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


18.1.15
  Castle Plesse (Part 3) - Refuge of a Landgrave / Decline and Rediscovery / Architecture

Castle Plesse was founded some time before 1100 and in use until 1660. During those centuries, the castle underwent several changes to adapt it to the changing ways of warfare (like the addition of musket balistrarias). Most of these were done by the Lords of Plesse. Since often several members of the family shared in the inheritance of the castle and lived there together, we have some inventary lists of buildings and goods that allow to reconstruct the former look of the castle. Even more interesting are some pencil and ink sketches done by Landgrave Moritz of Hesse-Kassel in 1624 (see below). The architecture of the Plesse is thus well documented. Today mostly ruins are left except for the keep, the - partly reconstructed - great hall, and the so-called Little Tower. There are also substantial remains of the chapel and porter's house, and the curtain walls.

Outer curtain wall in the eastern part

Castle Plesse sits on a 300 metres high promontory overlooking the Leine valley and the main north-south running Heerstrasse (military road), a connection that has been in use basically since the Roman campaigns under Drusus in BC 11. Today the Highway 7 still follows the same route.

The V-shaped promontory of some 50 metres length is connected to the rest of the hill and the Plesse forest on the eastersn side. When the castle was active as a defense structrue, the natural incline between both parts of the plateau was turned into a moat that could be crossed by a drawbridge. During the various changes and expansions of the castle, additional defenses were added and the vulnerable eastern part with the moat and its curtain wall expanded. Today, the moat is partly filled by debris and shrubs, and the walls are ruins albeit pretty impressive ones.

More curtain walls with the remains of a corner tower

One disadvantage of the high situation was accessibility to water. Water veins can be found in a hundred metres' depth, and an inventory from the 16th century mentions a 'deep well', so at some time the residents had dug through the bedrock to reach water, but maybe the first inhabitants relied on cisterns.

That inventory also mentions - among others - a chapel (ruins of it still remain adjacent to the Little Tower), a windmill, a bathing room, a school room (probably for the children of the lord and higher ranking men like the steward), a brewery, and a donkey stable. Besides those, one can find the typical buildings of a castle: the great hall and the 'lord's hall', the scribe's room, kitchens and baking house; housings for the garrison, stables, granaries, the armoury, and a smithy. There is a dungeon, too (underneath the Little Tower; today inaccessible for the public).

Remains of the curtain wall with a breach near the gate

The keep or Great Tower is the oldest remaining building in the castle (for photos see the first post about Plesse Castle). It is 25 metres high and the walls are 4 metres thick. The entrance is now on ground level, but in former times it was on the second storey level of the main hall, ten metres above ground. Access was also possible from a now lost building which is supposed to have been the bower. There is no equally impressive keep in Lower Saxony in the 12th century.

The interior of the tower has been changed in the 19th century; the floors separating the storeys have been dismantled and there's a winding stair leading to the top platform.

(left: view through a small portal to the outer yard overlooking the valley)From inventories and landgrave Moritz's drawings we know the layout of the almond shaped inner bailey - situated on the outer part of the promotory - and its buildings in the 16th and 17th century. The inner bailey once was filled with various buildings along the curtain wall, forming a yard; a feature typical for most castles, though often only traces of all those buildings remain.

The great hall still exists, albeit partly restored. It was the only one constructed entirely of stone; the other buildings mostly had a first storey of stone and a second (or even third) of half timbered structure. The great hall actually had two halls on the second floor; the first floor held several smaller rooms the use of which can only be guessed at; likely some sort of lord's office among them. The house also had cellars for storage. It was once connected to the keep by a walkway on the second floor. Behind the keep were some timber buildings interpreted as storage places. The lists include some exotic foods and spices like stockfish, figs, cinnamon and others not of local produce.

To the right side of the great hall once stood another larger house with the bath room, guest chambers, and the solar - this was the most representative room judging by the number of shiny goblets of gold and silver, including some ceremonial daggers on display, that have been listed. The Plesse lords probably entertained their most important guests there instead of the larger but less comfortable great hall. Most of these features date to the 16th century; in earlier times the rooms were less well equipped and with smaller windows. Adjacent to the right (western) side of this house were the stables for the horses.

Opposite the great hall was the main kitchen with its storage rooms; a bit further west another house of rather representative architecture which started out as a house for a younger son who often lived in the castle with his family due to the joined heritage, but was renovated in the middle of the 16th century and then served as widow's seat. The bower seems to have come out of use at that time. Next to it is the porter's house (the outer wall still exists), followed by the chapel and the Little Tower, the baking house and a gate to an outer yard (maybe this was a quieter place for the women to enjoy the view), and then we're back to the stables.

Inner gate, seen from the way into the inner bailey

Sections of the curtain walls still exist. The inner gate leads to a way between curtain wall and the outer wall of ther porter's house as additional defense, before the inner bailey is reached.

There would have been buildings in the outer bailey as well, but no traces of those remain except for some foundations near a corner tower which is also partly preserved (see photo above). The tower covered the defense of the moat. The outer bailey spread over the inner part of the promontory which gently sloped upwards to the east. Interestingly, there was a set of walls that partitioned the ground into two areas, the bailey proper and an undefined ground. Maybe it was used as training ground for the quintaine and other knightly pursuits that would need more room than a bailey yard could offer.

The outer gate has been changed considerably during renovations in the 18th and 19th centuries. It once was a much more formidable defense structure.

Outer gate, seen from the upper bailey

When Dietrich IV of Plesse died without male heirs in 1571, the fief fell back to the landgrave of Hesse-Kassel. His clerks made a list of the goods and income of the castle which amounted to 4,000 thalers per annum. Dietrich's widow, who kept interfering with the business of the Hessian bailiff living on the Plesse, was married off (1). There were some troubles with Welfen claims as well which only enriched the lawyers, but the landgrave never agreed to any exchange with other castles offered by the Welfen dukes of Calenberg-Göttingen.

It would turn out to be a wise decision. Landgrave Moritz of Hesse-Kassel (Maurice the Learned, 1572-1632) who joined the Protestant party during the Thirty Years war, had to flee his lands and found refuge on the Plesse in 1624. It was at that time he made several ink sketches of the castle and plans for changes which never came to be. The castle was besieged in 1626; supplies were short, the place was crowded with refugees, the garrison sullen and badly paid. But the attackers did not succeed in taking the castle due to the lack of heavy artillery.

Negotiations between Moritz and the line of Hesse-Darmstadt (who, despite being Protestant had joined the Catholic army because of some inter-family feud) led to the abdication of Moritz in favour of his son, Wilhlem V; the garrison was granted free retreat (1627). They left behind 15 canons of unspecified size, 142 muskets, plus several barrels of powder and other ammunition.

Closeup of an embrasure in the arcades; a 17th century addition

Castle Plesse remained with the line of Hesse-Kassel but was finally abandoned in 1660; the seat of the bailiff moved to the village of Bovenden in the valley. As usual, it served as quarry for the surrounding villages.

The landgraviate of Hesse-Kassel became the Electorate of Hesse as result of the meditatization and secularization of landed possessions due to the recess of the Imperial Diet (Reichsdeputationshauptausschuss *grins*) in 1803. In 1817, the Plesse was given to the Kingdom of Hannover in exchange for other castles (2). In 1866, both the Electorate of Hesse and the Kingdom Hannover were annexed to Prussia after they lost the Austro-Prussian War.

Herbal garden behind the porter's house (3)

In the late 18th century, interest in the picturesque value of old ruins grew, and soon the Plesse became a favourite excursion destination for students from Göttingen (and proabably the place of some clandestine duels and secret political meetings as well). But it also attracted visitors from further away. An inn was established in 1830.

This interest put an end to the stone quarrying as early as 1780 when the landgrave of Hesse forbade any action that would further destroy the ruins by punishment of 5 thalers. First restoration work took place in 1821, and got a boost when the King George V of Hannover (aka Prince George of Cumberland, grandson of George III of the United Kingdom and Hannover) and his queen, Marie of Saxe-Altenburg, visited the place in 1853. Most of the present look of the castle goes back to the renovations undertaken at their request. Luckily, the job was done before Hannover was annexed, because Prussia would not have given the money.

Since 1945, the Plesse is in possession of the County of Lower Saxony; a Friend's Association exists since 1978. Archaeological surveys and renovation work go on until today.


Footnotes
1) and 2) Unfortunately, I could find neither the name of the widow's new husband, nor which other castle(s) were involved in the exchange.
3) This was not the original spot, which would have been closer to the kitchen, but the association decided to have one for the tourists, and the place has a good micro-climate.

Literature
U. Elerd, M. Last (editors): Kleiner Plesseführer, Bovenden 1997

 


4.1.15
  Castle Plesse (Part 2) - The Lords of Plesse

I've mentioned in this post, that Bernhard of Höckelheim replaced Robert as Lord Commander of Castle Plesse in about 1150. At that time he must have held the castle as fief from the counts of Winzenburg - first from Hermann and after his death in 1152 from Hermann's nephew Otto (the son of his brother Heinrich of Assel). When Otto died without surviving offspring in 1170, the fief fell back to the bishop of Paderborn. It was then granted directly to Bernhard and his brother Gottschalk of Höckelheim. They are called 'edelfrei' which means they were of free men of noble birth and not ministeriales (1) and carried the title comes de Plesse (2) since 1183. Today they are known as Edelherrn von Plesse - Noble Lords of Plesse.

Plesse, remains of the outer wall

The Höckelheim family was probably around longer, but documentary evidence can only be traced to the father of Bernhard and Gottschalk, Helmold von Höckelheim (1079-1144). His descendants moved their main seat to Castle Plesse from which they took the name, but the family retained the Höckelheim possessions (some 20 miles south of the Plesse) where they founded a monastery in 1247. But it were the lands around the Plesse, villages that today are in the commute distance of Göttingen, like for example Bovenden and Eddigehausen, that gave the family their main income. The lords of Plesse also began to accumulate other lands in the area between Hannover and Kassel which they mostly loaned out as fiefs. Overall, they seem to have done well money-wise.

The biographies of some members of the family can be traced in more detail, among them a son and a grandson of Bernhard of Plesse (1150-1190), and a son of Gottschalk of Plesse (1167-1190).

Another shot of the Little Tower

A connection with the von Plessen family in Mecklenburg is possible, but not proven; though the first of that name to appear there holds one of the main names of the family - Helmold of Plesse; he went east as vassal of Duke Heinrich the Lion some time before 1186.

Another founding candidate is a Helmold von Plesse(n) who appears in chartes in Mecklenburg 1247-1283 and was the custodian of the underaged sons of the Duke of Mecklenburg, though his geneaological relation to the Plesse family has never been firmly established. There was a connection to the east with the crusader Helmold II von Plesse (see below), and the family states the relation on their website (4). It is indeed curious that Count Gunzelin of Schwerin, of Mecklenburgian nobility, and the Lords of Plesse appear as witnesses on chartes side by side (fe. in Osterode in 1265).

Castle Plesse, the Great Hall

Helmold II (3) of Plesse, born 1191 as son of Bernhard of Plesse and Kunigunde of Hennenberg, can first be found in the retinue of Emperor Otto IV during his official ride through the realm as king and his subsequent journey to Italy (1209).

When several bishops, among them Bernhard of Paderborn, liege of the Plesse lords, started a crusade in Livonia in 1211, Helmold of Plesse led a contingent of Livonian Brothers of the Sword and fought in what is today Latvia and Lithuania to christianise the pagan tribes there. He also witnessed chartes involving the Hansa League in Gotland and their trade in Reval (today Tallinn).

Helmold II of Plesse died in 1236, likely in the Battle of Saule (against the Samogitians, Curonians and other Baltic tribes) which was the first large scale defeat of a German order in the east. So many of the Brothers of the Sword died in the swamps that day, their grand master Volkwin of Naumburg included, that the order was disbandend and merged with the Teutonic Knights. Helmold died childless.

Outer gate seen from the inside

Helmold III (5) was the son of Poppo of Plesse (1209-1255 ?), a brother of Helmold II. He established the family burial in the chapel of the monastery in Höckelheim, the ancient seat of the family. We don't know where the members of the family have been buried before, likely either the chapel in castle Plesse, or the village church in Höckelheim.

Helmold had quarrels with the monasteries in Osterode and Walkenried about rights to a forest and tithes from some villages. The juridical quarrel with Walkenried about the forest dragged on for almost 20 years and left behind a bunch of documents, but the Plesse family lost it in the end.

Helmold III also signed a Contract of Support with the dukes of Braunschweig, Albrecht I and Johann I (sons of Otto the Child) in April 1258. He got 30 marks silver in order to support the dukes - who were not his lieges and thus had to grant him some other advantage. The most interesting clause is Helmold's promise, or willingness, to support the dukes even against his relatives. Since the descendants of Bernhard and Gottschalk so far had ruled their possessions in union, those precautionary agreements may point at some political disagreement within the family (esp. with Gottschalk II from the younger line). In the long run, the pro-Welfen course continued and the lords of Plesse remained in the entourage of the dukes; later in particular the Calenberg line.

Remains of one of the buildings in the outer bailey

The son of Gottschalk and a (unnamed) wife of the Dassel family, Gottschalk II, married Benedicta of Everstein, adding another knot in the net of local family relationships I'm presenting on my blog. She was a granddaughter of Albert (Albrecht) II of Everstein who had married Richenza, cousin of the Emperor Friedrich Barbarossa; her mother was Agnes of Wittelsbach. Gottfried of Plesse thus married into the high ranking nobility.

Their son, another Gottschalk (1238-1300) bought the parts of the heritage of the older line, the descendants of Bernhard, in 1284, thus his line would become the sole heirs of castle Plesse and the surrounding lands from that time on.

Outer curtain wall with remains of a corner tower

At some point the connection to the liegelords, the bishops of Paderborn, seemed to have become defunct, because the lords claimed the Plesse to be an allodial possession (a reichsunmittelbares Lehen). In 1447 the family - the brothers Gottschalk, Dietrich and Moritz (Maurice) - became vassals of the landgrave of Hessia for the Plesse and 'all adjoining lands and possessions belonging to it'; probably because they needed a protector in a time with increasing feuds along the borders between Hessia, Thuringia and the Welfen lands in Lower Saxony. Chosing Hessia over the prior Welfen connections also marks a considerable turn in political alliances. Paderborn didn't intervene.

The last member of the Plesse family, Dietrich IV of Plesse, died in 1571 and the fief fell back to the landgrave of Hesse-Kassel. The Mecklenburg line, if it is connected to the Lord of Plesse, survives until today.

The Plesse Lords held the castle for 400 years and lived there most of the time. Most of the structures and buildings visible today, or reconstructed according to old paintings and other sources, have been added by that family.

Curtain wall corridor with arcades, seen from the inner bailey

Footnotes
1) The status of the ministeriales, a group typical for the German nobility, is a tricky one. There are some discussions going on abbout their exact role and genesis. Here is a simplified version: They rose from a class of unfree people already in Merovingian times and held important offices (like steward or marshal). In Carolingian times a number of unfree men were given arms to join the heavy cavalry, or a fief to enable them to buy those arms. But compared to freeborn nobles, they had less rights. Their number and importance increased in the 12th century, where a lot of legally unfree people held fiefs and fought as knights (miles in Lartin sources). And because of that they were considered nobles as well - we have to distinguish between legal and social classes here. The king (that is, the realm), the Church, and an increasing number of great nobles had ministeriales. Ministeriales gained more rights, and some of them had more land and played a more important role than many freeborn noblemen. In the 13th century the border between freeborn nobles (Edelfreie) and ministeriales became blurred to an extent that both classes merged.
2) Latin comes was an administrative title, meaning a military commander, and is used more widely than the noble title of 'count'. Usually, the Plesse family is refered to as Edelherren - Lords of Plesse.
3) Not sure where the count as Helmold III on some websites comes from since there is only one other Helmold in the family prior to him, but the correct number is Helmold II.
4) http://www.v-plessen.de/index.html
5) He too, is misnumbered as Helmold IV.

Literature
U. Elerd, M. Last (editors): Kleiner Plesseführer, Bovenden 1997
Josef Fleckenstein: Rittertum und ritterliche Welt, Berlin 2002
Werner Hechelberger: Adel, Ministerialität und Rittertum im Mittelalter (Enzyklopädie deutscher Geschichte 72), München 2010
Detlef Schwennicke: Zur Genealogie der Herren von Plesse, in: Peter Aufgebauer (ed.) Burgenforschung in Südniedersachsen, Göttingen 2001; page 113–125.

 


23.12.14
  Merry Christmas

I wish all my friends and readers a Merry Christmas.

And a quiet one after all the stress those last weeks. It gets more insane every year; gingerbread in August, Christmas markets lasting six weeks, and people buying food like the Apocalypse is coming. The town has been crazy.

Erzgebirge Christmas decoration

The new job is pretty different from what I did before. It's more fun - I get to work with books and research texts a lot - but it carves into the time I used to prepare the longer blog posts. I think I'll eventually get used to it and can go back to the average two major posts a month in the new year. I also hope to get something done during the holidays - I got two weeks off.
 


30.11.14
  Look What I Got

I never thought I'd manage to actually win a Nano and write 50K words in a month, but this year the conditions were perfect.

Tomorrow I'll start a new job. Wish me luck that it's going to be nice and interesting.

 


22.11.14
  Nano is Going Really Well

Hallo dear readers,

I only want to inform you that the National Novel Writing Month is going really well for me this year, even better than 2012 when I also participated. So here's just an autumn pic to tide you over.

Mecklenburg Bog / Solling in autumn

I also apologise for my lazy commenting these days. Things will get better in December. :-)
 


9.11.14
  Paderborn - The Town of Charlemagne and Bishop Meinwerk

This is only a brief introduction to the history and the historical buildings of Paderborn. There's much to see, and most of the churches and other buildings presented in this post deserve their own posts in the future. But for now, come with me on a short trip through a town rich in history and architecture. Sorry the weather wasn't playing more nicely; sunny photos would have been more pretty.

Overwiew of the old centre: The west tower of the cathedral, Ikenberg Chapel (left), Chapel of St. Bartholomew (left, the one with the green roof)
and the Ottonian palace (right), with the Pader springs in the foreground

Paderborn was founded by Charlemagne in 776, during the first years of his long war to conquer the - then pagan - Saxons. He built a palatine seat and a church, both surrounded by a wall since those Saxons were not exactly a peace loving lot at the time. He also held several diets in Paderborn. The town and the bishop's see that was established in 806 would play an important role for centuries to come. The bishops were elevated to princes of the realm in 1217. My regular readers will have come across the bishops of Paderborn a few times already (fe. in the recent post about Castle Plesse and the Counts of Winzenburg). Paderborn is an archespiscopal see until today.

The Ottonian palace hall with the foundations of the Carolingian palatine seat in the foreground

Paderborn was an important palatine seat for the Ottonian kings as well. It was especially bishop Meinwerk (we came across him in the post about the Krukenburg) who held the see of Paderborn from 1009-1036 and who initiated the construction of most of the architectural landmarks of the town until today: the palatine seat, the cathedral, Abdinghof monstery and the chapter church of Busdorf. It was during Meinwerk's time (1011) that Paderborn became independent of the see of Mainz and began to establish its own role in the feudal network.

Interior of the - partly reconstructed - Ottonian palas, the great hall

The remains of the main hall of the Ottonian palatine seat and the attached Ikenberg Chapel are still substantial. Both have been reconstruced in 1978; you can clearly see the different stones that show the layers of original Ottonian and new masonry in the photo above. The foundations of the Carolingian palatine buildings, situated between the cathedral and the Ottonian hall, can be seen in the foreground; they have been excavated and preserved a few years ago.

The Museum in the Palatine Seat

The palas building of the Ottonian seat today houses a very interesting museum in the lower floor; the upper floor, the reconstruced great hall, is used for events. The pillar foundations in the lower floor are partly still Ottonian masonry and it's a nice idea to use them to support exhibits today. It gives you a good impression of the layout of the building in the past. We spent some time in the museum because the exhibits (things that have been excavated in the area of the palatine seats) are interesting and well presented.

Chapel of St.Bartholomew, interior

The Chapel of St.Bartholomew is a charming little building that dates back to the time of Bishop Meinwerk almost unaltered. It shows a three naved hall structure (though because of the small size, the naves do not stand out like in larger churches) and is the oldest building with a cross grain vaulted ceiling north of the Alpes. Romanesque churches mostly were in the basilica style (main nave higher than side naves) but crypts usually have the hall structure with three naves of equal heigth. The Chapel of St.Bartholomew may have been the model for these.

The cathedral of Paderborn, the Romanesque crypt

The history of the cathedral goes back all the way to Charlemagne, but the first building did not survive; and the one from Meinwerk's time has been altered considerably. The present church is mainly Gothic, except for the west tower, the crypt and the so-called Paradise Gate, but the interior has unfortunately been 'improved' with several huge Baroque altars and grave ornaments for dead bishops. The exterior is mostly scaffolded in right now. But the crypt, dating to 1120, is a beautiful, quiet place untouched by Baroque frills.

Abdinghof Church, the westwork

The so-called Abdinghof Monastery is another foundation of Bishop Meinwerk. It would become one of the richest and most influential monasteries in Germany during the high Middle Ages. The church, dedicated to St.Peter and Paul, has been changed from Meinwerk's building much less than the cathedral. It is still pure Romanesque and some alterations have been eliminated during the repairs after the damage of WW2, like the present, and original, flat timber ceiling in the main nave replacing the 12th century vaulted one. The main difference between the present look and the one in Meinwerk's time is the lack of murals, but those rarely survive.

Abdinghof church, interior with view to the imperial lodge

The chapter church today knows as Busdorf Church (photo below) is the last of Meinwerk's buildings I want to show you. Meinwerk wanted to build it according to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem and sent the abbot of Helmarshausen there to get the plans. Unfortunately, that first building from 1036 does not survive except for the west transept. But since the church was closed and I could only get some photos through a fence, I can't show you that one. The major parts of the church to the late 13th century (Gothic style), but the cloister is Romanesque.

Busdorf Church, the cloister

The bishops of Paderborn kept getting into trouble with the burghers of the town and so they moved their main residence a few miles out of Paderborn in 1370. Palace Neuhaus has been built in several steps; the present building is the final result, dating to the late 16th century. It's a very symmetrical four winged palace with towers in each corner, surrounded by a water filled moat. It is situated in a large and beautiful garden. The shrubs and flowers close to the palace are kept in Baroque fashion, but the rest of the garden is English in style.

The Renaissance palace Neuhaus outside Paderborn

I'm not very active on the blog and those of my friends (lazy commenter, I know) during November, because I again participate in the National Novel Writing Month, and this time my progress so far has been very satisfying. Let's hope I can keep catching words. *grin*
 


31.10.14
  More Time Travel Tours

I know I've been a bad blogger and not updated for weeks. Well, I blame a nasty cold, lots of work at the money job, a nice journey (yay) and more job work. But I've finally found time to sort my latest photo booty and share some of them with you.

Our four day tour this time led us westward, to Paderborn (which will be covered in its own post) and the the area of Lippe / Egge Mountains / Teutoburg Forest. A land equally rich in history as the Harz, with its share of castles and churches.

Reconstructed long house from the Late Neolithic period, Archaeological Museum Oerlinghausen

The Archaeological Open Air Museum in Oerlinghausen is a fun place and we spent a nice bit of time there. They got everything from a tent of the reindeer hunters to a 7th century Saxon long house. Since it was late into the season already, there were no performances of old crafts, but also almost no tourists.

The Neolithic house, interior

The traezoid shaped long house is part of the so-called Rössen Culture (4300 - 3500 BC) and modeled after finds at the Rhine. The culture spread over a large area in Middle Europe. The pillar beams are a bit thicker than archaelogical finds prove, thanks to modern safety laws.They lit actual hearth fires there on occasion, so a smokey smell was in the air.

Bronze Age long house, interior

We're getting a bit more stylish in the interior of a Bronze Age long house. There are even sleeping bunks and a ladder leading to the storage floor above. It is a house with the living/sleeping quarters for humans on one side and shelter for the cattle on the other; separated by an entrance room.

A post slot wall, 3rd century BC

The above photo shows the reconstruction of a Celtic post slot wall (Pfostenschlitzmauer), a variant of the murus gallicus Caesar describes, dating to the 3rd century BC, though it was in use at least until the time of the Gallic wars. The structure is a three-dimensional timber framework filled with stone and earth. Remains of the original have been found on a hill near Oerlinghausen.

Roman camp Anreppen, reconstructed double trench

We got Romans, too. *grin* The camp of Anreppen-Delbrück is part of the line of semi-permanent forts along the Lippe used during the campaigns of Drusus (16-9 BC) and probably also Varus (AD 6-9) in Germania. Anreppen may have been the wintering camp; it could hold an entire legion, and at least the officers had half-timbered houses. The layout follows the structure of more permanent forts.

7th century Saxon long house, Oerlinghausen

This 7th century Saxon house is supported by exterior beams and thus doesn't need any pillars in the inside, making room for a spacious hall. It follows a pattern often found in Westphalia. The house is accompagnied by a reconstructed pit house and a smithy, forming a 'Saxon village'.
 


  More Castles for the Collection

The weather was unfortunately not very cooperative; overcast sky at best, often with mist, drizzle or downright rain. So you'll get some autumn photos that'll make you want to sit inside with a nice hot tea.

Iburg (Bad Driburg), remains of the chapel

Not much remains of the Iburg today, but there was a Saxon hillfort already in the 8th century, which Charlemagne conquered. He had a chapel built there and gifted the place to the bishop of Paderborn. In 1189, bishop Bernhard II built a castle around the chapel (which he expanded), using some of the old wall and trench structures. The castle was destroyed by Otto of Braunschweig in 1444.

Falkenburg, inner curtain wall seen from the outer bailey

The Falkenburg was built by Bernhard II of Lippe in 1194 and would remain their main seat and centre of their power until the mid-15th century. The castle withstood several sieges, until it was severely damaged in 1453 due to a fire accident. The castle was abandoned soon thereafter and used as quarry. Its history ties in with some of my other posts, like the one about Castle Polle.

Falkenburg, buildings in the inner bailey

The Falkenburg is closed to the public because of extensive archaeological and reconstruction work going on since 2004. But since we already had climbed the damn hill - in the rain to boot - my father decided to ignore the verboten signs and we managed a way through the fences to get some photos. In the end, we had a lot of fun despite the rain, feeling like naughty children. And we even got supper later. *grin*

Castle Lippspringe with the Lippe springs

The moated castle Lippspringe was first mentioned in 1312 as in possession of the Cathedral Chapter of Paderborn. It was refortified in 1482, but badly damaged during the Thiry Years War. Today, only the walls of one house and some curtain walls remain; a conference centre has been built into the remains, merging ruins with modern architecture.

Castle Dringenberg, main gate

Bernhard V of Lippe bought the county of Dringen from the counts of Everstein in 1316 and had a castle built on the mountain spur. It was expanded in the 15th century; the gatehouse and the tower were added in 1488. The castle was destroyed during the Thirty Years War but rebuilt by Prince Bishop Adolph of Paderborn. It served as summer residence of the bishops of Paderborn until the 19th century. Dringenberg shows a mix of Renaissance and recontructed older elements.

Castle Dringenberg, inner courtyard

There is a charming museum in several rooms of the castle these days, showing old furniture, an old store, things like mechanical writing machines, and geological finds. Also worth a visit are the vaulted cellars, the oldest remaining part of the castle.

The famous Externsteine formation

The Externsteine formation is not a castle, of course, but it fits best in this post. The sandstone outcropping is several hundred metres long and 37,5 metres (123 ft.) at its highest point. The rocks have been altered by humans over time; caves were hewn out, and at one place a beautiful Medieaval relief has been carved into the surface.

Another view of the Externsteine in the rain

We don't know for sure if the Externsteine played a role in the religious life of the Germanic tribes in pre-Christian times, but the caves were used a chapel in the Middle Ages. Later, a count of Lippe erected a platform on one of the peaks and used some of the pillars as part of a curtain wall of a small castle, but those structures - except for the platform and staircase - no longer exist. Since the rocks were wet and the view clouded, I didn't climb them.
 


27.9.14
  Hobbit Dwellings, Brigands' Lairs, Glacier Mills and Other Fun

My father and I went to Halberstadt and surroundings for a few days to explore a bit more of the eastern Harz mountains and the lands around. Historically, this is the area where the Ottonian and Salian emperors had some of their ancestral lands, and spent a lot of time. Hiking around we came up with more fun than just old churches, though.

A Brigands' Lair - the Daneil Cave in the Huy Mountain

This cave can be found in the Huy mountain, a sandstone ridge now grown with beeches. There is a legend about a robber and a maiden - the usual story about the maiden being forced to work for the evil robbers until she manages to give the guys their just dessert - attached to the cave. The place has been lived in, maybe even by some unsavoury guys, but there are no documents about a veritable brigand gang harrassing the surroundings for years.

The cave houses in Langenstein

Here we got some 19th century Hobbit dwellings. *grin* They can be found in several places in the village of Langenstein. Some of these go back to the 12th century and were successively expanded. The last inhabitant left his cave in 1916. They were actually up to the living standard of the time, cool in summer and warm enough in winter thanks to ovens. The toilets were outside in the (in)famous plank huts.

One of the houses, interior (the kitchen; important in a hobbit hole)

The caves are of varying size; the average is 30 square metres for a family, with a kitchen and larder, a living room, and sleeping quarters. The caves were not poor man's hovels, but respectable housings for the working class. Several of them have been lovingly restored and equipped with old-fashioned furniture.

A very crazy way through sandstone cliffs

This crazy way leads through the red sandstone and musselkalk of the Huy mountain up to the remains of a castle. There are caves here, too, those dating back to the time of the Germanic tribes living here in pre-Roman times. They too, have been used until the 20th century, but they are larger and less comfortable, with no separate rooms. The last people to live there were some refugees from WW2 (until better places could be found for them).

Remains of Castle Langenstein (pretty much all there is)

At the end of the crazy way are some bits of castle wall. Castle Langenstein was built by the bishop of Halberstadt in the 12th century and once was a large and imposing structure covering the entire plateau of the hill. It was destroyed during the thirty Years War and used as quarry afterwards. Today only a section of a wall with the window opening is left. But the view over the land all the way to Halberstadt is nice.

Outline of a prehistoric longhouse

These are the outlines of a longhouse from the early Bronze Age (2300 - 1800 BC) near Benzingerode. When the new interstate was built, lots of prehistoric finds came up that are now spread to several museums. The area is not so far from the place where the famous Nebra disc has been found - quite a busy place some 4000 years ago. There are several menhirs in the surrounding fields, but no longer accessible. Since people kept stomping over the fields with no regard for the corn, the farmers fenced them in.

A glacier mill in the Huy Mountain

This bit of geological fun can be found in the Huy mountain ridge. Glacier mills are the result of cracks in the ground where glaciers slowly pushed forward. Melting water and small debris would run down those cracks and over time, carve canons, where the small stones washed out kettle shaped holes, the glacier mills. The mills in the Huy date back to the Saalian stage of the Ice Ages (352,000 - 130,000 years ago) and are the only ones to be found in Germany outside the Alps.

A river in the Harz

A typical Harz river, clear and cold, running over boulders.

BTW Don't miss the post below about further photo booty. :-)
 


Miscellaneous musings of an aspiring Historical Fiction 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, Scandinavia, and the Baltic States.

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

My Photo
Name:
Location: Germany

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.


e-mail

Twitter