lipprose Werner Nolte über mittelalterliche Architektur und Geschichte
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Handles and Grommets

Those with an interest in the quirky aspects of medieval art are constantly able to find new details of which the meaning cannot be explained today, or details that indeed may be meaningless.
 
 
On the exterior and in the interior of the Church of Neuwerk in Goslaer - the construction of which began in the twelfth century - enthusiasts can get their money's worth. Here, only one interesting element in the basilica's central nave can be mentioned.
 
 
 Gslr Neuwerkk 8515 modAPres
 
 
 
 
Some of the half-columns that help carry the vault abandon the wall - and therewith their original task - to protrude the interior space, only to return to the wall again further upward.
 
 
Yet, this is not all. These "handle"-like elements are hung with rings, or they feature a sculpted mask.
 
 
The "grommets" have been interpreted as variations on the "Ouroboros", the antique symbol of the serpent biting into its own tail.
 
 
So-called "little green men" or leaf-masks can be found among the church's ornaments as well.
 
 
 
 
Translation: Erik Eising (MA)




Incredible Eleonore

 
Daughter of a troubador, Duchess of Aquitaine, and Queen of France (1137-1152).
 
 
Nothing unusual during the twelfth century, just as the fact that she bore ten children, eight of which from her second marriage.
 
Then her participation during the Second Crusade, as a Queen! And the suspicion of adultery with an uncle.
 
Once returned in Europe: the annulment of the marriage, allegedly because the kinship with her husband was too close.
 
Two months later, the marriage of the 30-year-old woman with the 11-year-old Duke of Normandy, Count of Anjou. As Henry II he would become King of England. Eleonore gave him a swath of French territory and therewith unintentionally sowed the seeds for the Hundred Years War between France and England.
 
During the 35-year marriage, many political and personal conflicts arose between the two, which led to a conspiracy between three of their sons against the king, that was supported by the Queen. Eleonore paid the price with fifteen years of house arrest.
 trifels 0004.modAP.resol
Castle Trifels in Germany, Richard's Prison
 
After Henry's death and her release, she committed herself energetically to her son, Richard Lionheart, who languished in the dungeons of Emperor Henry VI. At the age of 72, she personally delivered the required ransom.
 
Eight years later she died at the age of 80, five years after Richard. She now rests next to two English kings, father and son, in the Abbey of Fontevraud.
 
Translation: Erik Eising (MA)
 




Old Cloisters

Next to monastic churches, cloisters are the second-most interesting and important structures of medieval convents. Via arcades, the walkways, which are sometimes two stories high, grant access to a usually square courtyard. These functioned as places of regeneration, communication, and reading. Wells and fountain houses allowed for washing.
 
 
Ast 5966 modAP kl
  Collegiate Church  San Pedro de Teverga, Asturias (E)
 
During the early Middle Ages - verifiable at least from the eighth century on - these facilities were modest and, when a convent was newly founded, often made of wood. An example from Asturia, though from early modern times, may serve to illustrate this.
 
Early cloisters are rare. The oldest fragment in Germany, dating from around 1000 and consisting of six arches, is found in the Church of St. Pantaleon in Cologne.
 
Pantaleon 0893 mod horizAP kl
St. Pantaleon, Cologne
 
Prior to the cubic capital, its rare mushroom capitals were already used in Ottonian architecture.
 
 
 
Translation Erik Eising (MA)




The Sold King

 
 
Who would buy a king?
 
And how much would he cost?
 
In 1193, Duke Leopold V of Austria handed Emperor Henry VI valuable booty: Richard Lionheart, King of England.
 
The price was 50,000 silver marks, worth over 1 billion Euro's today, a proper consolation for his excommunication. The city of Wiener Neustadt owes his existence to the thief.
 
 
trifels 0004.modAP.resol
 Trifels Castle
 
Richard, returning from the third crusade, had to avoid the lands of his numerous enemies, among whom the French king and the Emperor. His attempt to return home via Austria was unwise. During one of his tantrums at Acre, he had thrown Duke Leopold's banner into the mud.
 

 

The Emperor seized the prisoner at Trifels Castle and demanded from England 100,000 silvers marks. The country - with its population of 2.2 million - bled out financially. Even precious liturgical objects were melted down.

 

After the payment of the "purchase price", the Emperor possessed sufficient silver to conquer the Norman Kingdom of Sicily, which' crown he received in 1194. Since then, he reigned from the North Sea to the Mediterranean.

 

Translation: Erik Eising (MA)

 
 




Bricks against cannons

 
 
The introduction of cannons on the battlefields of the late Middle Ages changed much, particularly regarding techniques of fortification.
 
The rather weak walls and city gates, normally sufficient to defend against infantry, did not last against cannon balls made of stone and iron.
 
This is also what the defenders of Constantinople experienced. In 1453, a hail of cannon balls weighing over one hundred kilograms breached the city's famous double wall ring, in order for the Janissaries of Sultan Mehmet II to enter. Constantinople fell to the Ottoman Empire.
 
 
IMG 0833 mofAp 2 res
Inner ramparts 
 
 
In Europe, attempts were made to protect castles and fortifications with semi-circular artillery towers. In the medieval city fortification of Neubrandenburg (Mecklenburg-Vorpommern), which has almost completely been preserved, the Friedländer Double Gate is guarded by a rampart with thick walls and cannons.
 
IMG 0834 modAp Outer ramparts
 
 
A further development consisted of shorter round towers with fighting platforms. The cannons erected there were able to fire in all directions, as opposed to those of the ramparts proper.
 
 
However, even these could not stop the effectiveness of heavy firearms, although the modern star-shaped bastions with earth walls - the remnants of which can still be found in various cities - would constitute a definite improvement.
 
 
 
Translation: Erik Eising (MA)