My History Blog, Focussing mostly on Roman and Mediaeval Times
There is a new feature in the Junkerberg cemetary outside Göttingen where my mother is buried.
If you look through the stones, you can distinguish the shape of a cross. A number of those stones has been arranged in the lay of a church, with an altar and some stone seats in the centre. Several walkways meander through it, giving different views of the cross-stones. I can imagine that once the trees have sprouted leaves and grown a bit, it will be even more interesting.
If everything goes well, I'll be off May 14 - 28, which gives me two weeks to explore Roman remains and great whopping castles. I'll take a four corner trip, so to speak: Cardiff, Pembroke, Caernarfon, Chester (ok, the last is just outside Wales, but it has too much Roman stuff to be missed). From those places I should be able to cover a good number of interesting sites, even by public traffic. Some on my list are Caerleon and Caerwent Roman remains, the castles of Caerphilly, Chepstow, Pembroke and Manorbier, Caernarfon castle and the Roman remains of Segontium, plus the castles of Beaumaris and Dolwyddelan.
The only part of the trip I'm not looking forward to is the transfer Pembroke - Caernarfon, an 8 ½ hour journey with several changes of buses and trains, and King Arthur knows if there'll be the chance to see a bathroom any time. I could rent a car, but I really don't feel like driving on the wrong side on single track roads. Or on normal roads, for that matter.
So if anyone feels like picking me up in Carmarthen and give me a ride .... *grin*
A little lake, also in Junkerberg cemetary
It's still a low winter sun in those pics, because I took them back in January.
Vows and Secret Meetings - The History of Lippoldsberg Abbey, part 1
As usual, there had been an older building on the site of Lippoldsberg Abbey. Some time between 1051-56, archbishop Luitpold (Lippold) of Mainz founded Lippoldsberg and had the first wooden chapel built. I've mentioned before that the possesions of the archbishop of Mainz stretched from the Rhine all the way into Thuringia, and the Weser was one station on the way there, with a ford near the future Lippoldsberg. Luitpold bought the land from the monastery at Corvey, probably to ensure an unhindered passage on his 'own' lands all the way to Erfurt in Thuringia (today the county capital).
Lippoldsberg Church, view from the south, detail of the angle at the west tower
His successor Siegfried got deeply embroiled in the investiture controversy, the contest between the Emperor (notably Heinrich IV
) and pope Gregory VII about the appointment of church officials and the overall role of the Church in relation to the secular power. A quarrel that found its way to England as well where Heinrich's namesake Henry I had his share of troubles with the Gregorian papacy.
The controversy would end with the Concordate of Worms 1122 which gave the Church more rights (for England, it was the Concordate of Westminster 1107), but right here we're still in the middle of the fun.
Choir with triple apse attached to nave and aisles, and transept behind
Archbishop Siegfried I of Mainz - who also was a prince of the realm - changed sides several time during the conflict, and managed to get excommunicated in the process (can we say oops?). He obviously did
say 'oops, soory', because some time later we find him back in grace and member of the alliance against Heinrich IV. It didn't do Siegfried much good though, because he was taken prisoner by Heinrich in 1178 and spent the next four years in captivity.
of the Prioress Margaretha from 1151 mentions that Siegfried vowed to build a stone church in Lippoldsberg upon his release. He'd gotten better in keeping promises, because a new church, dedicated to St. George, was indeed built in 1082; some remains of foundations have been discovered during restoration work in 1966. The church got a nice amount of land and tithes as well.
View from the north side
In 1089, a lady's chapterhouse or nunnery was established. We can't be sure which one, though there are some arguments in favour of a chapterhouse. The difference between those and a nunnery was that the women, which were usually daughters and widows of noble birth, didn't take permanent vows so they could leave and marry if familiy politics required it. But as long as they lived in the monastery, they vowed chastity and obedience, and kept vigils the same way nuns did.
, based on fake chartes for this event, mentions an obscure Betto as founder, but it was most probably archbishop Ruthard of Mainz. Another charte dating between 1099 and 1101, the Oath of the Lippoldsberg Nuns
, has been proven genuine. In this document the 25 nuns vow to live according to the Benedictine rules of Hirsau. It is signed not only by archbishop Ruthard, the abbess and the nuns, but also by a number of other leading ecclesiastic and secular princes. This is particularly interesting because the whole lot is known to have been opposed to Heinrich IV. There are no other documents about the meeting, but it was surely about more than witnessing a few nuns taking a vow of chastity.
West side with tower
Considering the fact that Bursfelde Abbey is only a few miles away, and the strong connections of Heinrich of Northeim
with that place, one may wonder if the Count of Northeim was present and if he really had turned to the side of Heinrich IV or played double like his dad did on occasion. I'd like to get a list of the people who signed that document. ;)
Whatever plot against the Emperor - of the many he faced - was cooked up there, the event brought Lippoldsberg Abbey into the spotlight for a moment. After that, the place sank into obscurity until 1138.
Sources: The guide booklet about the history of Lippoldsberg Abbey Church and the official website.
Some interior shots can be seen here.
Romanesque Murals in Vernawahlshausen
I've mentioned that some villages in Germany have churches of great age and sometimes unexpected beauty. One of these can be found in a village called Vernawahlshausen (not only Wales has long names), built in early Romanesque style about 1100. It's a simple, rectangular building with no aisles. The half timbered tower was added in 1744.
Village Church Vernawahlshausen
The eastern part dates back to about 1100. It now holds the altar, but originally it was a choir with gross grain vault but no apse. There may have been an even older building, a chapel dedicated to St. Margarethe built by monks from Corvey, one of the great German monastic centres which had its roots in the Cluny tradition.
East wall; the oldest part of the building.
The church belonged to the Dukes of Braunschweig until 1296, then went to the Abbey of Lippoldsberg; and after the reformation in 1538, the patronship came to the landgraves of Hessen.
Descent from the Cross, Romanesque mural
When restoration work was done in 1955, some Gothic and Romanesque mural paintings were discovered which the Landgrave Moritz of Hessen, a stout Calvinist, had covered with a layer of white paint in the 17th century.
View into the altar room with the rediscovered murals
Fresco style murals can also be found in the nearby church of Bursfelde Abbey
. (Edited 2016: Some of those have been refreshed; I took some new photos of them.)
Closeup of some Romanesque murals:
in the centre the archangel Michael, to the right two apostles
In 1589, the nave was expanded, and thereafter either a traveling painter, or a more or less talented guy from the village added some paintings on the sides of the gallery. Whoever did the job might have benefitted from some lessons in human anatomy. The snake looks pretty good, though.
Adam and Eve, Rennaissance painting
The vicar at that time - and as rumor has it, his wife in particular - thought his parishioners should not be exposed to such sinful paintings. Yes, you can see Eva's boobies. The offending pictures were painted over with white colour as well and have been rediscovered in 1955, together with the Romanesque murals in the choir.
British Country Style
Because it is such a pretty place, here's a photo of the B&B where I stayed in Corbridge: Hayes Guest House. They have a huge garden facing downhill towards the Tyne river. Just the place to sit and read on a sunny summer evening.
The weather displayed a strange pattern the first days: sunshine in the mornings, an overcast sky in the afternoons, and sun again in the evenings.
And order you to have made a good and strong gaol
In June 1330, William Melton Archbishop of York wrote the following letter to one Thomas Fox in Hexham:
‘William, by the Grace of God, Archbishop of York, to our beloved in Christ, Thomas Fox our receiver in Hexhamshire, greeting. We wish and order you to have made a good and strong gaol, in which our prisoners can be securely held and guarded and the expenses incurred in the building of this we will allow out of your account.’ (Borthwick Institute, Reg. 9A f.45, quote found on the official website of the Gaol)
The result can be seen here.
Old Gaol Hexham
Hexham Gaol was the first purpose-built prison in England. Before, prisons were rooms adapted from other buildings (I've mentioned prisoners were for example kept in Carlisle Castle, either the gatehouse or the keep).
The Archbishop of York ruled over Hexhamshire through his bailiff and other officials. Looks like it was an unruly place that he thought a decent prison was neccessary. Already in 1332 he wanted additional equipment for the gaol. His prisoners must have been Scots to have caused to much trouble. *grin*‘William, by the Grace of God, Archbishop of York to our beloved master Robert de Bridelington, Steward of our lands, greeting. We wish and order you to repair our gaol at Hexham and to provide shackles, manacles, fetters and other items necessary to the repair of the gaol and the guarding of the prisoners. Wherefore we appoint John de Cawood, barber, bearer of these letters, sergeant of our manor and town of Hexham and keeper of the gaol. And we wish that you will allow the said John for his salary and expenses as was automany the sum of two pence a day.’ (Borthwick Institute, Reg. 9B. F.541)
So William got the lot chained up. Probably in the cellar where you can today see the dungeon by going down in a glass elevator. The chains and manacles are still there, plus some straw on the ground. Not very comfortable. The other three storeys were used for less troublesome, or more noble prisoners who demanded a somewhat better treatment, and as guardroom.
The gaol has been in use as such over the centuries and came to some fame during the time of the Border Reivers in the 16th century. They were basically a belligerent mix of robbers, feuding clans and guerrilla warriors along the Scottish / English border. I admit I don't know much about the Reivers besides what I saw in the exhibitions in Hexham and the Tullie House in Carlisle. Considering the high costs and bad exchange rates, I could not buy ever
y book I wanted and had to forego getting one about the Reivers.
Those were very troubled times and the gaol used a lot. Though it wasn't that secure; there have been several escapes, either because of bribed guards or help from outside. One of the most famous was the one of Robert More in 1538. He was a priest who got on the wrong side of our friend Henry of the Many Wives who had just sacked the wealth of the Catholic Church. More was suspected to be a spy for the Scots - who were Catholics and in league with France - and incarcerated in Hexham Gaol. For some reason, maybe an outbreak of plague, the responsible officials were somewhere else, the guards went dining, and the gaol was promptly broken into by a 'band of outlaws', a feat that didn't prove difficult because the locks were rusty and none of the prisoners in irons. So More and a bunch of others took a night walk and forgot to return. The blame was laid on the Reivers, particularly because among the escapees were an Armstrong and two Dodd, notorious Reiver clans.
I don't know what Archbishop William would have said about that. Moot Hall with gatehouse tower
The gaol was in use as prison until 1820 and then used for different functions until restoration began in 1973, and the building was made into a tourist attraction with a museum about the Reivers and exhibitions in the upper storeys.
Opposite the gaol stands the moot hall, a combination of the old bailiff's hall and a gatehouse tower which was added about 1400 as result of the constant threat by the Scottish armies. At first, the bailiff of the Archbishop of York held court in the hall, and later it was used as town hall for Hexham. Today, it is a place for art exhibitions.
Carlisle Castle and the Edwards
After some time of peace, Carlisle came back into the focus of politics and war during the reign of the three Edwards. Edward I - who ranks high on the Top Ten list of most unpopular persons in Scotland - used the succession quarrels after the death of Alexander III to claim the hegemony over Scotland. Of course, the Scots, or at least a number of important Scottish nobles with claims of their own, told him to slink off.
Edward I did the opposite and declared war upon Scotland. As answer, the Scots launched a surprise attack on Carlisle in May 1296. They didn't succeed to conquer the place, though, and neither did they in the second attempt after the Scottish victory at Stirling Bridge. But it brought the importance of Carlisle for the English back to attention.
Edward I used the castle as assembling point and storage stronghold, locked prisoners up in the keep, and spent some time in the castle himself. Around the time parliament met at Carlisle in 1306, Edward had a great hall for the king's household built in the inner bailey. He also added additional fortifications, re-cut the moats (not himself, of course, and I don't think he let his son do it much as Edward II loved digging ditches) and placed some springalds, giant crossbows, on the keep and western postern. The remains of the great hall and the king's appartements have been replaced by some smaller buildings in the 19th century.
Western postern on the battlements, facing the tower of the inner gate
Thus, Edward I left his son a well fortified castle, and Edward II used it as base for his Scottish war as well. But he lost the battle of Bannockburn in 1314 and returned to England, defeated and without even a shoulder to cry on since Piers was already dead and Hugh Despenser not yet his favourite.
Robert the Bruce lost no time to try and get his hands on Carlisle. The town held a garrison of 500 men commanded by Andrew de Harclay. Harclay seemed to have been a skilled commander, but it was the weather that caused the final result. It was a British summer like the one last year, rain, and rain, and more rain. When the Scots tried to dig mines under the castle walls, they filled with water, the assault towers got stuck in the mud, any material to fill the ditches swam away, and so even the Scots, as used to rainy summers as the English, had enough and retreated in early August 1315.View from the battlements into the inner bailey
With the bad press Ed II had at that time, the unsuccessful siege of Carlisle was proclaimed a victory, and Harclay earned some very wet laurels. *grin* He started a military career and was created Earl of Carlisle after he defeated the rebel Thomas of Lancaster in the battle of Boroughbridge in 1322 (remember the unhappy fate of Roger de Clifford
in that context). But Harclay had not much time to enjoy his new position. He got entangled in border politics with the Scots and less than a year later was summoned to court to answer charges of conspiracy. He failed to appear and King Edward sent a party of knights to arrest him. They caught Harclay in his room in the castle, and though proclaiming his innocence, Andrew de Harclay suffered the same traitor's death as Lancaster; he was hanged, drawn and quatered on Carlisle's Gallows Hill.
Ironically, the very truce de Harclay had conspired for was concluded between Edward II and the Scots only three months later. Quod licet Iovi ....
Edward II was disposed and murdered (or not?
) in 1327, and a few years later his son, Edward III, made it clear to his mother that he'd reign without her and Roger de Mortimer now, thank you very much. Mortimer lost his head, while Isabella was retired with a handsome apanage. Edward III was a better general than is father and won most of his battles, among them Crécy and indirectly, through William la Zouche Archbishop of York, St. Neville's Cross, both in 1346.View across inner bailey towards the battlements on the curtain wall
The king of the Scots at that time was David II. He spent several years in France because his nobles didn't like him (did Scottish nobles ever like their king?). A few years after his return, Philippe IV of France, fearing an English invasion - in fact, he had them already sitting round Calais
- asked David under the conditions of the Auld Alliance to invade England in his turn, to keep them busy in the north.
David had all the military advantages on his side, but he blundered around in the borderlands and finally managed to take up a strategically bad position at St. Neville's Cross. After the English longbowmen lured the Scottish army to attack and thus made it split into smaller groups because of the terrain, the Scots proved an easy deal for the English. Several Scottish leaders fled and David got captured. He was brought to Calais, forced into negotiations with King Edward III and kept prisoner in various English castles until 1357 (Treaty of Berwick). He promised to pay a ransom which he never managed to scrape out of the impoverished land.
Edward III had last been to Carlisle Castle in 1335. After St. Neville's Cross, he and his successors concentrated on their interests in France. That time would later be called the Hundred Years War.
Aelius Rufus Does a Meme
I'll have to do something evil to Sam and Wynn who tagged me for a meme, lol. Since I'm tired of the things, I've asked Aelius Rufus to do it for me this time.
Four Jobs I've Had
I've had only one: soldier in the second Raetian cohors equitata. Maybe I'll get promoted to decurio some day.
Four Movies I could Watch Over and Over
Movies? You mean those theatre performances on a curtain Merlinus spoke about? There are some I'd like to see because I would get a good laugh out of them: Gladiator, King Arthur, The Last Legion.
Four People Who Email me Regularly
Don't know about email, but I do write to my father and he sometimes writes back. He can write you know, he's been in the Roman army for 25 years and got promoted to first decurio a few years before his retirement.
Four Shows That I Watch
Shows? You mean those mini theatre thingies you can watch in your insula? I've heard there is one about Roma that may be interesting, involving a lot of juicy scandals during the time of Caesar and the deified Augustus.
(Left: Another mural detail from the baths in Sege-dunum / Wallsend)
Four Places You'd Like to Be Right Now?
Back at our farm in the Raetian Alpes. Or have another trip to the future with Merlinus. Definitely not standing sentinel at the main gate in Arcataunum. It's raining. Again.
Four Favourite Foods
I like honey cakes with raisins, goat cheese with pepper and honey, fish in an egg and herb crust, and venison stew, though we get the latter way too seldom.
Four Places I Have Visited
Besides my 'home' fort in Germania and Mogunt-iacum, I've been to Britannia and seen the Wall and some places along it. There is talk that I may get a commission with the troops in Isca Silurnum in Britannia for a few months. It could be interesting if those Silures don't start another rebellion just then. I'd like to see Roma, but I think that'll have to wait until retirement.
Four Events I'm Looking Forward to This Year
The Saturnalia, and the games with the garrisons of some other Limes forts. And hopefully we'll get a new praefectus castrorum this year; he can't be worse than the one we have right now. Oh, and I'm looking forward to the day Tullius Ferrarius will finally get caught with his grubby paws in the money chest of our burial funds.
I'm supposed to tag five people, whatever that means. Hm, if I could get Merlinus to do it, that would be fun. Is there anyone who knows where those druid guys hang out when they're not time traveling?
Aelius Rufus Visits the Future, part 4
We left the tower and went to the bath house, the one truly Roman looking feature on what Merlinius called 'the site'; obviously a modern word for the places where they'd dug out our walls and some terra sigillata. The baths were modeled after the ones in Cilurnum where quite a lot of walls had been found, Merlinus explained. It seemed people in the future were pretty interested in Roman baths.
Baths at Segedunum, details of the wall paint
"Don't they have any baths these days?" Gaius asked.
"They do," Merlinus said, "but they have only tubs and something they call showers in their insulae
, and public indoor and outdoor swimming pools in most towns. Some also have what is called a sauna, a bit like the laconicum
, the hot dry room. It is considered bad manners to stink."
"So, even the barbarians at the Wall have adopted baths?"
Gaius grinned and slapped my shoulder. "See, Roma has conquered them in the end, and taught them civilization."Fountain in the tepidarium, the warm room
We went through the changing room (the apodyterium
) into the frigidarium
, the cold bath. Pity we could not really use it but with all those tourists around, it might not have been much fun. I did not want to appear on those camera thingies wearing nothing. Not that I'm ashamed of my body which is in very good shape, but the sight of nude men always makes the girls giggle.
We strolled over to the tepidarium
, the warm room, complete with fountain and some very blue paint. Merlinus muttered something about a, "vain attempt to recreate the sky over Rome, which is often veiled by all that smoke anyway." The slaves who'd scrap the bathers' skin with scented oil were missing, and I wondered if they used electricity these days like with the cranes.Hot bath, caldarium
There was water in the caldarium
, the hot bath, but obviously not really hot since the steam so common in this room was missing. Though we learned that the baths were fully functional with a Roman underfloor steam heating system heated by furnaces outside the building.
In one wall we found a niche with a little statue of the fertility goddess Ceres holding a bundle of wheat gleans. It was rather crudely made.
"I wonder how that guy received the status of immunis
," I said. "Anyone
can slab some paint on a figure like that."
"Maybe he was the best they could find, or he knew someone who knew someone. You know how it works," Gaius replied.
"I do," I said, trying not to remember Tullius Ferrarius, the smith in Arcataunum
.Wall niche with goddess figurine
were soldiers exempt from some of the more tedious duties like guard service because they had special skills. Among them were drill sergeants, artisans, clerks and the medical orderlies. Some brought their skills because of their background, but others like weapons instructors or cavalry troopers - the legionary ones, not the auxiliary - received training as discens
before they got promoted. Officially, they didn't receive extra payment, but bribery was pretty common. That's why I had an open bill with Tullius.