lipprose Werner Nolte über mittelalterliche Architektur und Geschichte
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Stairs

The birth of the stairs occurred when people were no longer satisfied with one-story dwellings.
 

Diverse.Lippe.Oerlinghausen04 1411

Initially, a notched tree trunk had to be used to reach the upper floor. However, in the long run this solution was too primitive. Consequently, the concept of the stairs was invented, first made of wood, then of stone.

 
The constructions gradually became more daring, and some even famous, such as the wide staircase of Wells Cathedral, which leads from the choir’s northern side aisle up to the chapter house.

 

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In some monasteries, the so-called “night stairs” connected the Dormitory with the choir, to facilitate the way for the monks to pray for the Hours.

 

IMG 2181.Marksburg

Equestrian stairs had rather flat steps. In the early modern period, these could even lead to the tops of towers, such as in the Round Tower of Copenhagen, but in that case as a riding ramp without steps. A similar system was established in so-called “donkey towers”. In the winding corridor, goods were carried on the backs of these animals.

 




Superstition

 
I'm just reading that the German Federal Labor Secretary is planning a 13th Social Code. It is supposed to carry the number 14, as 13 is an unlucky number. This is quite considerate of Secretary Heil. The discomfort with the number 13 is still widespread, even in the digital age. Who has never seen a hotel room with the number 12a?
 
In a similar fashion, the phenomenon of the "black cat" is likewise still well-known.
 
It is therefore not surprising that superstition was also rampant during the Middle Ages.
 
4095Maria.Cosmedin.Rom.800B "The Mouth of Truth" in front of the church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, Rome.
 
The enormous marble slab is said to be over 2000 years old. Since the Middle Ages, it has been believed that the “mouth” can distinguish between truth and falsehood. In the latter case, it snaps shut. – This young woman came away unscathed.
 
 
 
The same lady was observed putting her hand on the left foot of the statue of the famous Jewish scholar Maimonides (12th-century) in Córdoba. Whether a little bit of wisdom passed onto her…?
 
 
IMG 0175
 
Let's stay a little bit closer to home: In Cologne it is said that, during the Middle Ages, touching of the statue of St. Christopher inside the Cathedral ensured the survival for this day.
 
Similar "proposals" were common throughout medieval Europe.




A Refugee from Damascus

His whole family has been extinguished. As sole survivor, the 25-year-old man flees to North Africa, to the Berber family of his mother, where he is placed into hiding. His relatives then smuggle the unaccompanied youth to Southern Spain.

What appears to be such a modern tale happened in 756. The refugee is the sole survivor of the Umayyads, whose caliphate had ruled over the Islamic world since 661. Now, after nearly 100 years, their murderers, the Abbasids, seized power in Damascus.

Abd al-Rahman quickly succeeded in unifying the Berbers and supporters of the Umayyads, and defeating the previous rulers. As Emir of Al-Andalus, he defended its independence against the hostile caliphate.

 

Abd ar Rahman I
                                             Abd-a-Rahman

 Two years before his death in 786, he began building the Great Mosque of Córdoba.




The Wandering Vault

In the middle of the twelfth century, the so-called Angevin Gothic style was developed in the southwest of France. Its main feature is the dominical vault, which unifies dome and ribbed vault. The corner stones of the arches are positioned rather high.

This type of vault only became popular in its region of origin, and in Westphalia – thousands of kilometers to the northeast.

 

IMG 5746
                                    Münster Cathedral

In search of an explanation, Westphalian historians came across the founding father of the dynasty of Lippe. Bernhard II was a faithful follower of Henry the Lion, who, after the loss of his duchies, went into exile to his father-in-law, the ruler of the Angevin Empire. Bernhard was supposedly part of his entourage. >>The Lion.

 

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Nicolai Church, Lemgo

 

Immediately after his return, Bernhard founded Lippstadt in 1184 or 1185, and shortly thereafter also Lemgo. In addition to that, he was involved with the foundation of Marienfeld Abbey.

With an apparent interest in building projects, it is not unlikely that Bernhard, impressed by the Gothic churches found in southwestern France, brought the dominical vault back to Westphalia via French building masters, who he employed at the beginning of the thirteenth century.

 

 

 




A Pediment with Gold

By the sixteenth century at the latest, the eastern pediment of Constance Cathedral was decorated with four cart-sized golden discs, recognizable from afar by boatmen on Lake Constance.

The largest disc, with a diameter of almost 2 m, was created in the eleventh century. It shows Christ as Pantocrator, accompanied by two angels.

 

DSC 1297.KO

 

 

The other three discs are only about half the size in diameter and are thought to be works by different anonymous masters. Two of these show busts of the patron saints of Constance Cathedral, Pelagius and Conrad, while the third disc features the image of an eagle, the symbol of St. John the Evangelist.

 

konstanz.1299

         Disc featuring the eagle    Photo: Konstantin Köhler
 
After their restoration in 1973, the artworks were placed in the Cathedral’s crypt (built around 900). Today, the eastern pediment is decorated with copies.




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