lipprose Werner Nolte über mittelalterliche Architektur und Geschichte
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Proud about Wood

 
 
The Norwegians are rightfully proud about their wooden buildings, particularly their medieval wooden churches - the stave churches.
 
 
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Due to the properties of the building material, it is astonishing that around thirty examples of these churches have survived. They testify to the great skill of the ancient carpenters, as well as to their sense of aesthetics, which incorporates elements from Nordic mythology and legend.
 
 
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In museums, we can admire the relics of other wooden structures - the Viking ships. Their bows are decorated with dragon heads, similar to those that can today still be found adorning the stave churches.
 
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These boats were elegant and sleek, but, from the ninth century on, their appearance on rivers and along the coasts of Europe spread fear and horror. In this regard, the Vikings resembled the Hungarians, who during this same period devastated Central and Western Europe on small, undemanding horses.
 
 
 
 
Translation: Erik Eising
 
 
 
 
 




The Gothic Dream

 
Different theories exist regarding the emergence of the Gothic style. One of these relates to the mysticism of light combined with the ambition of the master builders to replace the stone walls of churches with those made of colored glass. Attempts to achieve this can already be found among Romanesque structures.
 
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In the upper church of Sainte-Chapelle in Paris, however, this dream came true with fifteen large glass windows and a rose window. More than half of the stained glass is still medieval.
 
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King Louis IX, the saint, had this High Gothic building, with its simple exterior, built in the middle of the thirteenth century as a shrine for important relics, such as the crown of thorns. He had bought these from Baldwin II, the ruler of the Latin Empire, which after the conquest of Constantinople by Crusaders and Venetians in the Fourth Crusade essentially consisted only of the city.
 
 
 
Translation: Erik Eising




Black Holes

During my first encounters with brick buildings I puzzled over the regularly spaced black holes in the walls.
 
 
After a while, I understood that these were putlog holes that used to hold horizontal beams. Planks laid across these beams provided an underground to work on.
These cantilever scaffolds were later replaced by bar frames, secured by vertical posts and struts. The entirety was tied with ropes.
 
 
Once the height of the wall made walling up another brick layer impossible, the scaffolding was removed and rebuilt at a higher level using the same timbers. The holes usually remained in the wall.
 
 
At the Church of St. Mary or Marienkirche in Wismar, enthusiasts of the medieval have recreated a pole framework.
 
 
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There was one main reason for the reuse of the timber: lack of wood. Giant primeval forests had given way to fields and meadows. The remainders were heavily claimed: As warships, entire English forests swam across the oceans, whole forests burned unter the salt pans, for example in Lüneburg. The huge roof trusses of big churches also required a lot of wood. Charcoal piles and glassworks had a great need, and there were of course also the home fires.
 
See also: Ceilings and Vaults
 
 
Translation Erik Eising
 
 




Raise the door

As the entrance to a church, the door was considered of great importance during the Middle Ages. It functioned as a means of protection and separation, marked the transition from the exterior to the interior, noise to silence, the profane to the sacred. In contrast to interior doors, they were decorated with magnificent sculptures and embedded in richly sculpted portals. In addition to rare and valuable bronze doors, which had a greater chance of surviving up to today, wood was the material of choice. From the Middle Ages, only a few have been preserved.
 
 
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Pentecost (right wing, below)
 
Decades ago I marveled at the earliest of these impressive works - from the eleventh century in the Church of St. Mary's in the Capitol in Cologne. At the time they were guarding the entrance at the northern side. Today, the 2.3 m high doors can be found in the southern nave - behind bars. Oak planks carry 22 carved panels of walnut depicting scenes from the life of Christ. Remains of original polychromy have been preserved.
 
 
Pentecost02Left wing below: Baptism of Christ
Above right: Massacre of the Innocents
 
Significantly older are the wooden doors in the late-antique Basilica of Santa Sabina on the Aventine Hill in Rome. For these, the fifth-century artists used cedar wood. From the originally 28 panels 18 have been preserved.
 
Pentecost03 Israelites with Pillar of  Fire, Egyptians drowning in the Red Sea,
Aaron with Snakes
 
Only two doors of so many!
How many disappeared forever?
 
 
Translation: Erik Eising
 




Gothic in Paradise

It is time to talk about the beginnings of an architectural style in Germany, which 800 years ago arrived from France.
 
 
Who else than the Cistercians could have accomplished this, during the early thirteenth century? The Order was well organised and their builders and artisans consisted of capable craftsmen.
 
 
 
In their Abbey of Maulbrunn, today a World Heritage Site, a Burgundian master initiated around 1210/1220 the construction of the highly renowned Gate of Paradise - the entrance of the church. Scholars also attribute to him a section of the cloister.
 
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Cloister
 
 
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Paradise
 
 
The name of the master builder has not been preserved. Therefore, experts have given him a name of convenience. As the "Master of Paradise", he has been eternalised in the history of art.
 
It cannot be ruled out that, from ca. 1230 on, he worked on the choir of the Gothic Cathedral of Magdeburg.
 
 
 
 
Translation Erik Eising (MA)
 




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