lipprose Werner Nolte über mittelalterliche Architektur und Geschichte
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The Wooden Knight

In Gloucester Cathedral, visitors come across a strange tomb.

Its figure is represented in a highly lively manner. The crossed legs are particularly unusual.

The original assumption of researchers, namely that this posture indicates the participation in a crusade or even a membership of the Order of the Templars, has been abandoned.


800px Robert Curthose.800                               Photo: Wikipedia


The sculpture, made of bog oak, represents Robert II Curthose, the eldest son of William the Conqueror. He was Duke of Normandy, pawned the Duchy to take part in the First Crusade in 1096, and was in constant quarrel with his father and brothers.

Trying to retake the English throne from his younger brother Henry, he lost his last battle in 1106 and was imprisoned until his death in 1134.

From a Pleasure Palace to a House of the Lord

Although it has gone little noticed by the world, there is architecture in the mountains of northern Spain that is as old as that of the Carolingians. It was built by a dynasty that was founded earlier and lasted longer than the empire of Charlemagne.

Against this backdrop, the pre-Romanesque architecture of Asturias emerged during the second half of the 8th century.

IMG 5821 modAP wn

The main work of architecture is the Santa Maria del Naranco, a World Heritage Site, built on the mountain of the same name. The structure was erected as a summer palace above the capital Oviedo under King Ramiro I (842-50).

The hall and cellar are single-aisled and barrel-vaulted.

Today's visitors will see the main building of the palace, which was severely damaged a few centuries after its creation by a landslide, and subsequently consecrated as a church. There is nothing that reminds us of this period.

DSC 0176

The photo still conveys the building’s function as a summer palace.

During the first half of the 20th century, those responsible realized once more the value of this building from the Asturian pre-Romanesque period. Adjacent religious buildings were removed and typical architectural details were worked out.

The building nowadays is therefore the foremost example of Asturian, pre-Romanesque architecture.

Merciful Middle Ages

We often speak of the "Dark Middle Ages", yet, in many European countries, a number of preserved buildings testify to active charity.

Hospiz.Lübeck.2 "Hospital of the Holy Spirit" of 1286 in Lübeck

The first of these hospices or hospitals for travellers and sick people were created during the pre-Carolingian period. They often carried the "Holy Spirit" in their names. During the High Middle Ages, their tasks were divided.

Separate from the pilgrim hostels, the sick, poor and orphans were cared for in hospitals. The initial single cells became large halls, which enabled better supervision and a closer connection to the altar and worship.

Caring for patients with leprosy and the plague, who were cared for in special, remote hospitals – if at all – was a particularly difficult challenge.

There were Orders, such as that of St. John, which were specialized in these tasks.

Goslar 8302
                         "The Great Holy Cross" in Goslar

A number of these medieval buildings have been preserved. In addition to the hospital in Lübeck, the "Holy Spirit Hospital" in Wismar is particularly interesting. It was founded around 1250 as a poorhouse and a hospital. The "Great Holy Cross" in Goslar was built in 1254 as a hospice and offered a night camp and food for the needy, infirm and orphans, but also for pilgrims and other travellers.

Some of these old hospices still offer comfort and help to the dying.

A bear's fart


We know how outraged Bernhard of Clairvaux, the great abbot and organizer of the Cistercian Order, was about the capitals of some Benedictine orders.
We do not know whether he was also familiar with this capital. It is located in the church of St. Andoche in Saulieu in Burgundy.


969px Saulieu Saint Andoche Chapiteaux 01                             Wikipedia, Christophe.Finot - Own work

This unusual depiction is based on a pagan legend, described for example by Sylvie Germain in "Chanson des mal-aimants". Briefly retold: in this manner, bears released wandering souls that were collected by them into spring, after the end of hibernation.

The Church had also taken up with this issue and assigned St. Blaise, who on the capital assists with lifting the tails of the bears.

Late Birth

As a young man, I spent a year in Paris in 1962. Following our art teacher, I became acquainted with Gothic cathedral architecture, with which France took over the leadership role in European church construction during the 11th century.

At the time, I could not suspect what great a role medieval architecture would occupy in my life after retirement.

After settling near Cologne, the problem was right in front of me. The pivotal point was the year 1248 - the laying of the cornerstone of Cologne Cathedral's choir, which is not only by local patriots considered to have been the introduction of Gothic architecture in Germany.


2011.Köln 0104


Thus, the use of this new style was lagging behind that of France, its country of origin, by a century.
What is interesting in this context: the last major Romanesque building in Cologne, the Church of St. Kunibert, was completed in 1247.
On the other hand, work started on the Gothic choir of the Cologne Minorite Church three years before 1248.
Decades earlier other great churches, generally classified as "Gothic" were built.
However, Magdeburg Cathedral was not accepted as such by many purists, because of the "Romanesque choir".


Magdebg. 015 0411 Kopie


Magdeburg Cathedral (started 1209)


The Liebfrauenkirche in Trier, as a centrally planned building, was not generally accepted as "Gothic".


Trier001Liebfrauen v. O aus Dom Kreuzgg


Liebfrauenkirche Trier (started 1230)


Only the beautiful Elisabeth Church in Marburg found general approval as a Gothic building.

IMG 7062


Elisabeth Church  Marburg (started 1135)



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