Roman and Mediaeval History, Illlustrated Travel Journals, Mediaeval Literature, Geology


18.4.14
  Happy Easter

I wish everyone a Happy Easter holiday.

Church in Reinhausen, westwork

Peeking through the shrubs in the westwork of the church in Reinhausen near Göttingen. This is the main church built by the counts of Reinhausen who also founded Helmarshausen Monastery. The church dates to the early 11th century and is a fine example of but lightly altered (the large windows are Baroque) Romanesque style

Church in Reinhausen, seen from the east apse (which is curiously rectangular)

The church sits on a hill above the village of Reinhausen. There had been a castle on the same hill as well, but of that almost nothing remains.

The church celebrates its 1000 year anniversary this year and has undergone renovation. During that process, some murals and reliefs have been found, like the one below showing Christ's way with the cross, dating to about 1400.

Gothic relief, a Good Friday motive

I'll be away after easter to visit some places in southern Germany. I'll be back at the beginning of May.

 


5.4.14
  Helmarshausen Monastery

I have mentioned that one of the reasons the Krukenburg fortifications were built was to protect the monastery of Helmarshausen - Helmareteshus - in the valley beneath the castle. Of this monastery not much is left; only the foundations of the church (that have been marked so one can see the layout of the building), and the eastern wing of the adjacent monastery buildings that today houses a youth hostel. Stones from the church, which fell into decay in the 17th century, have been used to build a large barn in 1749.

Helmarshausen, foundations of the monastery church (with the barn in the background)

The monastery was founded by count Ekkehard of Reinhausen and his wife; one source says because they had lost their young son and heir. The foundation was confirmed by Emperor Otto III and Pope Sylvester II in 997. The counts of Reinhausen (today a village near Göttingen) were a branch of the Esicon (sometimes also named Asicon) family which also was the ancestor of the more famous Billung family.

In the beginning, Helmarshausen got the same rights as the famous Benedictine abbey of Corvey, fe. the rights of market and coin, and imperial immediacy. But bishop Meinwerk of Paderborn (the same who obtained the plans of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre which later would be used in building the Krukenburg chapel) who consecrated the church of the monastery in 1011, tried to snatch those rights for the see of Paderborn. His superiority over the monastery eventually got confirmed by the pope. The heirs of Count Ekkehard were not happy about that and one Thietmar, a member of the related Billung family, even invaded the lands of Paderborn with an army. A final agreement was reached only in 1024.

Former east wing with the barn in the background

The bishops of Paderborn supported the monastery and laid the groundwork for the scriptorium that would produce those amazing illuminated manuscripts.

Several local nobles - including again, the Counts of Reinhausen - donated lands and money to the monastery. Those were the basis for the expansion of the church to a length of 65 metres and the addition of outbuildings, as well as its rise to one of the centres of Romanesque book illustration and gold- and silversmithing work in Europe between 1120 - 1200, surpassing even Corvey.

East wing seen from the other side

Between 1107 and 1130 the monks in the workshop created a number of portable crucifixes and altars, and books covers which in the Middle Ages often were grand affairs with gold ornaments and jewels.

The scriptorium had close connections with the monasteries and abbeys at the Rhine from where the monks learned the Romanesque style of book illumination, which then spread to Saxony. From the 1150ies onward the number of laymen as patrons rose. Illuminated gospel books, like the one done for Heinrich the Lion and his English wife Matilda, were a typical produce of book art of the time.

But in the 13th century the competition of lay workshops increased; the monks of Helmarshausen failed to adapt to the new Gothic style of illustration, and the political situation of the monastery became uneasy. The role of Helmarshausen declined.

The main gate of the monastery

We know little about the history of the monastery in the years after it came under Paderborn superiority. One fact is the translation of several relics, among them those of St.Modoald from Trier under Abbot Thietmar I (1080 – 1111). Modoald had been a bishop in Trier in the 7th century and not even martyred, so I have no idea how that made him a saint. But his relics did attract pilgrims and that meant money. Tourist trap Medieaval style.

Helmarshausen tried to reagin imperial immediacy in the second half of the 12th century. One abbot even faked chartes to prove the monastery's independence from Paderborn, but Pope Alexander III confirmed the rights of Paderborn in 1160. In 1184, the protector and reeve of the monastery, Heinrich the Lion, lost that position together with his duchy of Saxony and was exiled. As result, Helmarshausen was dragged into the quarrels between Welfen and Staufen (see also the post about the Krukenburg).

Enclosing wall with side entrance (and a corner of the church foundations)

Pope Coelestine III confirmed the privileges of Helmarshausen in 1191. The abbot Thietmar III then refused to get invested by Bishop Bernward of Paderborn who in turn excommunicated him.

No wonder Archbishop Engelbert I of Cologne used the chance when it opened. In 1220, he got half of the town of Helmarshausen and in turn promised to protect the monastery. For that, he built the Krukenburg fortifications. Helmarshausen became one of the main positions of Cologne at the Weser.

But after the battle of Worringen in 1288 where the archbishop (Siegfried of of Westerburg: the whole affair was a feud about an inheritance, and of course, power, involving the duke of Brabant and some nobles at the Rhine) was captured by his enemies, the see of Cologne lost its influence at the Weser, and the bishops of Paderborn regained superiority over Helmarshausen monastery. Bishop Bernhard V got he rights on both the monastery and the former Cologne-held part of the town in 1323. The rights to the town were then sold to the archbishop of Mainz, a rival of Cologne.

Helmarshausen parish church, the Romanesque choir

In the 15th century, the landgraves of Hessia gained most of the possessions of the archconvent Mainz, including Helmarshausen (1479). The decline of the monastery had begun in the 13th century already; the income decreased and the bishops of Cologne, Paderborn, or Mainz were obliged to sell or pawn out possessions. One may wonder what had happened if Helmarshausen had never questioned the role of the see of Paderborn and stayed under its protection. Maybe the decline could have pushed back, but it would eventually have come anyway.

The monastery was dissoluted during the Reformation (1538) and Landgrave Philipp of Hessia had a tithe office established in the monastery. Today only the east wing and the barn from 1749 (to keep the tithes paid in grain) remain.

The choir seen from the gallery

Close to the monastery is the old parish church of Helmarshausen, a Romanesque building that has undergone several renovations; last time in 1799 when the wooden gallery was added. The tower and the choir still show features of the original Romanesque architecture, though. The church is difficult to photograph from the outside because of other buildings getting the the way.

The church was originally used by the Benedictine monks (since 997) but they soon built a larger one and left this one to the parish. It today displays one of the facsimiles of the Gospel of Duke Heinrich of Braunschweig.
 


29.3.14
  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. :-)

(left: Krukenburg Castle, the keep)

Getting a cold on top of the spring allergies (which started early this crazy winter) really sucks. But now at least the cotton brain feeling has disappeared, though I suspect the nose won't be up to par for another forthnight. *sigh*

I’ve noticed that some of my older posts are not up to the standard I’ve been trying to set with this blog during the last years. Back when I started this monster in spring 2005 (the Pleistocene of blogging, before homo sapiens facebookiensis evolved) the focus of my blog was somewhat different, and thus some of the castles, cathedrals and other history posts are too short. I’m going to get back to these and rewrite them over the next months, and I’ll also add more photos, though long-time followers may have seen some of the material previously. But in the long run, I want the archive on my sidebar up to the same level of detail and research as far as I can find information about some of the more obscure and smaller German castles (1).


(1) That does not include the posts I do immediately after a journey where I present the places I’ve visited. Those were always meant as teasers.


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, gate with view to the chapel

The Krukenburg sits on an 80 metres high spur above the village 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.

Rotunda of the chapel with remains of the west nave

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.

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

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 seen from the inside; view to the south transept

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.

Rotunda from the inside

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 the only example of an ecclesiastical building of that shape north of the Alpes.

Keep (left) and chapel (right)

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.

(right: Paderborn House)

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 Helmashausen monastery, and may have woken memories of Bishop Meinward of Paderborn having transferred the superiority over the monastery to Paderborn a century earlier. There were esp. two bishops whose politics brought them at loggerhead with other speres 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 dependant on the see.

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 Mainzer House (left)

Pope Innocent did not like that one bit, so he sent Adolf 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.

(left: 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 ear 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.

Adolf was in no position to play a role in these conflicts, though he tried to regain his job in Cologne, while Eberhard laid low. His neutrality payed out for Eberhard in 1216. After both bishops claiming the see of Cologne had been dismissed for good, Eberhard was elected archbishop of Cologne in February and consecrated in September 1217 with the blessing of both the new pope, Honorius III, and 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.

Gate and curtain wall seen from the bailey

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.

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

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 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.

Paderborn House with the parapet in the foreground

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).

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.

Another view from the gate to the chapel

After the Reformation, the monastery of Helmarshausen lost its importance, and with it the Krukenburg which 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. Though it was closed last time I went there.
 


2.3.14
  Travel Plans

I'll stay in Germany for my spring tour this year and travel to some places in southern Germany, namely Bamberg, Nuremberg and Regensburg which will bring me all the way to the Danube. There should be old cathedrals, pretty houses, Mediaeval town fortifications and the odd castle. Those towns have a long history going back to early Mediaeval and even Roman (Regensburg) times. I've been to Nuremberg as child and have fond memories of the place - I liked old stuff even then.

The Horseman of Bamberg, early 13th century
(This is a copy from an exhibition in Naumburg we visited in 2012; the original stands in Bamberg Cathedral)

And Aelius Rufus will be glad to hear there should be Roman remains, too. I plan a tour to the cavalry fort and Limesmuseum in Aalen, and there's some fun stuff in Weissenburg, the Roman Biriciana, near Nuremberg. Including the remains of a bath. :-) Regensburg, the ancient Castra Regina, was an important Roman site as well, but is has been built over during the Middle Ages, and so most remains can be only found in the underground, for example under the cathedral (like in York), but I'm not sure if photographing will be allowed there.

Grave monument in shape of a sella curulis
(The decoration of the back shows a battle scene; Varus Exhibition 2009, Haltern.
The monument is usually in Hever Castle)

The tour is scheduled for April (9 days, after Easter) since the were no affordable rooms to be found in Nuremberg during May. Let's hope the weather won't be too bad.
 


14.2.14
  Scottish History: King David and the Civil War (Part 1)

With the conflict between Henry’s daughter and appointed heir, Matilda, and his nephew Stephen who also claimed the throne, things got really interesting in Northumbria.

Among other adventures, Alnwick Castle and its lord Eustace fitz John will come back into focus again. Ivo de Vescy, who had received the castle in 1095, erected the first Norman stone fortifications. His daughter married Eustace fitz John who was given the right to the castle and title. Eustace fitz John made a career under Henry I (I have mentioned him as one of the ‘colleagues’ of David already before he became king of Scots). The marriage to the rich heiress Beatrix de Vescy (before 1130) gave Eustace Alnwick and other lands in Northumbria, another marriage lands in Malton in Yorkshire, and he evolved as one of the key players during the reorganisation of the Northumbrian society under Norman control. Eustace also was one of the justiciars of the North and Keeper of Bamburgh Castle.

When Henry I died in December 1135, Matilda was busy in Anjou where her husband had to teach some barons who was boss. So Stephen de Blois, a grandson of William the Conqueror, acted fast and snatched the crown; the crowning ceremony took place on December 22. Most of the influential lords were willing enough to follow him – likely not wild about a female ruler to begin with, even less one married to an Anjou lord, ancient rivals of the Normans. Among them was Eustace fitz John who swore fealty to Stephen and thus was allowed to keep the honours he held under Henry.

Alnwick Castle

King David of Scots, on the other hand, saw the unrest as chance to expand his territories into Northumbria which he claimed as heritage for his son from the late Matilda of Senlis. The fact that he could use his oath to Matilda (Henry’s daughter; we should start numbering the girls, too) as a pretext for armed action was just the icing on the cake. He swept down south and conquered Carlisle, Wark, Alnwick and Newcastle, though Bamburgh resisted his efforts. Carlise and Newcaste are said to have fallen 'by guile' - maybe the garrisons did not suspect David's real motive for entering town and castle. I don't know if David and his former friend Eustace met during that campaign; it would have been an interesting encounter, to be sure.

There were men from Galloway and Moray in David’s army, and perhaps from the Isles, too. He really must have called his levies fast, esp. considering travel in winter. The host did a lot of harrying the countryside, and the chroniclers, namely those of Hexham which fell victim to the raids, had no good word to spare for David. No matter the Scottish king was Christian, they came up with all those topoi in Bede's tradition (1), about pagan armies invading Christian England, including the babies torn from their mothers’ wombs and put on spikes, and horses stabled in churches. But since also the pro-David Ailred of Rievaulx makes some critical remarks about the army – though not about David himself; he blames the undisciplined lot from Galloway in for the booty – the campaign certainly was one of the nastier ones and it alienated several Northumbrian and Cumbrian lords who previously had been David’s supporters. David had to take hostages to keep the defeated lords in line.

David came as far south as Durham where he met with the army Stephen had hastily assembled. But instead of fighting a big battle, both men decided to enter negotiations, which was more frequent in the early and high Middle Ages than many people think. They agreed upon a treaty whereby David would retain Carlise while Newcastle and Wark went back to King Stephen (and Alnwick to Eustace). David’s son Henry was granted the title of Earl of Huntingdon which David had forfeited during his rebellion, and Henry would swear fealty to Stephen for Huntingdon and Carlisle. But no oath was required from David, and he also obtained the promise that if the defunct earldom of Northumberland ever were reinstated, Henry would be the prime candidate to hold it. Everyone saved his face; David went back to Scotland, the Galwegians back to Galloway with a sack full of shiny stuff Hexham and other places never got back, while Henry accompagnied Stephen to the Easter Court in Winchester.

Alnwick Castle, Constable’s Tower

Several nobles were not happy about the way Stephen had treated the affair with David; and honouring Henry so highly (fe. giving him the place next to himself at the Easter banquet 1136), among them Simon de Senlis, Henry’s step-brother. He had gotten the Northampton part of his mother’s heritage, but Henry got Doncaster in recompense so overall fared a lot better than Simon. Others were Ranulf II Earl of Chester who wanted Carlisle back, and Archbishop William de Corbeil of Canterbury (no idea what his reason was). Ranulf publicily accused Henry of treason during a banquet, Henry felt dishonoured, Stephen failed to reconcile the men, and David called his son back while Ranulf of Chester left the court in anger as well.

Another relationship that had gone sour for David after the death of King Henry was the one with Archbishop Thurstan of York who now again - and with the backing of Pope Innocent II - claimed metropolitan supremacy over the sees in Scotland. Bishop John of Glasgow was obliged to go into exile for several years since he still refused to swear an oath to Thurstan. The consecration of the new cathedral in Glasgow was overshadowed by these problems. But it's interesting to note who was present at that consecration: besides Earl Henry (David's son) and William fitz Duncan of Moray, there were several Gaelic magnates, the earls (mormaors) of Strathearn and Fife, and Fergus of Galloway, all men who had no immediate connection with the diocese of Glasgow. Notable as well is the absence of several of David's Norman friends, like Robert de Bruce of Annandale; though Hugh de Morville and another Norman lord would join him on his way from Glasgow to Cadzow. The whole affair looks like a war council more than a religious meeting.

Hexham Abbey, east nave

In spring 1137, grievances had added up for David who argued that Stephen had gone back on his part of the treaty. This time Stephen was busy in Normandy dealing with Matilda, and could only send some of his nobles against David. Most of them were Northumbrian lords who had suffered from the raids. The two armies met at Newcastle, but again, a truce was agreed upon, partly due to Archbishop Thurstan. The six months should give Stephen time to decide about the earldom of Northumberland. There was no mention of Matilda's claim to the throne.

At some point during these developments, Eustace fitz John must have changed sides, though I could not find a final argument for the exact date. King Stephen relieved him of the keepership of Bamburgh which likely offended Eustace. It is also possible that he began to see the chance of a strong Northumbria under David as more realistic than Stephen's limited power. Eustace's change of sides also brought some minor lords over to David.

Stephen, who had gained a fair success in Normandy, said no to any claims of Henry of Scots to the earldom of Northumberland, and that was the end of it. So in January 1138, David's host swept south again, plundering and making itself very unpopular by lack of discipline (David had to personally stand in for the safety of Hexham, for example, and William fitz Duncan fought some men over plundering from allies).The army went through the middle of the country, left alone the lands of Eustace fitz John and isolated the pro-Stephen castle at Bamburgh. Walter d'Espec's castle at Wark withstood a siege and David could only leave a besieging force under William when he moved further south to Hexham, but was forced to withdraw on the approach of King Stephen at the end of February.

Stephen retaliated by leading his army up north and into the lands of David, harrying and plundering in turn. He avoided David’s centre at Roxburgh, either because he wanted to escape a trap David is said to have set there, didn't bring siege engines or thought plundering the countryside would bring David back to the negotiation table, or because he just was inept like that. Owan tries to make Stephen look capable here, but I can’t see that.

Bamburgh Castle, the reconstructed King’s Hall

It seems that Stephen’s foray into Scotland only showed David that the king had neither the ability nor the ressources to get through with a defeat of David in his own land, and so David pushed his claim again and set up another grand style invasion northward. This time he came down along the east coast, while William fitz Duncan led an army mostly of men from Galloway through Cumbria and gained a victory against the English at Clitheroe, grabbing lands in Lancastershire which William claimed by his wife Alice de Rumilly of Skipton. He'd married the lady just the year before and one may wonder what politics lay behind a connections that would give David's nephew a claim to lands in Lancastershire. It can't have been to Stephen's liking.

David besieged Bamburgh and managed to break the outer defenses albeit not the inner bailey, but he isolated the castle. He then took Norham Castle that was held for the Bishop of Durham, though failed to turn the bishop over to his cause which meant he could not take Durham itself (where a big castle still sits near the cathedral). The armies united on the way to York and at that point the Northumbrian lords who did not follow David realized that this was more than the average harrying the countryside sort of campaign. David wanted to extend his lands to include Yorkshire and St.Cuthbert's Land (County Durham). Exact numbers of his army can only be estimated; the 22,000 of the sources are likely an exaggeration.

The Northumbrians were led by William Earl of Aumarle and Ralph of Orkney for Bishop Thurstan of York. Other leaders were Walter d'Espec, Robert Bruce (who held land not only in Annandale but also in Cleveland), a member of the Percy family, Richard de Courcy, Roger de Mowbray (2) and others - a close-knit group of Norman landholders in northern England with mutual relationships by marriage.

Both parties met at Cowton Moor near Northallerton in Yorkshire. We have a detailed description of the ensuing battle by Ailread of Rievaulx (see ‘main sources’ at the end of the text). Of course, Ailred is not unbiased and the speeches of the parties involved are his invention. Speeches attributed to historical characters have been a way for authors to sneak their own ideas into historiography since Tacitus (3), if not earlier.

Rievaulx Abbey, main nave seen from the side
Rievaulx was the house from which David's biographer Ailred of Rievaulx came.

Ailred (born in 1100) was a member of King David's court for ten years until he left to become a monk in Rievaulx in 1134. He knew David, his son Henry, and several other participants in the civil war quite well. Judging by his Lament for King David, he must have genuinely liked the king, religious motives and exaggerations of the lament aside. His historiographic texts (which also include a geneaology of the kings of England and a history of Edward the Confessor) were aimed at Henry II, son of Matilda and named as successor of King Stephen; thus likely written after 1152.

Ailred’s true hero in the Relatio di Standardo (translated as Battle of the Standard) is Henry, the son of King David, who is described as a paragon of Christian virtues and braveness. David’s role was corrupted because of employing those ‘evil Galwegians’ and listening to the wrong advisors (a note we can find in the Lament as well, as only 'sin' David committed).

Negotiations took place before the battle, the delegation may have been led by Robert Bruce, David's old friend. He promised he would argue for Henry's claim to Northumberland with Stephen, but David - correctly, I think - did not believe in any success of such an endeavour. In Ailred's Relatio di Standardo, Robert Bruce gets a nice speech, reminding David of their time together, of the many services he and other Norman lords had lend him when he came to kingship, of the evil of listening to wrong advisors and keeping those 'barbarian Scots' around (well, David was their king, after all). According to Ailred, David was about to embrace Robert, when William fitz Duncan called Bruce a traitor and the peace came to naught. Robert then formally renounced his homage and the lands he held as fief from David. That latter part is confirmed by other sources and would have been the proper way to end a feudal relationship.

The other man who gets a speech by Ailred is Walter d'Espec, founder of Rievaulx Abbey. He was an old man at the time but obviously still able to encourage an outnumbered army. The Scots were many but had brittle spears and no discipline, and the Normans had already defeated a whole list of enemies, often while outnumbered as well. He also refers to the defeat of King Malcolm at Abernethy. The Gauls (as Ailred calls the Normans opposing David) fought for the good cause and God would be with them. God got some assistance by the saints Peter of York, Wilfrid of Ripon, and John of Beverley whose banners had been attached to a ship's mast mounted on a cart, which gave the battle its name. The Normans formed a single wedge with some light cavalry and infantry (mostly archers) flanking.

Northumbrian landscape
Not the exact place of the Battle of the Standard, but the typical landscape of the area

The scene moves back to David's war council. He wants to deploy the Norman knights on his side in the first rank to meet the knights on the other side, but the Galweginas, emboldened by their victory at Clitheroe, want to have that honour for themselves and insist they will not run. The Earl of Strathearn advises David against it, but the king agrees. I admit I do wonder a bit about that since it was indeed not a tactically sound decision. How strong was the position of Fergus of Galloway?

So the Scottish army deployed its forces in the following manner: First rank the Galwegians under their king Fergus; second rank the men from Cumbria and Teviotdale and probably the minor Northumbrian lords following Eustace (mixed infantry and knights), led by Henry and Eustace fitz John; third rank the men from Lothian and the Isles, the latter probably led by Somarled. King David and his personal entourage (those were of course trained knights) led the last line consisting of men from Moray, Fife and other areas in Scotland proper, to aid whatever group may need it.

The battle took place on August 22, 1138. The Galwegians held the onslaught of the knights and salvas from the archers for some time but eventually broke. If Ailred is to be believed, this was the moment when Henry showed his braveness. He tried to stop the route of the Galwegians and charged deep into enemy lines. King David made an attempt to hold the last two lines that were carried on back by the fleeing Galwegians after the Lothian leader, Earl Gospatric II had been killed by an arrow. What I find odd is that Ailred says he dismounted, but maybe he led the Moray infantry contingent against the oncoming Normans for a while. He was already 58 at the time but not past his fighting years, it seems. David – who I suppose remounted at some point - managed to screen a somewhat orderly retreat since most of the leaders succeeded in leaving the field alive; the only prisoner we know of is William Comyn, David’s chancellor. Eustace fitz John escaped to Alnwick, wounded, most of the others made it to Carlisle.

Henry managed to break through the surrounding enemy with his bodyguard, and then the feigned to join the pursuing Normans. There’s a nice little legend about Henry giving his armour to a poor farmer on the way to Carlisle, but that only covers the fact that the leaders of the Scottish army obviously preferred to not be easily recogisable. Henry was united with his father in Carlisle two days after the battle.

Carlisle Cathedral
It was founded by Henry I and expanded by David

The Battle of the Standard was a defeat, but by no means a decisive one since David kept most of his army intact, and his leading nobles survived. Neither the Normans under William of Aumale nor King Stephen – who also faced the rebellion of Robert of Gloucester, Empress Matilda’s illegiitmate half-brother, at the Welsh borders - had the strength to take any advantage of their victory and didn’t even try to follow David into Cumbria.

Both sides tried to consolidate their position. The English/Northumbrian lords took Malton Castle, one of Eustace fitz John’s possessions (thogh Alnwick was never threatened) while David continued his siege of Wark, but for most the former borders were respected. In September Alberic Cardinal-Bishop of Ostia and legate of Pope Innocent II, came to Scotland to talk with David about religious issues, particularly the bishop of Glasgow, but soon found himself involved in peace negotiations between David and Stephen. David turned out to be quite a fox when it came to getting the best of it. For one, Bishop John of Glasgow was allowed to return from exile, but more, the truce with England allowed him to continue the siege or Wark while the English were bound to forego invasions. In return, David convinced the Galwegians and Islemen to return at least the female prisoners they had taken to be sold as slaves.

The castle finally surrendered in November, after Walter d’Espec gave permission, and David acted generously in providing the garrison with mounts (they had eaten their horses) to travel to Durham; acknowledging their braveness. I suppose the importance of Wark at that point was more a moral than a military one.

Stephen and his lords at first were unwilling to grant David and Henry much; especially the Northumbrian nobles who had seen their lands ravaged by David’s army. But Queen Matilda managed to convince her husband that a war in the north was not worth the effort and that he had more urgent problems in England, with the rebellion of Robert of Gloucester (an illegitimate half-brother of the empress Matilda). A stable buffer zone would be the best solution. Since she also was David’s niece (her mother was David’s sister Mary who had married Eustace of Boulogne), she took an active part in the negotiations. The other Matilda, Henrsy’s daughter, and her claim to the English throne were never mentioned. David knew that Stephen had the actual power to grant him possessions, while Matilda was still rather powerless.

Durham Cathedral,
(Photo taken from the train) Carla has a post about it here

A settlement was agreed upon in Durham on April 9th, 1139 (Second Treaty of Durham). David’s son Henry was finally given the earldom of Northumberland though minus the castles of Bamburg and Newcastle. He was also restored to the earldom of Huntingdon which he had forfeited in 1137, and he did homage to Stephen for all these possessions. The Northumbrian lords in turn had to swear fealty to Henry. David kept Carlisle and Cumbria, got lands in St. Cuthbert's County in recompense for Bamburgh, and promised to ‘remain loyal’ to Stephen, whatever that means. Not much, it would turn out. ;) He also gave some hostages, among them Hugh de Morville, Earl Gospatric III of Dunbar, and - according to Richard of Hexham - Fergus of Galloway, though I'm not sure the latter makes sense, him being an independent king. It was more likely his son Uhtred (4). No hostages provided by Stephen are mentioned.

So David basically got what he set out to gain at the beginning of his conflict with England though he could not extend his lands into Yorkshire; the Tyne would remain the border. Stephen got peace in the north, but a really pissed off Ranulf of Chester who wanted Carlisle back and went into open rebellion. He tried to capture Henry at the siege of Ludlow, but Stephen rescued the young man. Stephen also made sure there were no more incidents like during the Easter celebrations in 1136, and arranged Henry's marriage to Ada de Warenne.

David consolidated his position in Cumbria, expanded Carlisle Castle, and he also issued his own coins (thanks to the silver mines of Cumberland); the first 'Scottish' money.

Then the empress Matilda invaded in September 1139.

Alnwick Castle, keep mit main tower entrance

The peace at Durham had also consolidated the postion of Eustace fitz John. He regained many of his possessions in Northumberland (though I could not figure out if that included Malton Castle in Yorkshire) and got other lands in Henry's earldom of Huntingdon (maybe to make up for Malton?).

In Alnwick Castle, Eustace built the circular keep and the towers surrounding the inner bailey, as well as the outer curtain wall. Parts of the 12th century Norman masonry can still be seen in the curtain wall and other spots like the arch over the inner gate. The size of the castle has not been altered since Eustace's time though the living quaters were modernised, a barbican added and other changes took place over the centuries. Alnwick Castle remained a formidable stronghold during the War of the Roses when the Percy family held it (yeah, there is material for more posts *sigh*).

Alnwick Castle, view from rampart to Postern Tower

Footnotes
(1) Of course, the Picts and Britons invading Northumbria in the 7th century were mostly Celtic Christians, not pagans, but in Bede's view, they were rotten heretics who celebrated Easter at the wrong date and and thus capable of all sorts of atrocities. Richard of Hexham still calls the men from Galloway 'Picts' though they were a mix of Britons, Gaels and Norse at that time and had never been Picts.
(2) Roger de Mowbray was not related to Robert de Mowbray. Robert's wife had been granted annulment of her marriage and married Nigel d'Aubray. But they got a divorce, too, and Nigel married Gundred de Gournay. Their son Roger, ward of the Crown after his father's death in 1129, entered adulthood in 1138 and was given the forfeited lands of Robert de Mowbray (Montbray) in Normandy and Yorkshire, whose name he took.
(3) Most famous are the speeches he gives to Arminius in the Annals and to Calgacus in Agricola which say more about Tacitus’ political sympathies.
(4) According to an endnote in Owan's biography, the passage seems to be corrupted.

Main Sources
Frank Barlow: The Feudal Kingdom of England 1042-1216. 5th edition, Edinburgh 1999
Robert Bartlett: England Under the Norman and Angevin Kings 1075-1225. 5th edition, Oxford University Press, 2003
Richard Oram: David, The King Who Made Scotland. Tempus Publishing Ltd, 2004
Richard Oram: Domination and Lordship, Scotland 1070-1230. The New Edinburgh History of Scotland, Edinburgh 2011
Ailred of Rievaulx: The Historical Works, translated by J.P. Freeland, edited by M.L. Dutton. Cistercian Publications 56, 2005
Ian W. Walker: Lords of Alba, The Making of Scotland. Sutton Publishing, 2006

 


25.1.14
  Overlooking the Weser - Castle Polle

The book I was waiting for has finally arrived, but since I meawhile had prepared a post about one of the many German castles I’ve visited and never got around to posting about, I’ll give you some info and photos about Castle Polle first. Because castles are always fun. :-)

Unfortunately, there's not much research material so I have to rely on online information and a few tables set up in the castle which I photographed.

Castle Polle seen from the Weser ferry

Castle Polle is one of the castles in possession of the Counts of Everstein about whom I blogged when I had visited one of their other castles. Other than the Kugelsburg which was held by a chatellain, Polle was frequently inhabited by the family. The castle lies only a few miles south of the main seat at Everstein Castle on the other side of the river (of which almost no traces remain). It occupies a strategically important position on a rocky hill with three steep sides at a bend of the Weser with a good view over the river. It guarded the crossing, and the counts of Everstein also had the right to take a toll from the ships travelling the Weser. No wonder the possession of the castle would not remain uncontested.

Inner curtain wall seen from the outer bailey

The origins of the Counts Everstein is shrouded in documentary darkness. Their first appearance at the Weser is mentioned in Helmold of Bosau’s chronicle where he tells about a future missionary of the Slavic tribes, one Vicelin, who after the death of his parents was raised in Everstein Castle (1122). The count at that time, Albert I, also founded a church in one of the family’s possessions in northern Germany. The family possessions were spread around in northen Germany and what is today Nordrhine-Wesphalia, along the Weser, and as far south as northern Hessia, the site of the Kugelsburg.

Wall with entrance to the inner castle; replacing the fomer gatehouse

I’ve already mentioned the marriage of Albert II and Richeza, a cousin of Emperor Friedrich Barbarossa, in my post about the Kugelsburg. Their second son Albert III had a number of children who split into several branches of the family, among them the Everstein of Polle.

Otto II; founder of the second line, married Ermengard of Arnstein who was related to House Ascania, one of the great rivals of the Welfen family in eastern Germany. The alliance made sense for the Everstein since they sided with the Staufen in the conflicts between both families. Their son Albert V (1235 – 1274) married Gisela of Büren, related to House Itter (whose heiress Mechthild had married Konrad of Everstein in 1120).

Castle polle, the landward side

Castle Polle is first mentioned in 1285 when their son Otto IV gave lands near Hannover to a monastery; the castle may thus have been built by his father Albert V. The main seat of the family, the Castle of Everstein, had fallen to the Welfen family in 1284, therefore the family made Polle their new main seat.

The Welfen had been on the rise ever since House Staufen died out with the last male member of the family, Konradin of Swabia who was executed d by Charles of Anjou (who at that time with the help of the pope had become King of Sicily, once part of the Staufen realm) in 1268.

Remains of the palas

Another grandson of Albert II and Richeza, Hermann founder of the 4th line, is mentioned to have been born in Polle in 1226, which would put the date of the castle’s foundation further back in time (if you want to trust Wikipedia). His son Otto V would become Marshal of Westphalia for the Archbishop of Cologne in 1290. This Otto again had a bunch of children, but yet the 4th line would be the last to hold the lands and name, though a member of the 3rd branch moved to Nowogard (Naugard) in Poland where the family survived until the 17th century.

With possessions spread over such a wide area, and duties as marshals, reeves and other positions, the counts of Everstein moved around a lot during the summer months, but they may have spent the winters in Castle Polle.

A window of the former palas

Herman III (son of Hermann I) married Adelheid zu Lippe, their son Hermann VII (there were Hermanns in the other branches, too, thus the odd numbers *) had no surviving sons and the other kids didn’t procreate, either. Since the possessions of the Lippe family who had large territories in northwestern Germany, bordered on the Everstein lands at the Weser, it made sense for Hermann VII to conclude a heritage confraternity with Simon III Lord of Lippe in 1403. Simon III was a son of Otto Lord of Lippe, a brother of Adelheid who had married Hermann’s father. Simon would inherit the Everstein lands at the Weser after his cousin Hermann’s death – they would stay in the family, so to speak.

The keep seen from the outer bailey

Hermann VII was married to Ermgard of Waldeck (whose mother was Mechthild of Braunschweig-Lüneburg, to complicate matters, since the Everstein and the Welfen weren't exactly best buddies) and that’s not the only Waldeck connection; Simon’s grandfather (Simon I) had married an Adelheid of Waldeck. We should keep in mind that Hermann VII and Ermgard had a surviving daughter, Elisabeth – she will play a role later on.

The duchy of Braunschweig-Lüneburg was ruled jointly by Heinrich and Bernhard at that time, and they seemed to have gotten along for a change. They certainly agreed upon that they did not want the Lords of Lippe to get any more lands bordering on theirs. So we’re in for another of those inheritance wars. :-)

The keep seen from the inner bailey, with the well in the foreground

Heinrich and Bernhard invaded the lands of the Lords of Lippe and there was a battle near Hameln (Hemlin) in November 1404. Things went spectacularly wrong for the Braunschweig brothers, though. They lost the battle and Heinrich got captured and dragged away to a castle of the Lords of Lippe where he was held in chains until his brother had paid a huge ransom. Upon release, Heinrich had to swear to forego any revenge and futher military actions.

But as soon as he came home, he wrote letters to the pope and the king, a-whining about his shameful treatment at the hands of Simon of Lippe's retainers. I suspect he forgot to add the little detail about who had started the whole mess, because the King Rupert - still busy sorting out the disorder Wenceslas the Lazy** had left behind, and obviously not really enquiring into the matter - put Simon Lord of Lippe and Hermann Count of Everstein under imperial ban.

Staircase leading to the riverside battlements

The pope followed with the excommunication in 1407 which fred Heinrich from his oath, and at that point the Welfen dukes and some others who had open bills with Lippe and the Everstein, like the Bishop of Paderborn, came swooping down on Simon and Hermann with an army, plundering the countryside, besieging and conquering Castle Polle, and damaging several towns on Lippe territory.

Count Hermann had enough and made his peace with the dukes of Braunschweig-Lüneburg. He married his daughter Elisabeth to Otto, the son of Bernhard, and gave her the county of Everstein including Castle Polle as dowry. Both were still small children at the time but the marriage would eventually take place. Hermann himself spent the rest of his days in exile in Neustadt Palace north of Hannover. I could not figure out what sort of deal Simon of Lippe made but his family continued to rule their lands for generations to come.

The riverside bailey with battlements

Polle was held by a reeve of the dukes of Braunschweig. The castle was plundered and partly destroyed by Tilly's army during the Thirty Years war. The outer bailey was repaired and a new Renaissance style house for the reeve built about 1650, but the inner bailey (Oberburg) remained a ruin.

The castle was again destroyed towards the end of WW2. It was then renovated in 1984-88 to prevent the remains from crumbling further, and the keep was restored so it's possible to climb it. In 2007 and 2009 excavations took place that brought to light some finds being shown in a small museum. The castle is used for theatre performances in summer.

Riverside curtain wall

Castle Polle must have been quite large, a complex of buildings on several plateaus rising to the Oberburg (innermost bailey) on top of the hill. Of that one some features remain like part of the palas, the kitchen, and the restored keep, as well as most of the curtain walls. The well has been excavated and a tunnel between it and the keep was discovered.

The bailey right beneath held the outbuildings like horse stables, houses for the retainers and the chapel, and later the reeve's palace. On the next level were granaries and stables for the cattle. There was another small yard with battlements facing the river. The entire complex was surrounded by curtain walls, dikes and drawbridges protected by gatehouses. Some part of the riverward outer defenses and a few foundation walls in the outer bailey remain.


Landside inner curtain wall and side entrance

Notes

* The tables at the castle have him as Hermann VIII but I checked with the family tree and it's definitely Hermann VII, the extra 'I' in need of exorcism is particular to the information from the castle site (I found the same mistake in an old flyer).

** This was the time when the German kings got elected from a pool of candidates from noble houses of pretty much half of Europe (them being intermarried anyway) and thus we got some other names besides Heinrich and Otto. Wenceslas got disposed because he made too good of his nickname. *grin*

There is a vague assertion about the Counts of Everstein being vassals of the Welfen (which would have given them a share of the guilt in starting that war) but the only trace to verify that is that perhaps they swore an oath of fealty to the Duke of Braunschweig when they lost Everstein Castle to him - but in that case they ought to have received it back as fief and that didn't happen.

 


11.1.14
  Highland Landscapes

I'm still waiting for Ailred of Rievaulx' Life of King David of Scots. You can loan a book for 4 weeks plus one week overtime, and it looks like whoever got it right now is still sitting on it. So here are some landscape photos to tide you over the wait for the next post about King David.

Bridge over the Moray Firth at Inverness

I took all the photos out of the bus, so there may be slight reflections from the window - I got a front seat - and some blurs. I deleted the worst offenders, but overall I'm quite happy how many pics turned out decent.

Sutherland landscape

I took the bus from Inverness to John O'Groats to get the ferry to Orkney. And I was lucky to catch a sunny day - yes, they do occur in Scotland. :-)

Mountains with gorse in the foreground

The sun made the gorse that was blooming in abundance even more cheerful. In early autumn, the heather on the upper part of the hills will bloom and that must be a pretty sight as well.

The road winds around the mountains

As we drove further into Sutherland, the mountains became higher and the landscape more rugged. After passing Cromarty Firth, the road goes along the coast for many miles; one of the most scenic routes.

A view of the sea

Sometimes the bus driver alerted me to a particularly nice view, like this one.

A picturesque valley

And the sea again, this time seen from higher up. The coast is rather steep in many parts.

The sea seen from the road on the cliffs

The weather on the way back was more 'Scottish', with low clouds and a dreary feel, though the sun would come out later back in Inverness.

A road in Caithness

This is the way from Thurso back to the coast; the landscape of Caithness. Miles of hills, a few farms and sheep, and not much more.

Coastal road in Sutherland

Back at the coast and into Sutherland, I caught a glimpse of Dunrobin Castle, with a farmhouse in front of the photo, and the coast to the left. It's rather archetypical.

Dunrobin Castle

I even and even managed a close-up shot of Dunrobin Castle. I've seen photos on the net - it's quite a fairy tale building and not much like the austere stone castles I've seen on my journey else.

More mountains

And more mountains. Because that's what the Highlands are about.

View to the coast again

And a final view to the coast at Berriedale. The sea is never far away. I didn't regret getting to Orkney this way instead of taking a flight from Aberdeen; it was a time well spent.

 


Miscellaneous musings of an aspiring Historical Fiction and Fantasy author. Illustrated essays on Roman, Dark Age and Mediaeval history, Mediaeval literature, and Geology. Some poetry translations and writing stuff. And lots of photos of old castles, cathedrals, Roman remains, and beautiful landscapes from Germany, the UK and Scandinavia.

All texts (except comments by guests) and photos (if no other copyright is noted) on this blog are copyright of Gabriele Campbell.

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I'm a writer of Historical Fiction living in Germany. I got a MA in Literature, Scandinavian Studies, Linguistics and History, I'm interested in Archaeology and everything Roman and Mediaeval, an avid reader, opera enthusiast, traveller with a liking for foreign languages and odd rocks, and photographer.

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