The Lost Fort

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


29 Mar 2014
  Built To Protect a Chapel – Krukenburg Castle

I know I've been neglecting this blog lately. Poor little blog, here's a new post for you, and my readers. :-) So here's a longer post about Krukenburg Castle, with a few detours beyond the local history to the larger events involving the politics in which the Krukenburg only played a marginal role.

Krukenburg Castle, the keep

The Krukenburg sits on an 80 metres high spur above the village and former monastery of Helmarshausen, near Karlshafen where the Diemel river confluences into the Weser. The place is a ruin nowadays, but a pretty one – esp. in sunshine – and of somewhat unusual layout. I’ve been there several times, and the last time - in 2010 - I got the digital camera so I could share some photos.

Krukenburg, gate with view to the chapel

The oldest dateable building on the hill is the church dedicated to John the Baptist which was built 1107 – 1126. The nearby Benedictine monastery of Helmarshausen is even older; it dates to 997. But it is possible that the place on the spur has been used before esp. for baptism rites (which may have been the reason the chapel was dedicated to John the Baptist), and it may trace back to a pagan religious site. Charlemagne spent quite some time in the area of the Weser and Diemel rivers during his Saxon wars and missions. He may have turned the place to the new worship.

Rotunda of the chapel with remains of the west nave

The design of the chapel is somewhat unusual. Its centre is a rotunda of 13 metres diameter with a cupola roof (instead of the crossing common in Romanesque churches); added to it are a long western nave, a choir with apse to the east and two short transepts. The same layout can be found in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. There is a rectangular crypt in the centre of the rotunda, again following the example of the Rock Cave in Jerusalem. It may be even older than the church and had been excavated in the 1930ies, but it turned out too expensive to restore it safely for public access, and so the space was filled in again.

Chapel from the north, with remains of the north transept in the foreground

How did this unusual layout find its way to Germany? Wino, the abbot of Helmarshausen, traveled to Jerusalem in 1033. He got a commission from bishop Meinwerk of Paderborn to acquire the plans for the Church of the Holy Sepulchre for a similar building in Paderborn. The church in Jerusalem had been destroyed in 1009 and rebuilt in slightly altered fashion in the 1030ies; so the plans Wino got were from that period. The bishop then had the Jerusalem Church in Paderborn-Busdorf constructed according to those plans.

Chapel seen from the inside; view to the south transept

In 1107 Bishop Heinrich II of Paderborn and Count of Werl, from an old and influential family in the area, commissioned the chapel on the Krukenberg hill to compensate for the pilgrimage to the Holy Land he had pledged but could not make due to his age. When the church was consecrated in 1126, Bishop Heinrich was too ill to attend; he died the following year.

In that context, the unusual choice of design makes sense. After the Busdorf Church had been replaced with a more ‘modern’ building after a fire in 1289; the remains of the chapel in the Krukenburg are a rare example of an ecclesiastical building of that shape north of the Alpes.

Rotunda from the inside

The main cupola once had been double the height of the naves and transepts. Those were all covered by a barrel vault roof. One can still find traces of the lips for the ceiling; esp. in the remains of the rotunda and the choir. There are also remains of decorated skirtings.

A rectangular tower with an open hall formed the westwork. Adjacent was a smaller tower with a staircase, so there must have been a second storey – some sort of gallery maybe – at least in the western nave and perhaps the rotunda.

Keep (left) and chapel (right)

In 1126, relationships with the monastery in Helmarshausen seem to have been amiable. Bishop Heinrich granted the monastery several hides of land with the peasants living on it, to celebrate the consecration of the chapel on the Krukenberg hill.

But the increasing power play of the bishops of Paderborn endangered the status of Helmarshausen monastery, and may have woken memories of Bishop Meinward of Paderborn who had transferred the superiority over the monastery to Paderborn a century earlier. There were esp. two bishops whose politics brought them at loggerhead with other spheres of clerical influence: Bishop Bernhard II of Ibbenbüren, who took the bailiwick of Paderborn as well (in 1189) and used the combined power to found castles and towns that would remain dependant on the see.

(Paderborn House)

The other one was his successor Bernhard III of Oesede. He supported Philipp of Swabia against Otto IV (the son of Heinrich the Lion) in the strive for the German kingship and thus incurred the wrath of the pope, but turned his coat after Otto’s death and got back into papal grace. In 1222, the burghers of Paderborn rose against him, backed by the archbishop Engelbert I of Cologne who in turn wanted to expand his influence.

The monastery in Helmarshausen got dragged into the quarrels between the sees of Paderborn and Cologne. The abbot decided to apply to Archbishop Engelbert for support. It was Engelbert who built the fortifications of the Krukenburg to protect both the monastery and the chapel (1216-1220). The fortifications consisted of a curtain wall with a trench, a double gate with drawbridge, as well as two watch towers, but no outer bailey. The other buildings, including the keep, are later additions.

The bailey in the evening sun

Here’s some more historical background to connect my local history with the larger events: Engelbert’s predecessor and cousin Adolf of Altena was one of the men involved in releasing Richard Lionheart from captivity, and he crowned Otto IV of the Welfen family as King of the Germans in 1198; the coronation was confirmed by Pope Innocent III who was interested in balancing the strong position of the Staufen family in Italy. But Otto obviously was not an easy man to get along with, so Adolf started negotiations with Philipp of Swabia and in January 1205 crowned him as well. Ops. :-)

Keep with remains of the House of Mainz (left)

Pope Innocent did not like that one bit, so he sent Archbishop Adolf of Cologne a letter of dismissal and banned him. But the Rhineland was mostly pro-Staufen, so Adolf's successor didn't have much success in forcing papal policies against Adolf who refused to pack his laptop and leave his office, thus creating a nice, messy schism. Adolf even went to Rome in hope to get reinstalled (which proved vain), but the assassination of the Staufen candidate Philipp of Swabia in June 1208 changed the situation. Adolf submitted to the pope and talked his followers into accepting his successor. He got out of the whole mess with a handsome annual retirement funds, much like failed politicians (or bishops) these days.

Paderborn House, interior

His cousin Engelbert, provost of the chapter of Cologne since 1198, who supported Adolf during the schism and who had been discharged and excommunicated in 1205 because of the destruction his military actions caused, got away better. He came back into grace and into his position as provost in 1208. It seems he developed a better sensibility for the political currents and played along.

Otto IV could not resist trying to reconquer Sicily (which had been part of the German realm under his successor, Heinrich VI, son of Friedrich Barbarossa) thus breaking his promise to Pope Innocent to stay out of Sicily. That earned him an excommunication. It also gave the Staufen party in Germany a boost. Friedrich II (the son of Heinrich VI) was elected king and Otto was forced to return from Italy to sort out things at home in spring 1212. Friedrich also traveled to Germany to receive the oaths of the princes and nobles, and the conflict continued in Germany both on the political and the battlefield. Otto died, politically isolated in May 1218.

Gate and curtain wall seen from the bailey

Adolf was in no position to play a role in these conflicts, though he tried to regain his job in Cologne, while his cousin Eberhard laid low. His neutrality payed out for Eberhard in 1216. Eberhard was elected archbishop of Cologne in February and consecrated in September 1217 with the blessing of both the new pope, Honorius III, and the emperor Friedrich II.

The good relationship with Friedrich would last. Engelbert was named guardian of Friedrich's son Heinrich who was crowned king in 1222, and regent in Germany (Friedrich spent a lot of time in Sicily and on crusade). That made him one of the most influential people of the realm. He was assassinated in November 1225 on his was back from Soest to Cologne.

Curtain wall from the outside; also the out-facing wall of Paderborn house

Engelbert used his position to strengthen the dominion of the see and to expand its territories. One wonders how voluntary the pledge of the abbot of Helmarshausen was. The information I got focusses on the increasing power of Paderborn, but that brought the bishopric in conflict with Eberhard of Cologne and it could well have been that he *ahem* suggested they better called for his protection. The monastery of Helmarshausen with its artisans who created beautiful book illuminations (Gospel Book of Heinrich the Lion) was a prestige object worth having.

Engelbert pawned the castle out to Count Hermann of Everstein in 1223; in 1238 it was pawned out to the archbishop of Paderborn who erected the Paderborn House.

Paderborn House with the parapet in the foreground

Paderborn House is what one may call a tower house. The entrance was in the first storey to make access more difficult. The outer walls only have small windows but the inner side facing the bailey had larger windows and overall gave a rather representative look. Which makes me wonder how safe the place really was when you could throw heavy objects inside. Well, maybe they used thick wooden shutters. Remains of beam holes and fireplaces can still be seen inside. There also was a cellar for storage and perhaps prison.

In the following times the castle - and with it the hold over Helmarshausen monastery - changed possession a few times between the sees of Paderborn, Cologne and Mainz, sometimes also in part only, which meant that for a few years there were two bailiffs living in the castle. The Mainzer House was built in 1405 (of this only the cellar and one outer wall that also was the curtain wall, remain).

Another view from the gate to the chapel

I could not find much detailed information about the role of the Krukenburg in the later Middle Ages. It was conquered by Ludwig II Landgrave of Hessia who set up a garrison there during a feud with Paderborn in 1465, but the bishop bought it back in 1496 and installed a bailiff again.

After the Reformation, the monastery of Helmarshausen - and with it the Krukenburg - lost its importance; the castle fell into decay after 1617.

The 22 metres high keep has been repaired in 1968. There is a platform on its top with a great view over the Diemel valley, and the forests of Solling and Rheinhardswald. But it was closed last time I went there.
 
Comments:
sorry about the allergies! Good idea to re-visit past posts. Certainly enjoyed this one.
 
Thank you, Anerje.
 
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The Lost Fort is a travel and history blog based on my journeys in Germany, the UK, Scandinavia, and central / eastern Europe. It includes virtual town and castle tours with a focus on history, museum visits, geologically themed hiking tours, and essays on Roman and Mediaeval history, illustrated with my own photos.

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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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Harz National Park
Arboretum (Bad Grund)
Bode Valley and Rosstrappe Cliff
Ilse Valley and Ilse's Rock
Oderteich Reservoir
Rappbode Reservoir
Views from Harz mountains

Nature Park Meissner-Kaufunger Wald
Hessian Switzerland

Nature Park Solling-Vogler
The Hutewald Forest
The Raised Bog Mecklenbruch

Thuringian Forests
Oberderdorla and Hainich National Park

Rivers and Lakes
The Danube in Spring
Edersee Reservoir
A Rainy Rhine Cruise
The Moselle
Vineyards at Saale and Unstrut
Weser River Ferry
Weser Skywalk

Parks and Palaces
Botanical Garden Göttingen
Hardenberg Castle Gardens
Wilhelmsthal Palace and Gardens

Wildlife
Harz Falcon Park
Ozeaneum Stralsund: The Baltic Sea Life
Ozeaneum Stralsund: The North Sea Life

Seasons
Spring at the 'Kiessee' Lake
Spring in the Rossbach Heath (Meissner)
Memories of Summer
Summer Hiking Tours 2016
Autumn in the Meissner
Autumn at Werra and Weser
Winter at the 'Kiessee' Lake
Winter Wonderland - Views from my Balcony


Across the Channel - United Kingdom

Mountains and Valleys
West Highland Railway

The East Coast
By Ferry to Newcastle
Highland Mountains - Inverness to John o'Groats
Some Photos from the East Coast

Scottish Sea Shores
Crossing to Mull
Mull - Craignure to Fionnphort
Pentland Firth
Castles Seen from Afar (Dunollie and Kilchurn)
Staffa
Summer Days in Oban
Summer Nights in Oban

Wild Wales - With Castles
Views of Snowdownia
Views from Castle Battlements

Wildlife
Sea Gulls


Land of Light and Darkness - Scandinavia

The Hurtigruten-Tour / Norway
A Voyage into Winter
Along the Coast of Norway - Light and Darkness
Along the Coast of Norway - North of the Polar Circle

Norway by Train
From Oslo to Bergen
From Trondheim to Oslo

Wildlife
Bearded Seals
Dog Sledding With Huskies
Eagles and Gulls in the Trollfjord


Shores of History -
The Baltic Sea


A Baltic Sea Cruise

The Curonian Spit in Lithuania
Beaches at the Curonian Spit
Geology of the Curonian Spit



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