lipprose Werner Nolte über mittelalterliche Architektur und Geschichte
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The Cross on the Market Square

During the Middle Ages, the granting of markets rights by kings and other rulers was a tremendously important economic privilege, whether it concerned permanent, weekly or annual markets.

Besides the merchants, the cities and sovereigns benefited from levies and duties.

Usually, market rights were awarded along with city rights. The right of coinage was commonly awarded at the same moment as well.

Flags or crosses marked the market square, where usually the town hall was located. Market peace was protected by the ruler.

Unlike in continental Europe, market crosses were rather common in England. These were often not merely crosses, but open, accessible buildings with rich sculpture, such as the Gothic “cross” in Salisbury.

imm 003salisbury Marktkreuz VIII33

This city even had four crosses for just as many submarkets. In addition to the "poultry cross", there were also crosses for cheese and wool. These structures demonstrated the wealth of the local citizens and merchants.

Stories in Stone

The Germans and especially the Vikings loved to immortalize their own deeds and those of their ancestors in stone.

Runenn Nylars.11.jh 029modAPblog.800Breite
Rune stone with a serpent at the foot of the cross, 11th century.
Round church in Nylars, dedicated to St. Nicholas

Inscription: “Sasser had this stone erected in memory ofHalwarth, his father.He drowned along with his whole crew.Christ help his soul for all eternity.This stone stands in his memory.”

To this peculiarity and the long-lasting material, we owe important insights into the mentality and history of people in the Early and High Middle Ages.



Österlars modAp blog.04 050
Round church in Österlars



Rune Stone with crucifix symbol, 11th century
Inscription:Thorkil erected this stone ...

The Vikings' characters, the runes, were well suited for carving in stone and wood. Around 3000 – mostly upright – rune stones are said to have been found in Scandinavia alone. But they also exist in peripheral areas, for example in Haithabu (Schleswig-Holstein).






I warmly thank the reader Joachim Feik for the information on the inscriptions.



Translation: Erik Eising


Green Men

or leaf masks. These are the names for an odd type of sculpture, which represents a head with leaves or plants growing from its mouth.
 Kaiserdom Königslutter
Their meaning is controversial. Some researchers regard them as fertility symbols or as an expression of the force of nature.
The origins of the Green Men are generally believed to lie in Roman Antiquity. From there, the artists of Christian Europe took over its depiction, particularly in German late Romanesque architecture. In other countries and periods, the Green Men are not or hardly ever seen.
neuwerk 8491mblog
Neuwerkkirche Goslar
They are not limited to architecture, though, but also found their way to the carvings of choir stools and manuscript illumination.
Translation: Erik Eising

The Urge for Gothic


The beautiful Romanesque parish church in Roussillon, built in the middle of the eleventh century and rebuilt in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, has been through a lot. For example, she was set ablaze in 1285. The people seeking refuge inside the church fell victim to enemy soldiers.


Elne 072

 Ste-Eulalie-Ste-Julie, Elne


Nevertheless, it was rebuilt and enlarged during the later Middle Ages.This is demonstrated by the Romanesque tower.Famous is the well-preserved cloister from the High Middle Ages.


During my visit, I was fascinated by something next to this cloister that, at first glance, appeared to be banal.


The desire of late medieval builders to use Gothic forms is undisputed, but apart from towers with different heights or missing towers, one rarely sees an attempt that failed as vividly as in Elne. It is an image that is touching in a way: the foundations of a Gothic chapel from the beginning of the fourteenth century, which was to replace the Romanesque choir.


As in most cases, the problem was financial in origin.The early thirteenth-century Bishop Ramon V did not raise enough money. The Gothic fragments painfully testify to this failed project.




Translation: Erik Eising

Einhard's Stones


About 13 years ago, I published an article on the Carolingian  Einhard’s Basilica  in Steinbach.

During my visit there, I had looked at the size of the bricks used and I thought of the statement of professor Arnold Wolff, the second master builder of Cologne cathedral, that, with their departure, the Romans had taken with them the art of brick burning. Only the famous Bishop Bernward of Hildesheim (950/60-1022) had for the first time again ordered the production of bricks or roof tiles.  This has now been confirmed by archaeological research. For this reason, I spoke of the reuse of Roman stones.


Einhard 1.modAP2


In 2010, a friendly reader pointed out that my statement about the building material was not correct.The Hessian State Office for the Preservation of Monuments (Landesamt für Denkmalpflege) has found bricks of poor quality, obviously from local production.  In the meantime, I had learned of a letter from Einhard to a certain  Egmunelus, who was entrusted with the brick production for the basilica.

Thus, I corrected my statement.

Some time ago, I read more specific information in Matthias Untermann’s book on medieval architecture: Egmunelus  received an order of 260 stones in two different sizes.  In total, however, about 7000 stones were used.

I corrected the article a second time.

Let's finish the topic with my wife's question, "Don’t you have anything more important to do?"



Untermann, Matthias,Handbuch der mittelalterlichen Architektur, Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft Darmstadt, 2009




Translation: Erik Eising

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