Chapter Church Fredelsloh - Another Romanesque Church at the Weser
After all those Roman posts, it's time for some Romanesque architecture again and I got a pretty church in spring sunshine for you.
Fredelsloh is a village not far from Göttingen. There had been an important chapter in the Middle Ages, belonging to the famous Weser abbeys I have mentioned several times. Fredelsloh isn't situated directly at the river like the other abbeys and chapters but it belongs in the same historical context.
Like Lippoldsberg Abbey, Fredelsloh was founded by an archbishop of Mainz, Adalbert I, in 1132. The abbey lies in the north-western outskirts of the fomer archdiocese and was intended as chapter following the Augustine rules. Fredelsloh gained importance very fast thanks to donations and privileges from popes, emperors and great feudal lords. Soon (I could not find an exact date) a ladies' chapter was added and some 150 people would meet during the liturgy of hours.
The Romanesque church in Fredelsloh, seen from the south
The counts of Dassel acted as reeves of the abbey (until 1322 when the family died out in the male line). During the feud between Welfen and Staufen, Fredelsloh managed to play both parties and get the best out of the situation. The provost Bertram was liege of the archbishop of Mainz who sided with the Welfen, while one of the chapter members, Johannes of Dassel, supported the Staufen. I'd have liked to sit in at the chapter meetings during the years of the fallout between Friedrich Barbarossa and Heinrich the Lion. I can imagine they were quite lively.
But Fredelsloh lost its importance as pawn after Duke Heinrich's exile, and material support ceased. Since the ground was clay and didn't support much agriculture, the abbey had problems to keep up its standard on a self supporting level, and the men left the chapter. The canonesses took to trading the pottery made of the clay (pottery is still done in Fredelsloh).
The Welfen family managed to rise again after the fall of Heinrich and the unhappy emperorship of his son Otto and regained much of its former lands, among them the grounds around the Weser on which Fredelsloh is situated. But the abbey had declined to a minor provincial monastery in the 14th century. The church seen from the north
A big fire in 1290 destroyed most of the convent buildings and damaged the church. The pope gave some money for repair but not all buildings seem to have been reerected. Two years later a murder happened in the monastery but due to lack of a Cadfael it was never solved. Though the provost paid the relatives of the victim a lot of money (some sort of weregild
). To keep them silent?
The Lutherian Reformation was introduced in Fredelsloh in 1542. Duchess Elisabeth of Calenberg-Göttingen sent Antonius Corvinus to the canonesses who told him they were fine with the Reformation but he should please, not introduce too many new rules because they were old and could not cope. A Reformation Lite, so to speak. But somehow the chapter still managed to hold on until 1652 when the last canoness left the place.
The church served as granary for several generations and survived while the other buildings fell into ruins. Today the church and land belong to the Klosterkammer Hannover
which paid for a renovation of the church that restored the Romanesque layout and interior (1968-73). It's used as parish church.The choir from the outside
The St.Blasius and Mary Church in Fredelsloh is an example of pure 12th century Romanesque architecture. The floor plan is cross shaped with a main nave and two side naves, transepts, a three-apsidal choir on the east side and a westwork with two towers. The main nave has double the width and height of the side naves which are also lower, which makes the church a basilica
The decoration is very sparse, nothing like most of the Romanseque cathedrals at the Rhine (for example Mainz
). There's a plinth running along the foundatins and tiny blind arcades directly under the roof - you can see them best on the apsis of the westwork (photo below). But this austere style is typical for several of the Weser abbeys; Lippoldsberg fe. has even less decorative elements on the exterior.(Westwork with staircase apsis)
I already mentioned that Fredelsloh Abbey was a mixed chapter for both men and women. Of course, the genders needed to be kept apart and that included not only separate living quarters but also two different entrances to the church because services and the liturgy of the hours would be held together. The men entered the church by the south gate (their living quarters were south of the church).
The canonesses' quarters lay to the west, and they got a separate entrance from the westwork. The architect added a tower with a winding staircase and a small gate at the bottom so the ladies could access the nuns' quire on the second floor of the westwork. From the outside the tower is visible as apsis. Another cool aspect is the double row of steps around the spindle; the space between them was said to have been used as hiding place for valuables. The entire feature is unique for Fredelsloh..
of the westwork has three storeys with an arcade system that narrowed in relation of 4:3:2; the nuns' quire took up the middle storey while the uppermost one was a 'blind' storey only serving to increase the impression of harmony. Most other Saxon westworks only have two galleries.
Unfortunately, this part of the church can only be seen from the outside today because there had been problems with the statics (sinking ground) and an additional wall that distributed the pressure away from the pillars of the main nave had to be erected about 200 years ago. Nowadays the eastern part of the church is sufficiently large for the parish and the interior of the westwork is locked off for visitors. It's also the reason I took few photos of the interior; that wall kept getting in the way.Interior with view to the choir
The defining feature of Romanesque architecture is symmetry. Starting point for a church was the crossing: its side length served as scale for the rest of the building. The whole building thus gives the impression of great harmony in contrast to the disorderly world outside the church, an antimony between the House of God and chaos as seen by people in the Middle Ages. Like the outside of the church, the interior was sparsely decorated as well.
The arcades separating the naves originally were supported by alternating columns and pillars (simple Stützenwechsel
; the other version is the double or Lower Saxon one with one column and two pillars - it's interesting that it wasn't used here because geographically Fredelsloh belongs to the area where that was the fashion) but after the fire in 1290, the columns were replaced with pillarsSource:
Die Stiftskirche St.Blasii und Marien in Fredelsloh - Eine romanische Basilika. Avaliable as pdf file from the website of the village.
The Riddle of the Negau Helmet B
The helmet below is considerably older, predating even the Montefortino. It's an Etruscan design from 500-450 BC called Vetulonic or Negau helmet. These helmets are made of bronze, with a comb-shaped ridge across the skull and a protruding rim with a groove right above the rim. They were no longer worn in battle since about 300 BC though. The term 'Negau helmet' goes back to a depot find of 26 such helmets in Negau (today Ženjak in Slovenia) that was discovered in 1811. The proposed time of the helmets' burial is 55-50 BC, some 35 years before the territory was conquered by the Romans.
The 23 remaining helmets can be found in museums all over the world. Several of them have inscriptions on the rim. Now, inscriptions aren't that rare; we got a number of examples from Roman helmets, mostly owner names, numbers of the legion and cohort to classify a helmet as army issue, unspectacular things like that.
Most of the Negau inscriptions were added to the helmets at a later time, assumedly in the 2nd century BC or even later, about 50 BC, and are written in a Celtic language, using a northern Etruscan alphabet. The area where the helmets were found, part of the later Roman province Noricum, was settled by Celtic and Celticised Illyrian tribes in the 2nd century BC, and Etruscan alphabets were still in use then. There are more finds of Celtic texts written in Etruscan alphabets from that time in the Alpes and the Balkans.
Helmet from the Negau find with Germanic inscription
(Exhibition Imperium in Haltern 2010; loan from the Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna)
But one helmet, classified as Negau B and today in possession of the Kunsthistorisches Museum
Vienna, has a Germanic inscription, also in Etruscan letters. That one's puzzled historians and linguists since 1811 and it's still doing so. The fact that the letters are Etruscan and not Runes is today undisputed (though some similarities between both make the Etruscan alphabets a possible candidate for one of the sources of the Runes). The letters read.harigastiteiva
The first part most researchers agree on; it's a Germanic name before the first sound shift took place: *Harigasti(z)
. It consists of two parts: hari
(= army, host; the word can be found in Old Norse herjan
- to make war, to plunder, hernað
- warfare; or in German Heer
- army) and gasti(z)
(= guest). The name lives on in Hergest and similar forms.
The second part is more tricky. A widely if not unanimously accepted interpretation has been presented by Tom Markey in 2001 (1). He reads it as *teiwa(z)
(= god; Indoeuropean *deiwos
, also to be found in the Norse Tyr, Anglosaxon Tiw). Thus the inscription would read: "Harigasti, [the priest of] the god".
One argument in favour of this reading are the Celtic inscriptions on the Negau A helmets. Several of those are of the structure: name + 'the diviner', name + 'astral priest of the troop', etc. (since I don't know any Celtic, I've to accept those readings; their Celtic nature at least is undisputed). So the Germanic inscription would follow the same pattern.Closeup of the inscription
Those helmets were long out of use as armour so a reason they were kept could be a ritual one; maybe as headgear during ceremonies, as status symbol of a chieftain or priest, something like that. It is also known for both the Celts and Germans to sacrifice weapons and armour, so a deposit find of 26 helmets neatly stacked into each other clearly points at some ritual sacrifice. But were the names carved in by the first owners who decided to use the helmets sometime in the 3rd or 2nd century BC (which would make it difficult to explain the German name), or by the ones who deposited the helmets? The inscriptions then could be interpreted as something like: "X, priest of Y, [gives this to the gods]".
The question remains what a helmet with a Germanic inscription and - in case we accept the reading - a German priest were doing among a bunch of helmets with Celtic inscriptions, and Celtic priests, sharing their ritual sacrifice. It must have been someone respected well enough to be trusted with a (sacred?) helmet, but independant enough to keep his German name and religion; not adapting to Celtic culture.
If we assume the date for the burial of about 50 BC to be correct (though I haven't found bullet proof arguments in favour of that date), there could be an explanation because there was some contact between the Celtic kingdom of Noricum and the Germanic Suebi at the time. Another view of the Negau B
Geographic and even more ethnographic distinctions are not always clear because the Roman sources tend to be vague about, or simply didn't understand, some of the tribal differences and migration patterns. The Suebi, apparently a conglomeration of several Germanic tribes, are a good example for that. Well, at the time in question, one Voccio was king of Noricum (which had originated in an alliance of several Celtic tribes some 150 years prior), and he married his sister off to the Suebic chieftain Ariovistus because he needed his help against the Boii, another Celtic people that kept causing Voccio trouble. They duly got kicked out of Noricum and were obliged to pay tribute to Voccio.
The only source we have about Ariovistus is Caesar's De bello Gallico
, not the most reliable text. But what seems clear is that Ariovistus invaded lands of Gallic tribes west of the Rhine - I guess after the fight against the Boii - that had a contract of friendship with Rome, and Rome had to intervene. Caesar managed to defeat Ariovistus in 58 BC; the remains of the Suebi fled back across the Rhine. Caesar mentions one interesting tidbit about Ariovistus: he had learned to speak Celtic (which was obviously unusual).
The next time we hear about the brothers-in-law is 49 BC, when Voccio sent Caesar troops to assisst him in the civil war. So his connection with Ariovistus hadn't hurt his relationship with Caesar, it seems.
So the Norici and the Suebi had contact at that time. There may have been an embassy to conclude the marriage conditions, and later a troop of the Suebi must have fought at the side of the Norici. One can imagine that a German priest may have been allowed to join the ceremonies; maybe he dictated some Celt his name to carve into the helmet, and thus 'Harigasti(z), priest of Teiwa(z)' left behind the oldest written example of a Germanic language. Though such a scenario must remain speculation.Sources:
(1) Tom Markey, A Tale of Two Helmets: The Negau A and B Inscriptions. In, The Journal of Indo-European Studies, Volume 29, 2001