Hear Me Roar
Seveal benches outside the cathedral in Braunschweig, facing the Castle Square, are based on stone carved lions. Every of the dozen or so lions has a unique facial espression.
Here are some of the chaps.
One of the lion benches
I could not find any information about those lions except that they are ‘newer’ which must mean ‘not Mediaeval’, because my father who lived in Braunschweig as kid, remembers them. The fact, that ‘bank’ and ‘bench’ are the same word in German doesn’t help with googling, either. Well, even without any further information the little lions are fun.Grroarrr
Braunschweig is connected with lions because of Duke Heinrich the Lion and the great lion statue in the Castle Square comissioned by him. And of course, there are restaurants, pharmacies and whatnot having 'Lion' (Löwe
) in the title. So it's no surprise there are a few of the fellows supporting benches.Yaaawn
Heinrich owned a pet lion (who hopefully got a better diet than King Edward’s lion
). According to legend, the lion refused to eat after Duke Heinrich’s death and died of grief. There are some scratches on the northern cathedral entrance said to have been made when the lion tried to force its entry, following the body of its dead master. The real reason that caused those scratches may have been the attempt to obtain some powdered stone – after all, a cathedral is a holy place – to mix into medicines.Purrrr
BTW, brownie points for the one who knows where the title of this post comes from. *grin*
Almost a week without a new post? Oopsie. *grin* Well, here’s a lazy one; just some more photos of sea gulls. Because they are fun.
Thou shall not pass!
Though I bet, contrary to Gandalf, this guy would have been bribable. Found him perching beside a staircase in Conwy Castle.I want a cookie
What do you say, I should eat fish? Cookies are so much yummier.
That one pestered me in Beaumaris Castle when I had a little tea and cookie break, and didn’t want any arguments about healthy gulll food. Some gulls were not shy, but they never allowed a human close enough to touch them. Gull acrobatics
Hey, I was first! No, I was, cheater! You're so mean to me, I'm not gonna talk to you again; ever.
Gulls sorting out who's where in the food line. This lovely photo with the evening sun sparkling on the water is from the harbour in Oban. Too bad the picture doesn't come with sound; those gulls made quite a ruckus. Beauty in the sky
Gulls are really elegant birds when flying. I took this shot on the ferry to Mull. There were several gulls whirling around in hope of flying cookie crumbs. Which they duly got.
The Smallest House in Britain
Can be found in Conwy, Wales. It’s painted in a pretty red so you won’t miss it, tucked in there between one of the town wall towers and another, bigger house.
Quay House, Conwy
The ‘one up – one down’ house measures 3.05 by 1.8 metres (10 x 6 feet). The ground floor room was heated by a coal fire; the coal stored under a bench. The top room is reached by a ladder through a trap door and provides just enough space for a bed. There are no bathroom, toilet or kitchen, but that was not so uncommon in the 16th century when the house was built.
The house was inhabited until about 1900. The last man who lived there was a 6’3’’ foot tall fisherman, Robert Jones He could not even stand upright in the wee housie since it’s only about 10 feet high; counting both storeys. Eventually, the council declared the house unfilt for human habitation, and Robert had to move out. The building is still in possession of his descendants, two elderly ladies who run a little museum and shop - dressed up in some sort of 16th century skirts and cloaks.
The house has made it into the Guiness Book of Records as Great Britain’s smallest house, and is one of the tourist attractions of the quay, the harbour street in Conwy.
Arriving at Inchcolm Abbey
Inchcolm Abbey was presenting itself in best Scottish weather: stormy, wet, dark and brooding. But it suited the visit to an island where once a king got shipwrecked.
The waves in the Firth of Forth were more impressive than the ones a few days later on my visit to Staffa and Iona, which made taking photos from the ferry a bit of a challenge. After deboarding I got me a rain cloak in the Historic Scotland shop on the island, because balancing the camera and an umbrella in a futile attempt to block horizontal rain didn't work. Just well I consider weather like that to be fun nevertheless.
Inchcolm Abbey, seen from the ferry
Inchcolm, known as Aemonia to the Romans, is an island in the Firth of Forth. Thanks to its strategical position, it still played a role as part of the WW2 defenses. The Romans had a fort and probably a naval base in nearby Cramond (Alaterva) during the time of Antoninus Pius around 142 AD, but it is covered by houses and a church today. Some finds point at a reuse of the place during the campaigns of Septimius Severus in 211 AD. Inchcolm may have been used by the Romans (my guess would be a watchtower on the island; the Romans were no less clever than WW2 generals) but no traces have been found so far.
Inchcolm Abbey; a different angle
Fragments of carved stonework indicate that the island was inhabited by Christians since the - misnomed - Dark Ages; the name 'Island of Colm' goes back to a monk or hermit, St.Colm, a rather shadowy figure. In the later Middle Ages legend aligned him with St.Columba who was said to have visited the place in 567, giving Inchcolm it epithet as 'Iona of the east'. But that was only a way to connect the place with a more famous saint.
A hogback stone dating to the late 10th century is probably Scotland's oldest Scandinavian monument. It brings to memory the lines from Shakespeare's Macbeth
Sweno, the Norways' King, craves composition;
Nor would we deign him burial of his men
Till he disbursed at Saint Colme's Inch
Ten thousand dollars, to our general use.
This refers to Sweyn Forkbeard, King of the Danes, who raided the coasts of England and Scotland, and was King of England during the exile of Ethelred the Unready. Sweyn died in 1014 and Macbeth became king in 1040, but that's Shakespeare for you, lol.
Closeup of the abbey
It was a dark and stormy night .... well, not night, but it certainly was stormy when King Alexander I of Scotland crossed the Firth in 1123. His ship got blown off course and wrecked at the shore of Inchcolm. Alexander and his retainers were taken in by the resident hermit and spent three days on the island while the storm raged. The hermit shared what he had, but that wasn't much: the milk of one cow, mussels and some fish. Maybe Alexander and his men could count it toward the Lent fasting. I had packed lunch and hot tea, and modern boats take you back after two hours.
When the storm finally abated and the men could repair their ship and sail to Queensferry, Alexander thanked God for his deliverance and vowed to build a monastery on the island. But he died the year after, so it fell to his brother David to fulfil the vow. The exact date of the foundation is not known; the earliest known charter dates from 1165, at which point the Augustinian brethren were already well established. Inchcolm belonged to the diocese of Dunkeld, and it was bishop Gregory (1147-1169) who oversaw the establishment of the monastery.
Inchcolm Abbey, seen from the boat pier
The monastery was raised to the status of abbey in 1235 and has undergone several renovations and enlargements during the Middle Ages. Later, Inchcolm came into the focus of the English and was attacked several times from 1296 onwards. After the Scottish Reformation in 1560, the abbey was abandoned.
One of the abbots, Walter Bower (1418-1449) is the author of the Scotichronicon
, one of the most important sources for Mediaeval Scottish history. Bower began writing his history in 1441, adapting the annals of John of Fordun († 1387) and bringing them up to his own time. He also provided us with the specifics of Alexander's diet.
Inchcolm Abbey is the most completely preserved Mediaeval abbey in Scotland, now in care of the Historic Scotland Society. As usual, I got the guidebook, and there will be more photos and information.
The ferry operating between Queensferry and Inchcolm was the only bit of colour on that dreary day. But German tourists and Scottish kids don't allow the weather to spoil their fun. There was a group of kids with parents; a birthday party as it turned out - they have a picnic on Inchcolm every year, and in case the weather is bad, they just move into the old chapter house for that while the kids chase each other through the cloister in a very un-monkish way. I got some birthday champagne and very sweet cookies, too. And fresh strawberries. You can't beat those; there must be a special sort in the UK.
Stirling Castle and Robert the Bruce
I also revisted the Bannockburn Heritage Centre in Stirling (built in the late 1960ies) and the Bruce Memorial in a park that may have been the original battlesite, though the subject is still discussed. The sky was a mix of sunshine and dramatic clouds which made for some interesting shots of the famous statue. The rest of the pics is from Stirling Castle.
Robert the Bruce, against the Scottish summer sky
The famous battle of Bannockburn took place on 24 June 1314. I'm not going into details in this post - I should leave that to Kathryn
(aka Alianore), our knowledgeable Edward II blogger. The short version is: the Scots* won that one and sent King Edward II of England packing in a hurry, though that's about as correct as 'Arminius kicked the Romans out of Germany for good at the battle of Teutoburg Forest'. The Romans came back, and so did King Edward's son, another Edward, numbered III.
* Well, Bruce's allies, to be correct, there were some Scots hanging out at Edward's court because they
could not resist Edward's sex appeal decided to keep their oaths.
Stirling Castle, seen from the west
Stirling Castle did not look like today during Robert's and King Edward's time - most of the buildings date from 1496 and 1583 - but it had been an important place in Scottish history since the time of King Alexander I who died at Stirling Castle in 1124. The rock, guarding the crossing of the river Forth, probably was fortified much earlier, though any attempt to date occupation back to Roman times and a stronghold of the Votadini tribe has not (yet) been supported by archaeological finds.
King Edward II would have found the place not very accomodating, since Robert the Bruce destroyed the defenses of the castle so the English could not use it against him. Had he but known that Edward galloped off to Dunbar instead.
Bruce Memorial; the other side
Robert the Bruce, born 1274 as son of Robert Bruce, 8th Lord of Annandale, and Marjorie, Countess of Carrick, became Robert I King of Scotland in March 1306 until his death in 1329.
I'm not going into a detailed biography of Robert the Bruce, but here is some basic information: King Edward I ruled Scotland as province of England since 1296
(after several claimants to the throne has asked him to arbitrate). During the rebellion of William Wallace and its aftermath, Robert seems to have been on and off the English side until neither Edward nor the Scots really trusted him any longer. Clearly a survivor in the game of alliances and allegiances, though. What Robert really wanted was the crown of Scotland to which his family held a claim. Unfortunately, so did several other powerful families like the Balliol and Comyn. Robert met with John III Comyn the Red in February 1306 to discuss matters. Whether planned murder or temper getting he better of Robert - he stabbed John to death, and in a church to boot. So Robert the Bruce became King of Scotland and had a civil war with the Comyn allies on his hand right there.
King Edward I took advantage of that messy situation, of course, and supported the Comyns by sending an army (I'm not sure how much they liked that
sort of support), declared Bruce and his followers outlaws, and had the pope excommunicate Robert Bruce for murder. He defeated Bruce in battle and while Robert himself escaped, two of his brothers got captured and executed as traitors (the full hanging, drawing and quartering treatment), one of his sisters and his mistress, Isabella Countess of Buchan, were suspended from English castle walls in open cages. Robert himself fled into hiding and lived in caves. There's no shortage of those on the Scottish coasts.
Another take of the Bruce Memorial
But Robert got lucky: King Edward died in July 1307, and his son Edward II was too busy keeping the Earl of Lancaster and his merry band of disgruntled nobles from exiling Piers Gaveston, and updating his Facebook account
, to wage war upon Scotland. Bruce started a successful guerilla war against every English and Comyn supporter he could flush out; and by the end of 1309 controlled all Scotland north of the river Tay.
Stirling Castle was one of the few places still held by the English. It was besieged by Robert's brother Edward (I'm going to call him Ned to avoid confusion with the English Edwards) who made a deal with the English constable that if an English relief army had not arrived by June 24, 1314, the garrison would surrender. So King Edward II gathered 20,000 men, the largest army yet to invade Scotland. Now, his father would have made haggis out of Robert and Ned with that force, but Edward II picked the wrong terrain (the bogs between the Forth and the Bannockburn) and the wrong tactics (mounted knights against pickets of lances), and lost to a much smaller Scottish army. Though he himself fought bravely and had to be dragged to safety by his retainers. Robert the Bruce took a bunch of English nobles prisoner and exchanged them for the members of his family still held captive in England.
In 1324, the pope acknowledged Robert the Bruce as King of Scotland. Robert died in 1329 and was succeeded by his son David.
King Edward II had been sent into early retirement where he died under questionable circumstances, but his son Edward III was not particularly fond about the peace treaty his mother and Roger Mortimer had concluded with Bruce. He used the internal strifes of underaged kings and ambitious nobles to push a claim to Scotland
several times by sending armies, even took King David prisoner during one of these forays. But in the end, he did not succeed to establish a puppet king and concentrated on his war in France instead.
Stirling Castle has often been the focus of during the events surrounding Robert the Bruce and his successors, the Stewart kings. The castle was besieged at least 16 times, and three battles have been fought in its vicinity. A number of Scottish kings and queens have been to Stirling Castle for important events like coronations; or died there. To give you a little tidbit just for the time of Robert the Bruce, here's a - somewhat shortened - excerpt of the timeline given on the Undiscovered Scotland website:
1291 - Stirling Castle is placed under the control of Edward I of England.
July 1291 - The Scottish nobility swear fealty to the English Crown at Stirling Castle.
1296 - King Edward captures the castle.
Sept. 1297 - Battle of Stirling Bridge (William Wallace is victor over the English). Stirling Castle which is held by the English, surrenders to the Scots.
1298 - The Scots abandon the castle after the lost battle of Falkirk; Edward I again resumes control.
1299 - Robert the Bruce lays siege to the castle and regains it from the English.
1304 - The castle is besieged by the English and surrenders to Edward I.
1314 - The castle is besieged by Robert's brother; a deal is made that the castle will surrender if the English don't relieve it by June 24 (midsummer's day).
June 24, 1314- Battle of Bannockburn. The castle surrenders to the Scots and Robert destroys the defenses to prevent it from being used again by the English.
1333 - The English again take control fo Stirling Castle and rebuild its defenses.
Rinse and Repeat. :-)
View from the North Gate into the Nether Bailey
With the above timeline, you don't need to wonder that the castle has been altered a lot during the centuries. The north gate, dating from 1380, is the oldest remaining part of the castle, and the fortifications of the Nether Bailey probably date from the same time though they have been rebuilt later.
This was another case of reliving the past: when I passed through the gate the first time, there were kids rolling down the grass-covered wall, and they did the same this time. I sat on the grass and had a little picnic, just like ten years ago. It's a pretty spot nowadays, and the sun had come out both times as well. I didn't roll down the wall, though; didn't want to get grass stains on my jacket. But it looked like fun.
View from the battlements to the Highlands
Stirling is called the Gate to the Highlands, and on this photo, the sun was so kind to highlight the mountains in the north. Beautiful, isn't it?
Sources: The official Castle guidebook, the Undiscovered Scotland website, a booklet about the Battle of Bannockburn and a short biography of Robert the Bruce I got in the Bannockburn Heritage Centre.