Roman and Mediaeval History, Illlustrated Travel Journals, Mediaeval Literature, Geology
The Imperial Palatine Seat Tilleda - Fortifications
I have mentioned Tilleda a few times already since it's one of the rare examples of a Medieaval palatine seat of which more remains than some crumbled earthen walls and a sign. Werla, albeit double the size of Tilleda shows only a few of those today, Grona has become a suburb of Göttingen, in Pöhlde only some foundations remain. Of course, most of what we can see in Tilleda today has been reconstructed - earthen walls and wattle and daub houses don't preserve well - but it is the only complete complex of the sort. In Goslar, only the great hall has been restored, albeit it is a most splendid example.
Tilleda, gate of the outer bailey. The way it is drawn in between the walls enabled the defenders to throw all sorts of pointy, hot, or otherwise interesting things on attackers.
Tilleda is first mentioned as Imperial Palatine seat (imperiatoris corte
) in a charte dating to 972, where it is listed among the lands Otto II gave his wife, the Byzantine princess Theophanu, as dower. But the castle on the Pfingstberg hill must have been in existence since the early 10th century.* Tilleda surely was part of the net of palatine seats in Thuringia and Saxony already at the time of King Heinrich I.
Palatine seats, sometimes also known as royal vills in England, were needed because the king had to show his presence to the people, taxes paid in food could not be transported and stored over long distances, so Mediaeval kings did a lot of traveling and wanted to stay in places of some comfort.
Outer gate seen from the inside with some wattle and daub houses in the foreground
The Pfingstberg hill lies north of the Kyffhäuser mountain ridge, a place that has become famous for the legend of the emperor Friedrich Barbarossa sleeping deep inside the mountain to return in time of great need. So far, no one has seen him, but he got a big, kitchy 19th century monument on top of the mountain. If that didn't wake him from of his sleep; I doubt anything will. *grin*
There are the remains of a 12th century castle halfway down the mountain as well, but when we got there, it turned out the restaurant at the monument hosted a major biker meeting and there were bikers everywhere in addition to the usual avalanches of tourists on a sunny day, so we decided against trying to find a parking lot only to photograph some ruins with a lot of people blocking the sights.
View from the gate to some houses, with the Kyffhäuser in the background
The seat of Tilleda has a trapezoid shape and covers an area of 5.6 hectares (about 350x250 metres). The part of the hill where the main castle is situated has steep slopes that fall down 25 metres on three sides, on it were additional fortifications in form of a trench and wall, partly of stone, partly timber palisades. Only to the west the land is flatter (but still some 10 metres above the surrounding terrain); there the outer bailey lies, once protected by walls of mortared ashlar (see below). Another, second outer bailey on the southern terrace near the river Wolwede has been excavated but not reconstructed.
The ground of the hill is sandstone on a layer of Zechstein gypsum which led to a rockfall probably in the early 11th century which destroyed part of the main hall in the northeast corner of the castle.
Interior of the outer gate, with my father looking out for enemies
The castle with the main hall, church and living quarters for the nobles - several of them with hypocaust heating - is separated from the outer bailey by a system of walls and trenches. Most of the buildings in the main castle were made of stone, or at least had stone foundations, though the hall was rebuilt as pillared longhouse after the rockfall. I will get back to the remains of those in another post.
The main wall with the palisades and the gate - in its second, stone version with timber upper storey - have been reconstructed, as well as one of the trenches.
Inner gate, seen from the outer bailey
The area between the main castle and the outer bailey had during Ottonian times served as some sort of middle castle with a granary and the living quarters of the chatellain / administator, but later, the fortifications were considerably strengthened. Maybe the defense purpose of the place became more important during quarrels between kings and nobles. King Lothar of Süpplingenburg destroyed the castle on the Kyffhäuser in 1118, for example.
We can trace a sojourn of Emperor Friedrich Barbarossa in Tilleda in 1174, and in 1194, Heinrich VI received the exiled Heinrich the Lion in reconciliatory meeting. Considering the symbolic element inherent to such actions in the Middle Ages, it proves that Tilleda was an important place; such meetings didn't take place in some backwater village.
Inner gate seem from the remains of the church
The outer bailey, encompassing about 60% of the entire site, is the most typical feature of the palatine seats of itinerant rulers. This large outer bailey was protected by a wall of mortared ashlar, both of local origins (some of the gypsum pits have been excavated). These walls have later been used as quarry and were only partly reconstructed; the rest of the layout is marked by a low earthen wall. The original height of the ashlar wall is unknown.
There were a lot of houses, mostly of the wattle and daub type, but also some timbered ones, and a number of pit houses. They served as workplaces, storage huts, and living quarters for the people involved in producing pottery, weavings and iron products on which this particular seat obviously specialised.
Rampart with access from the inner bailey
The fact that the reconstruction concentrated on those parts of the castle may be due to Tilleda having been a site in the former GDR where the interest in the working classes was much greater than in the kings. I don't know if there are plans to rebuild the royal hall as well though it would be nice.
The palatine seat has been abandoned by most of its inhabitants in the 13th century. Its purpose as housing for itinerant kings became useless when those prefered to live in the better fortified hilltop castles, and the various industries moved down to the Golden Valley (Goldene Aue
) where the conditions obviously were more favourable.
View from the inner gate to the Kyffhäuser, with a pit house in the foreground
I'll get back to that unique place and show you some of the buildings next time. Some of them house Medieaval tools (looms and such) and give some glimpse of life in the 10th/11th centuries.
* Chartes issued in specific places and the mention of sites in chartes only give very incomplete information about those sites since much depends on chance of both historical events and preservation.
Hans Eberhard, Paul Grimm. Die Pfalz Tilleda am Kyffhäuser - Ein Führer durch die Geschichte und Ausgrabungen. Halle/Saale, 2001
Otto the Quarrelsome: The Lüneburg Succession War
Otto the Quarrelsome had a thing for heritage succession wars, it seems. He had barely solved the first round of the Hessian mess - or rather, it was solved for him - when he got himself embroiled in the war about the heritage to the duchy of Braunschweig-Lüneburg. Well, this time it sorta remained in the family and Otto acted on behalf of his cousins once removed; at least that was the reason he gave.
Braunschweig, Dankwarderode Castle at night
OK, let's go back on those geneaologies a bit. We remember that Albrecht I of Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel was the father of Albrecht the Fat who had a bunch of sons with Rixa of Werle. One of those was Ernst (1305-1367), the father of our Otto, another was Magnus (1304-1369; married to Sophie of Brandenburg of House Ascania), who had a son Magnus (you guessed that, right?), nicknamed Torquatus, who in turn had several sons, among them Friedrich and Bernhard - Otto the Quarrelsome's cousins once removed.
For the next step, we need to go back to Albrecht I again who had a brother, Joahnn of Braunschweig-Lüneburg; aka Old House Lüneburg. He was married to Liutgard of Holstein and had a son named Otto the Strict, who married Mathilde of Bavaria with whom he had several sons, among them another Otto, and Wilhelm. Those two brothers shared in the rule of the duchy, and Wilhelm (1300-1369) continued alone after Otto's death. But both brothers didn't manage to produce a surviving male heir, though Wilhelm had a daughter.
You still with me? Good. *hands out brownie points* Well, after the death of Wilhelm, there were several candidates for the succession, among them Albrecht of Sachsen (Saxony)-Wittenberg, the son of Wilhelm's daughter Elisabeth and Otto of Sachsen-Wittenberg († 1350) of House Ascania; and Magnus Torquatus.
Like the Welfen, the Ascanians were an old family whose documented origins date back to the 10th century, and there was a bit of a rivalry between both families. The Ascanians, too, had split into several lines; one of them were the prince electors of Sachsen-Wittenberg.
Emperor Karl IV considered the Lüneburg fief as fallen back to him, and he wanted to decide who'd inherit it. His pick was Albrecht who was supposed to rule together with his uncle Wenzel (Wenceslas; a younger brother of Otto). Magnus Torquatus did not like that and tried to remedy matters at the head of an army of knights and squires. The towns of Hannover and Lüneburg declared for Albrecht (the Welfen politics wasn't exactly town-friendly) and so there soon was a full-fledged war. Magnus fell in battle in 1373, leaving behind two young sons, Friedrich (born 1357) and Bernhard.
Braunschweig Cathedral, crypt
After Magnus' death, peace negotations were conducted and Magnus' widow, Katharina of Anhalt-Bernburg, married Albrecht who was going to rule the duchy, while her sons Friedrich and Bernhard married daughters of Wenzel and kept a claim to Braunschweig-Lüneburg via possible offspring.
But Otto the Quarrelsome took the chance to intervene on behalf of his cousins and indeed managed to gain Braunschweig, the main seat of the Welfen. He played a net of alliances no one really followed but he did rule Braunschweig from 1374-1381. The town didn't like that much - Otto had a talent to not get along with towns - and would have prefered Albrecht. And then Friedrich also stood up against his guardian and started making political moves of his own, conquering Lüneburg in 1388.
In the end, Otto renounced his claim in exchange for money as he did in Hessia. Friedrich would become Duke of Braunschweig-Lüneburg in 1389 and keep those lands in the hands of the Welfen.
The walkway between the castle (left) and the cathedral, used by the ducal family
Friedrich was assassinated upon return from the imperial elections in Mainz in 1400. The man behind it was a sheriff of the archbishop of Mainz, Count Heinrich VII of Waldeck. Friedrich and the archbishop had quarreled about who was to become the next German king after several dukes has ousted Wenceslaus 'the Lazy' of Luxembourg. The archbishop's candidate, Elector Palatine Rupert, won that election. And here's another English connection: Rupert's son Ludwig (Louis) was married to Blanche of England, daughter of Henry IV.
The duchy of Braunschweig-Lüneburg went to Friedrich's brother Bernhard whose offspring continued the Middle House Lüneburg-line.
The church of Wiebrechtshausen,
view into the burial chamber of Otto of Braunschweig-Göttingen
I should continue with Otto's quarrels with Göttingen, but I don't have any photos of my hometown to go with it, and right now there's a big hole with busy moxies in front of the town hall and the church founded by Heinrich the Lion is hiding behind a scaffolding. I should have done a photo tour long ago but somehow the own place can always wait.
Fantasy author Mark Lawrence has asked the readers of his blog to post photos of book towers they created. Well, it sounded like a fun thing to do and so I started hauling Roman themed books, both fiction (easy) and non-fiction (not so easy - I've got some real monsters there; the boxed set of the 2009 Varus Exhibition catalogue weighs in at 6 kg), from the shelves in my flat and created this.
The twin towers of Roman books
Of course, after I had taken the photos and dismantled the tower, I remembered another shelf which held, among others, some German fiction about the Romans and my bilingual editions of Ovid and Vergil. Well, the whole thing looks pretty impressive anyway (the yardstick leaning against the tower shows 1 metre).
And yes, I know some of you will want to peek at the titles. Here we go
Border Castles and Conflicts - Otto the Quarrelsome and the Star Wars
No, not a sequel to a popular SF-series, but the war of an alliance called Sternerbund - Star League, led by Otto, against the landgrave of Hessia.
Otto the Quarrelsome* (Otto der Quade, 1340 - 1394), whose real name was Otto III Duke of Braunschweig-Lüneburg zu Göttingen (or Otto I of Braunschweig-Göttingen), was a member of the Welfen family. His ancestor Heinrich the Lion had received back the allodial lands of the family after his reconciliaton with Emperor Heinrich VI in 1189, but not the Duchy of Bavaria and not the title Duke of Saxony; the family would call itself after their main seat Braunschweig (Brunswick) from that time on. During the next generations, the land was split between several sons, creating several branches of the Welfen dynasty. Otto ended up with Göttingen and surroundings.
Dankwarderode Castle in Braunschweig, main seat of the Welfen
Let's have a look at part of Otto's family tree which is another of those wonderfully tangled messes involving the nobility of half of Europe. We'll go back to our friend Heinrich the Lion, Duke of Saxony, one of the most interesting members of the Welfen dynasty. As some of you may remember, he was married to Mathilda of England, daughter of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine. Their youngest son was Wilhelm (1184-1213), the later Duke of Lüneburg, also known as William of Winchester because he was born during Heinrich's exile at the court of his father-in-law.
Wilhelm married Helena of Denmark, a daughter of Valdemar the Great. They had a son named Otto (1204-1252; nicknamed 'the Child' to distinguish him from his uncle, the Emperor Otto IV). Otto married Mathilde of Brandenburg, a daughter of Albrecht II Margrave of Brandenburg and Mathilde (yes, I know *sigh*) of Lusatia - she brings a Polish connection into the mix since her mother was Ełżbieta of Poland, daughter of Miesko III of the Piast dynasty.
Sichelnstein Castle, one of Otto's border fortifications
I'm only going to follow the offspring that matters for the line leading to Otto the Quarrelsome, and that is Otto's and Mathilde's son Albrecht I of Braunschweig who married one Adelaide of Montferrat and had a son named Albrecht as well, Albrecht the Fat (1268-1318). At that point the Welfen possessions had been split to provide for more than one son and thus he was known as Albrecht of Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel-Göttingen, and he was the first to take his seat in Ballerhus Castle (no longer in existence) in Göttingen.
Albrecht married Rixa of Werle, a granddaughter of Earl Birger Magnusson of Sweden and with her he had a football team of kids. One of them was Ernst (1305-1367) of Braunschweig-Göttingen, who married Elisabeth of Hessia, daughter of Heinrich II Landgrave of Hessia and Elisabeth of Thuringia (who in turn, was a granddaughter of Albrecht of Thuringia and Margarethe of Staufen, mentioned in this post
). Otto the Quarrelsome was their son. The Hessian descendance of his mother will play a role for Otto later.
(Sichelnstein, view from the gate to the inside)
Otto had a problem for starters: the hodgepodge structure of his lands which consisted of disconnected bits from the Solling and Uslar in the north-west to Gandersheim in the north-east, Northeim in the centre, Göttingen and Hannoversch-Münden
in the south; plus a number of castles. Nor were his lands particularly rich; which may explain Otto's constant money problems - they may not always
have been due to his excessive feuding.
So of course Otto was looking for more and better lands. When Landgrave Heinrich of Hessia's son, another Otto, died childless, Heinrich at first named Otto the Quarrelsome, who had a claim through his mother, as heir. According to the still active Salian law, allodial possessions could be inherited via the female line. But Heinrich changed his mind in 1367 and proclaimed his nephew Hermann as heir instead. Otto probably had made too true of his nickname, and the altered succession left him in a really foul mood.
Otto was not the only one who disliked the expansionist politics of the landgraves of Hessia. He joined up with a group of discontented nobles in the Star League (Sternerbund
), founded in 1370. The league was led by Otto and the Counts of Ziegenhain-Reichenbach
, Gottfried VII and his son Gottfried VIII, who were one of the main targets of the expanding landgraviate of Hessia. Among the members were a number of nobles, mostly from Hessia and the borderlands (including the Hanstein
family), and several ranking clerics, the highest among those Archbishop Johann de Ligny of the Electorate Mainz who didn't want to lose his position of most powerful man in Hessia to Landgrave Heinrich.
The founding meeting - in 1369 - took place in Ziegenhain Castle, and the sign of the alliance, a six pointed star, derived from their arms. The league could call upon 2000 men in arms and, among them, held some 350 castles. The Star League was only one among several like alliances that were established among German nobles and knights at the time, but it's the one important for the area I'm writing about here.
Another view of the Sichelnstein
Otto's aim may not have been to get the entire landgraviate of Hessia (he was likely realistic enough to understand that his claim was less strong than Hermann's and he'd have needed support from inside the family), but he was at least looking to get the bits and pieces of Hessian possessions sitting between his own lands south of Göttingen, and create an united area between Leine and Werra. Moreover, his sister Agnes was married to Gottfried VIII of Ziegenhain, and Otto was still behind on paying her dowry. Acquisition of more land and income would have solved that problem. Though their union, and shared command, in the league shows that both men obviously got along despite the dowry issue.
(Sichelnstein, the north wall; with my father walking along it to compare size)
Landgrave Heinrich of Hessia didn't sit idly by while the Star Warriors charged their light sabers. He looked for allies in turn and found one in his nephew Friedrich of House Wettin, Landgrave of Thuringia and Margrave of Meissen (his father, another Friedrich, was the brother of Heinrich's wife Elisabeth of Thuringia; see above). Both families concluded a mutual protection and support alliance, and more important, a heritage confraternity. That meant that one family would inherit the possessions of the other if it died out in the male line. Since the families were related, there would always be some claim, and the confraternity now overrode all other claims. That of course, put an end to Otto's hope of inheriting any Hessian lands. It also gave Heinrich the military strength to face Otto's alliance succesfully.
The Star War broke out in 1372 with the usual tactics of destroying mutual properties and besiegung / sacking a few castles, but there never was a pitched battle. Landgrave Heinrich's troops won a number of those encounters and eventually, the Star League began to lose its points by nobles conducting separate peace negotiations with Heinrich.
In 1375, the emperor Karl IV confirmed the heritage confraternity, the allod of Hessia, and Heinrich's and his successors' entitlement to the fief of Thuringia, at which point Otto negotiated as well and renounced his claim to Hessia in exchange for some financial compensation (I wonder if he paid the dowry then). This was the end of the Star League. The position of House of Hessia was considerably strengthened by these developments.
The was another armed conflict between Otto and Hermann of Hessia in 1388 when Kassel seeked his - and the archbishop of Mainz' - aid against Herrmann's claim of supremacy over the town. During that conflict, Otto managed to conquer some of the land at the Werra, but the peace of 1390 again was to the advantage of Hessia. I wonder if Otto just wasn't good at negotiations.
The only remains of Sensenstein Castle; part of the wall and trench fortification
Two of the castles that were involved in the small scale fighting actions going on during those wars were the Sichelnstein
I already posted about, and the Sensenstein.
The above photos is pretty much all that remains of the Sensenstein today. While the Sichelnstein had been around for several centuries and was only refortified by Otto, the Sensenstein was a new castle built by Hermann of Hessia, co-regent with his uncle Heinrich, in 1372. The name was a bit of a jibe - Sichelnstein
means Sickle-stone, and Sensenstein
is Scythe-stone. Hey, I got the bigger one. *grin*
Otto used to send out raiding parties from Sichelnstein Castle, and the garrison of the Sensenstein tried to prevent them form invading Hessian territory, but I didn't find any details about those raids except that they were connected with the Star Wars.
The next time Sensenstein Castle is mentioned in chartes includes a transaction with the family of Berlepsch, vassals of the landgrave of Hessia, in 1438, but the castle was returned to the landgrave in 1461; he used it as hunting lodge. But the castle fell into decline and in 1585, a manor was all that remained. So when it comes to survival, Sichelnstein Castle won, though Otto did not. ;-)
The monastery church at Wiebrechtshausen, burial place of Otto the Quarrelsome
The next post will be about Otto's involvement in the Lüneburg Succession War
and his feud with Göttingen.
* The name is sometimes translated as Otto the Evil but I think 'evil' is too strong a word to characterise him.
Edgar Kalthoff; Geschichte des südniedersächsischen Fürstentums Göttingen und des Landes Göttingen im Fürstentum Calenberg 1285-1584. Herzberg, 1982
Olaf Mörike, Göttingen im politischen Umfeld: Städtische Macht- und Territorialpolitik. In: Dietrich Denecke, Helga-Maria Kühn (ed.),Göttingen: Geschichte einer Universitätsstadt, Volume 1. Göttingen 1997; page 260-293
I wish my readers a Happy Easter.
I should post a spring photo to go with it, but the view from my balcony looks more like that.
Spring showers, the cold variant
I usually have spring flowers planted this time of the year, but there's still the dry old heather from winter because the earth in the boxes is either frozen or covered by snow and the weather would kill any buds. So we'll have to go with a photo from a few years ago.
Spring showers, the warm variant
Oh, and I hate daylight saving time. Just saying.
A Blog Award and a Meme
Kathryn from Edward II Blog has awarded me with a Liebster Blogger Award that comes with a meme. Thank you Kathryn.
'Liebster' is German and means 'favourite'.
Though I haven't done a meme for ages and it really took some effort to come up with 11 random facts about me that are not too private. The questions were somewhat easier. So here we go:
What's your favourite novel and what do you love about it?
'War and Peace' - it introduced me to so much: historical fiction (though YA authors Rosemary Sutcliff and Hans Baumann had their share in that), 19th century novels, Russian literature. The other important book would be 'Lord of the Rings' which opened the gates to Fantasy.
Do you have any pet peeves in historical fiction?
Anything badly researched. But my pet peeve is actually TV-documentary related: stirrups on Roman saddles.
What are you most proud of?
Managing to get that blasted driving license. I swear, it was more difficult than a final examn in Latin. ;-)
Your favourite and least favourite people in history? (As few or as many as you like!)
Least favourite: Caesar, Pope Gregor VII, Napoleon. Favourite (as in particularly interesting, not necessarily 'good'): Augustus, Arminius, Charlemagne, Otto the Great, Duke Heinrich the Lion of Saxony, Wallenstein.
The country, city or other place you'd most like to visit?
Which five people would you invite to your fantasy dinner party?
Arminius (I really want to ask him some questions), Septimius Severus (because he can bring the good wine), Theophanu (with apologies for German drinking habits), William Marshal (I'm sure he knows how to party and he could tell cool stories), Edward of Woodstock aka the Black Prince (because a girl needs a knight in black armour sometimes).
Facebook or Twitter or neither?
What's one of your goals for the future?
Finish those dang novels-in-working. Blogging more regularly. :-)
What's your favourite season?
Dogs or cats or neither?
Dogs. And horses.
What's your favourite hobby?
I have several: traveling, opera, photographing, history, collecting - and reading - books ....
Next part: 11 Random Facts about me:
I'm synaesthetic, seeing letters and numbers in colour.My collection of opera DCs and DVDs would make the Met and the Scala jealous.My favourite colour is blue.I collect little horse figurines.I buy too many blouses. Books, too, but that's another matter.My first computer was an Atari, and before I had a manual typewriter. Some of my readers may need to check those out in a museum, lol.I like winter, but this one is wearing out its welcome.I always read more than one book at the same time.I love tea and have about 20 different sorts.I can do more damage with a needle than with a sword. I know where the pointy end of a swords goes; but with a needle - not so much. ;-)I sleep without a pillow.
I'm supposed to award 11 other blogs, but most of the usual suspects have already gotten the reward from Kathryn or one of her rewardees who replied faster. And not all blogs on my blogroll are mutual links (I have many diverse interests) though they would deserve the award. But I managed to find 11 blogs I'll herewith name for the Liebster Blog Award and Meme:
Scott Oden (since he's back to blogging)
Annika (you didn't think you'd escape, lol?)
Antoninus Pius (you can do it in character, that would be fun)
Zenobia (aka Judith Weingarten; same about the in character part)
Jeff Sypeck from Quid Plura
Curt Emanuel, the Medieval History Geek
And so it may go viral on LJ, too *grin*:
Helen in Wales
Play along and have fun. :-)
Planning the Next Castle Hunt
I've been busy planning my summer tour (I'll be off at the end of May and travel for two weeks) for this year which took me a few days of figuring out what to see, setting up an itinerary according to where public transport will get me, checking B&Bs and all that fun stuff that goes into organising a tour.
So you wonder where it'll take me?
Tynemouth Castle, near Newcastle
That one should give you a hint: it's the east coast of northern England and Scotland mostly. I'm going to turn a bit south from Newcastle first, to Scarborough to explore the castle there, then take tours around to Richmond Castle, Ripon Abbey, maybe Rievaulx as well, Whitby (provided that's no longer fenced in), the Roman remains at Aldborough, and the Yorkshire Moors. The next stop will be north of Newcastle, in Alnmouth, from where I intend to add the castles of Alnwick, Warkworth and Bamburgh to my list, and maybe revisit a Border abbey as well (I had been to the Borders in 1998).
Craigmillar Castle, near Edinburgh
The next stop will bring me into Scotland: Stonehaven and Dunottar Castle. I had that one on my To See-list for ages. And then I'll take a long swing north and visit the Orkneys. Kirkwall Cathedral, Skara Brae, Unstan Cairn, Maes Howe, Ring of Brodgar, maybe Birsay .... there's a good list of what to see. And it will be the time of the year for the simmer dim
, the white nights of the Orkneys. The way back will lead via Inverness where I plan to revist Urquhart Castle (another one from 1998) and tour Black Isle.
Coast near Newcastle, seen from the Amsterdam ferry
Any of my readers (including the LJ syndication feed; I read comments there) who know those areas are welcome to suggest further interesting, though maybe less well known, places; I'll gladly try to fit them into the schedule if I can reach them by public transport or a reasonable taxi fare.
Now I only need to find out to which gods to sacrifice to get good weather. *grin*
Gnisvärd Ship Setting / Gotland
How about some sunny pics in this grey February? I swear the sun's off vacationing somewhere else in the galaxy, having some drinks in the Milky Way Bar or whatever. But at least she sent a comet mail.
So here are some photos from a ship setting on Gotland, taken on a sunny if cold May afternoon.
Bronze Age ship setting at Gnisvärd, Gotland
Ship settings are stone settings in the shape of a boat that mark grave or cremation burials. They are mostly found in the part of Scandinavia that borders the Baltic Sea (Denmark, southern Sweden, Gotland) though some have also been found in the Baltic States, Finland, Russia and Germany. Their size varies from a hundred metres (the remains of the setting at Jellinge is the largest, it may have been 300 m, though other large ones are usually under 100 m) to just a few metres.
View from the side
The larger settings date to the late Bronze and early Iron Age, while the smaller ones are from the Viking time (ca. AD 800-1150*). Ship settings should not be confused with boat burials of the Vendel time (AD 550-800, the best example is Haithabu / Hedeby) and the Viking time (fe. the famous Gokstad ship now displayed in Oslo) where real ships are used as grave and buried under an artificial hill.
View from the other side
Most ship settings consist of erratic boulders - there are plenty of those in lands once covered by glaciers and moraines - set in a boat shape in north-south direction. In some the stones are touching while in others they are a bit apart. Usually, the stones towards the bow and stem are higher than in the middle; in some large variants they can reach up to 4 metres. Some Danish settings have runic inscriptions at the bow.
Closeup of the stones at the stem
A few settings are made of standing limestone plates, and one on Bornholm / Denmark has those plates lying on the ground.
The ships can have extra stones in position of the mast; others have plates inside instead of earth and grass; some had been covered by an earthen mound.
Seen from the other stem
The urns were usually put in boxes and can be found within or without the ship setting. Some of those settings have been used for generations, as urns from several centuries demonstrate, while others demark the grave of but one man, likely a chief. Several ship settings can be found in close proximity; esp. in Gotland they tend to come in groups of 4-5 settings.
Closeup of the bow
Gotland is particularly rich in ship settings; some 350 still remain. Some scientists assume the habit may have started on Gotland and spread from there.
The settings are usually of middle size - the one at Gnisvärd is the largest with 47 metres length and 7 metres width. About hundred stones have been used to shape the ship. Stem and bow are a bit higher than the middle part (1.30 m). There is another, somewhat smaller setting about 100 metres to the south, and east of it is a Bronze Age burial field.
Another view of the Gnisvärd ship setting
The meaning of those ship settings is still disputed. One explanation is that the dead should have everything he needed in the afterworld, though personally I wonder what use a stone ship would have had (the later boat burials may make more sense in that context). What they do show is the fact that ships played an important role in the Scandinavian culture long before the Vikings sailed across half of the world.
A final view
I hope you enjoyed some stones in a typical Scandinavian pine and birch forest. It is a lovely place.
* Though that date is not undisputed, another often suggested date is 793 (attack on Lindisfarne) - 1066 (Norman conquest of England).
More Neva Impressions
First I had to fight a nasty crud and then there was a lot of stress at my job (and half of the staff sick with the same crud), so I didn't update my blog, nor do I have time for a long, reasearch-heavy post. But since my readers seem to like St.Petersburg, here are some more photos of that town - some lovely views of the Neva river.
View over the Neva from the Peter and Paul Fortress
The Neva is only 74 km long, running from Lake Ladoga to the Gulf of Finland in the Baltic Sea, but its water discharge puts it on place three after the Volga and the Danube. The river is navigable throughout and part of the Volga-Baltic waterway which already the Vikings used.
The water flow from Lake Ladoga to the Neva is pretty consistant all year round, so the floods that so often hit St.Petersburg are caused by the inflow of the Baltic Sea during storms. The Neva freezes from December to mid-April, in summer the temperature peaks at 17-20°C.
View from the Stock Exchange place to the Peter and Paul Fortress
The last steps in the formation of the river were the glaciers of the last Ice Age and their retreat which caused the Littorina Sea to form, 7-9 metres above present sea level. A wide strait between the delta and the future Lake Ladoga was covered by water; the former bed of the Tosna river. But the land around the lake rose faster and thus a closed reservoir developed (the race of seal particular to Lake Ladoga is a witness from that time). The rising level of the lake flooded a moraine ridge and ran into the valley at the Ivanovo rapids, the modern Neva with its tributaries Tosna and Mga formed about 2000 BC. The average decline of the river is 4.2 metres.
View from the Stock Exchange to the Palace Embankment
The development of St.Petersburg altered the hydrological network of the delta. The town was founded in 1703, and Peter the Great did not care much that he picked a low and swampy area for his much needed Baltic Sea harbour. Tons of earth had to be moved which was used to raise the city; countless timber posts had to be dug into the ground, and canals had to be built for drainage. When the work was completed, the delta of the Neva consisted of 48 canals and rivers, and a hundred islands. Some of the canals were filled in over time so that today only 42 islands remain. A tour through the canals is one of the nicest ways to explore St.Petersburg.
View towards the Eremitage
The area belonged to the realm of Veliky Novgorod, also known as Holmgård in the Norse sagas, since the 9th century; a time when the population was a mix of Slavic and Scandinavian elements, the latter ruling as the Rurikids. Several Norse kings spent a time of exile in Novgorod.
Novgorod had access to the rivers leading south via the river Volkhov / Lake Ilmen, while the route via the Neva / Lake Ladoga went further east; both made Novgorod a trade centre in the Middle Ages. The Hansa League erected their own depedance or kontor
, the 'Peterhof', in 1192, thus making the place one of the earliest parts of the rising trade net.
Sunset over the palace embankment
Quarrels and outright war with the Swedes were almost a constant feature of the area. In 1240, Prince Alexander Yaroslavich won a great battle against them which earned him the name Alexander Nevksy; he still features as popular Russian hero. Later, during the Great Northern War 1700-1721, Peter the Great would integrate the lands around the Neva into the Russian Empire and found the town named after him.
White nights at the Neva, with the golden spike of the Admirality in the background
(photo taken from out of the bus)
St.Petersburg became the capital of the Russian Empire in 1712. It was renamed Leningrad after the revolution and suffered a devastating siege during WW2 which was only broken in January 1944. After the glasnost
, it regained its old name St.Petersburg. But the white nights at the Neva never changed.
Russian Splendour - The Smolny Cathedral in St. Petersburg
Cathedrals are among the architectonic highlights of St.Petersburg and so the bus tours through town try to cover as many of them as they can cram into 3 or 4 hours. One photo stop was at the Smolny Cathedral and Convent, a group of Baroque buildings that's actually not so overdone with gold and marble, but has a pretty white and blue colour scheme.
Smolny Cathedral, St.Petersburg
The convent, placed at a bank of the river Neva, was originally built as retreat for Elizabeth, daughter of Tsar Peter the Great, who had been excluded from succession to the throne. But when Ivan VI was overthrown by his own royal guards, Elizabeth became tzar and had a whole row of palaces to live in.
In former times, the place lay outside the city and was the site where pitch for ship building was processed; the name Smolny derives form the Russian word for pitch - smola
View of the cathedral and some convent buildings
This one was taken from out of the bus, thus the slightly green tinge. But I like the angle so I included it. You may notice the many cars on some of the photos - yeah, those are a pest in St.Petersburg. Six lane roads get blocked by them and there's always a concert of horn beeps. Though the main problem and bottlenecks are the bridges; not many of them can take major traffic, and Petersburg is criss-crossed by rivers and canals.
(one of the convent buildings; detail)
Work on the convent continued under Elizabeth's patronage, planned as combination of a Russian Orthodox nunnery and a girl's school which would become the first in the Russian Empire.
The convent was built by the Italian architect Francesco Bartolomeo Rastrelli (1700 - 1771) whose family had come to Russia while he was still a boy. The father had been invited to St.Petersburg by Tsar Peter the Great, and designed the Winter Palace (Eremitage), the Great Palace in Peterhof ouside town and the Yekaterisnky Palace in Tsarskoye Selo (today known as Pushkin), as well as some other Baroque buildings.
The son followed the father's footsteps. The cathedral and convent of Smolny were entirely his own project on which he worked from 1748 to 1764. But the cathedral was not yet finished when Elizabeth died in 1762.
Her daughter-in-law and eventual her successor (after her husband; Peter III, had been deposed and died under somewhat mysterious circumstances) was Catherine I. She did not like the Baroque style and so money for the cathedral project more or less dried up. Rastrelli could never build the bell tower he had planned and which was to be the highest tower in St.Petersburg, and the interior of the catherdral remained unfinished as well. Rastrelli left Russia in October 1763.
One of the convent buildings, seen from the yard side
But the convent buildings were put to good use as the Smolny Institute for Noble Girls
and the Alexandra Institute for Burgeois Girls
, the first schools for women in Russia. Later, the buildings were also used as fitting residence for rich widows. During the WW1, some of them served as lazarett.
Some convent buildings seen from the outside
The cathedral itself had never been used and fell into disrepair. At the time of Tsar Nicholas I it looked so desolate that he commissioned Vassily Stasov, a Russian architect, to repair and finish the building; a task that was completed in July 1835, when the cathedral was finally consecrated. Stasov added some neo-classical features in the taste of his time, but those are mostly visible in the interior which we didn't get to see due to lack of time.
Another view of the cathedral
After the revolution, the church was deprived of its religious furnishings by the Sovyet authorities. The convent buildings became the city headquarters of the communist party. In 1982, the cathedral was made into a concert hall, a function it keeps until today. The other buildings now house government institutions and some faculties of the St.Petersburg State University, namely the departments for sociology and political sciences. So there's some continuity, in a way.