 blogger from Germany with a MA in Literature and History which doesn't pay my bills, so I use it to research blogposts instead. I'm interested in everything Roman and Mediaeval, avid reader and sometimes writer, opera enthusiast, traveller with a liking for foreign languages and odd rocks, photographer, and tea aficionado. And an old-fashioned blogger who still hasn't got an Instagram account.
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Emperor Otto IV, Introduction

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The Thuringian Succession War - Introduction
The Star Wars

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Otto IV and Bishop Adalbert II of Magdeburg


England

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Scotland

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King David and the Civil War (1)
King David and the Civil War (2)

Houses Bruce and Stewart
Robert the Bruce and Stirling Castle
The Early Stewart Kings

Scottish Nobles and their Quarrels

Clan Feuds
MacLeans and MacDonalds
A Scottish Wedding


Wales

Princes and Rebels

The Princes of Gwynedd
The Rise of House Aberffraw

The Rebellions
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Scandinavia

Norway

Kings of Norway and their Foreign Relations
King Eirik's Scottish Marriages
King Håkon V's Swedish Politics
Beginnings of the Kalmar Union

Famous Nobles and their Feuds
Alv Erlingsson of Tønsberg


Russia

The History of St.Petersburg
(to come)


The Baltic States

Lithuania

The Teutonic Knights in Lithuania
The Siege of Vilnius 1390

The Geminid Dynasty
Troublesome Cousins - Jogaila and Vytautas


Poland, Bohemia, Hungary

Poland

The Teutonic Knights in Poland
The Conquest of Danzig

The Jagiełłonian Kings
Władysław Jagiełło and the Polish-Lithuanian Union

Bohemia
(Including Silesia and Moravia)

The Bohemian Kings of House Luxembourg
(to come)


Flanders and Luxembourg

The Counts of Luxembourg
(to come)


Other Times

Neolithicum to Iron Age

Germany

European Bread Museum, Ebergötzen
Open Air Museum Oerlinghausen

Scandinavia and Orkney

Orkney
The Neolithic Landscape of Orkney
Ring of Brodgar
Skara Brae
Life in Skara Brae

Scandinavia
Ship Setting on Gotland

Post-Mediaeval History

Discoveries
Otto von Guericke and the Magdeburg Hemispheres
Raising a Wreck, Now and Then (Vasa Museum in Stockholm)

Explorers
Fram Expedition to the North Pole
Fram Expedition to the South Pole

European Nobility
Prince Wilhelm Malte of Putbus


Miscellanea

History in Literature and Music

History in Literature

Biographies of German Poets and Writers
Theodor Fontane

Historical Ballads by Theodor Fontane (my translation)
Archibald Douglas
Gorm Grymme
Sir Walter Scott in Abbotsford
The Tragedy of Afghanistan

History in Opera

Belcanto and Historicism
Maria Padilla - Mistress Royal
The Siege of Calais in Donizetti's Opera

Fun Stuff

Not So Serious Romans
Aelius Rufus Visits the Future Series
Building Hadrian's Wall
Playmobil Romans

Royal (Hi)Stories
Kings Having a Bad Hair Day
The Case of the Vanished Wine Cask

Historical Memes
Charlemagne meme
Historical Christmas Wishes
New Year Resolutions
Aelius Rufus does a Meme
Rules for Writing Scottish Romances

Funny Sights
Tourist Kitsch in St.Petersburg


Geological Landscapes

The Baltic Sea
Geology of the Curonian Spit
Chalk Cliffs on Rugia
Flint Fields on Rugia

The Harz
Bode Valley and Rosstrappe Cliff
The 'Hübichenstein' Rock
Karst Formations in the Southern Harz
The Lonau Falls
The Rhume Springs

Meissner / Kaufunger Wald
Blue Dome near Eschwege
Diabase and Basalt Formations
Karst Formations

Solling-Vogler
Raised Bog Mecklenbruch
Hannover Cliffs

The Shores of Scotland
Staffa

Palaeontology

Fossils
Ammonites


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Links leading outside my blog will open in a new window. I do not take any responsibility for the content of linked sites.

History Blogs - Ancient

Roman History Today
Ancient Times (Mary Harrsch)
Following Hadrian (Carole Raddato)
Mike Anderson's Ancient History Blog
Mos Maiorum - Der römische Weg
Per Lineam Valli (M.C. Bishop)

Digging Up Fun Stuff
The Anglo-Saxon Archaeology Blog
Arkeologi i Nord
The Journal of Antiquities (Britain)
The Northern Antiquarian
The Roman Archaeology Blog

History Blogs - Mediaeval

Þaér wæs Hearpan Swég
Anglo Saxon, Norse & Celtic Blog
Casting Light upon the Shadow (A. Whitehead)
Norse and Viking Ramblings
Outtakes of a Historical Novelist (Kim Rendfeld)

Beholden Ye Aulde Blogges
A Clerk of Oxford
Daily Medieval
Historical Britain Blog (Mercedes Rochelle)
Magistra et Mater (Rachel Stone)
North Ages
Senchus (Tim Clarkson)
Viking Strathclyde (Tim Clarkson)

Royal and Other Troubles
Edward II (Kathryn Warner)
Henry the Young King (Kasia Ogrodnik)
Piers Gaveston (Anerje)
Lady Despenser's Scribery
Simon de Montfort (Darren Baker)
Weaving the Tapestry (Scottish Houses Dunkeld and Stewart)

A Mixed Bag of History
English Historical Fiction Authors
The Freelance History Writer (Susan Abernethy)
The History Blog
History, the Interesting Bits (S.B. Connolly)
Mediaeval Manuscripts Blog
Mediaeval News (Niall O'Brian)
Time Present and Time Past (Mark Patton)

Thoughts and Images

Reading and Reviews
Black Gate Blog
The Blog That Time Forgot (Al Harron)
Parmenion Books
The Wertzone

Imaginations
David Blixt
Ex Urbe (Ada Palmer)
Constance A. Brewer
Jenny Dolfen Illustrations
Wild and Wonderful (Caroline Gill)

German Blogs
Alte Steine
Anwolf
Meerblog

Highland Mountains
The Hazel Tree (Jo Woolf)
Helen in Wales
Mountains and Sea Scotland

The Colours of the World
Shutterbugs


Research

Archaeology
Past Horizons
Archaeology in Europe
Orkneyar

Roman History
Deutsche Limeskommission
Internet Ancient Sourcebook
Livius.org
Roman Army
Roman Britain
The Romans in Britain
Vindolanda Tablets

Mediaeval History
De Re Militari
Internet Mediaeval Sourcebook
Kulturzeit
The Labyrinth
Mediaeval Crusades
Medievalists.Net
Viking Society for Northern Research

Castles
Burgenarchiv
Burgerbe
Burgenwelt
Exploring Castles
The World of Castles

Miscellaneous History
Heritage Daily
The History Files

Mythology
Ancient History
Encyclopedia Mythica

Online Journals
Ancient Warfare
The Heroic Age
The History Files

Travel and Guide Sites

Germany - History
Antike Stätten in Deutschland
Burgenarchiv
Strasse der Romanik

Germany - Nature
HarzLife
Naturpark Meissner
Naturpark Solling-Vogler

England
English Heritage
Visit Northumberland

Scotland
The Chain Mail (Scottish History)
Historic Scotland
National Trust Scotland

Reiseblogs
Reisen & Fotografie (Tobias Hoiten)
fern & nah (Christian Oeser)

Books and Writing

Interesting Author Websites
Jacqueline Carey
Bernard Cornwell
Dorothy Dunnett (Dorothy Dunnett Society)
Steven Erikson
Diana Gabaldon
Guy Gavriel Kay
George R.R. Martin
Sharon Kay Penman
J.R.R. Tolkien (The Tolkien Society)
Tad Williams

Historical Fiction
Historical Novel Society
Historia Magazine

Writing Sites
Absolute Write
TheLitForum.com
National Novel Writing Month


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