Built To Protect a Chapel – Krukenburg Castle
I know I've been neglecting this blog lately. Poor little blog, here's a new post for you, and my readers. :-)
(left: Krukenburg Castle, the keep)
Getting a cold on top of the spring allergies (which started early this crazy winter) really sucks. But now at least the cotton brain feeling has disappeared, though I suspect the nose won't be up to par for another forthnight. *sigh*
I’ve noticed that some of my older posts are not up to the standard I’ve been trying to set with this blog during the last years. Back when I started this monster in spring 2005 (the Pleistocene of blogging, before homo sapiens facebookiensis evolved) the focus of my blog was somewhat different, and thus some of the castles, cathedrals and other history posts are too short. I’m going to get back to these and rewrite them over the next months, and I’ll also add more photos, though long-time followers may have seen some of the material previously. But in the long run, I want the archive on my sidebar up to the same level of detail and research as far as I can find information about some of the more obscure and smaller German castles (1).
So here's a longer post about Krukenburg Castle, with a few detours beyond the local history to the larger events involving the politics in which the Krukenburg only played a marginal role.
Krukenburg, gate with view to the chapel
The Krukenburg sits on an 80 metres high spur above the village and former monastery of Helmarshausen
, near Karlshafen where the Diemel river confluences into the Weser. The place is a ruin nowadays, but a pretty one – esp. in sunshine – and of somewhat unusual layout. I’ve been there several times, and the last time - in 2010 - I got the digital camera so I could share some photos.
Rotunda of the chapel with remains of the west nave
The oldest dateable building on the hill is the church dedicated to John the Baptist which was built 1107 – 1126. The nearby Benedictine monastery of Helmarshausen is even older; it dates to 997. But it is possible that the place on the spur has been used before esp. for baptism rites (which may have been the reason the chapel was dedicated to John the Baptist), and it may trace back to a pagan religious site. Charlemagne spent quite some time in the area of the Weser and Diemel rivers during his Saxon wars and missions. He may have turned the place to the new worship.
Chapel from the north, with remains of the north transept in the foreground
The design of the chapel is somewhat unusual. Its centre is a rotunda of 13 metres diameter with a cupola roof (instead of the crossing common in Romanesque churches); added to it are a long western nave, a choir with apse to the east and two short transepts. The same layout can be found in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. There is a rectangular crypt in the centre of the rotunda, again following the example of the Rock Cave in Jerusalem. It may be even older than the church and had been excavated in the 1930ies, but it turned out too expensive to restore it safely for public access, and so the space was filled in again.
Chapel seen from the inside; view to the south transept
How did this unusual layout find its way to Germany? Wino, the abbot of Helmarshausen, traveled to Jerusalem in 1033. He got a commission from bishop Meinwerk of Paderborn
to acquire the plans for the Church of the Holy Sepulchre for a similar building in Paderborn. The church in Jerusalem had been destroyed in 1009 and rebuilt in slightly altered fashion in the 1030ies; so the plans Wino got were from that period. The bishop then had the Jerusalem Church in Paderborn-Busdorf constructed according to those plans.
Rotunda from the inside
In 1107 Bishop Heinrich II of Paderborn and Count of Werl, from an old and influential family in the area, commissioned the chapel on the Krukenberg hill to compensate for the pilgrimage to the Holy Land he had pledged but could not make due to his age. When the church was consecrated in 1126, Bishop Heinrich was too ill to attend; he died the following year.
In that context, the unusual choice of design makes sense. After the Busdorf Church had been replaced with a more ‘modern’ building after a fire in 1289; the remains of the chapel in the Krukenburg are a rare example of an ecclesiastical building of that shape north of the Alpes.
Keep (left) and chapel (right)
The main cupola once had been double the height of the naves and transepts. Those were all covered by a barrel vault roof. One can still find traces of the lips for the ceiling; esp. in the remains of the rotunda and the choir. There are also remains of decorated skirtings.
A rectangular tower with an open hall formed the westwork. Adjacent was a smaller tower with a staircase, so there must have been a second storey – some sort of gallery maybe – at least in the western nave and perhaps the rotunda.
(right: Paderborn House)
In 1126, relationships with the monastery in Helmarshausen seem to have been amiable. Bishop Heinrich granted the monastery several hides of land with the peasants living on it, to celebrate the consecration of the chapel on the Krukenberg hill.
But the increasing power play of the bishops of Paderborn endangered the status of Helmarshausen monastery, and may have woken memories of Bishop Meinward of Paderborn who had transferred the superiority over the monastery to Paderborn a century earlier. There were esp. two bishops whose politics brought them at loggerhead with other spheres of clerical influence: Bishop Bernhard II of Ibbenbüren, who took the bailiwick of Paderborn as well (in 1189) and used the combined power to found castles and towns that would remain dependant on the see.
The other one was his successor Bernhard III of Oesede. He supported Philipp of Swabia against Otto IV
(the son of Heinrich the Lion) in the strive for the German kingship and thus incurred the wrath of the pope, but turned his coat after Otto’s death and got back into papal grace. In 1222, the burghers of Paderborn rose against him, backed by the archbishop Engelbert I of Cologne who in turn wanted to expand his
The monastery in Helmarshausen got dragged into the quarrels between the sees of Paderborn and Cologne. The abbot decided to apply to Archbishop Engelbert for support. It was Engelbert who built the fortifications of the Krukenburg to protect both the monastery and the chapel (1216-1220). The fortifications consisted of a curtain wall with a trench, a double gate with drawbridge, as well as two watch towers, but no outer bailey. The other buildings, including the keep, are later additions.
The bailey in the evening sun
Here’s some more historical background to connect my local history with the larger events: Engelbert’s predecessor and cousin Adolf of Altena was one of the men involved in releasing Richard Lionheart from captivity, and he crowned Otto IV of the Welfen family as King of the Germans in 1198; the coronation was confirmed by Pope Innocent III who was interested in balancing the strong position of the Staufen family in Italy. But Otto obviously was not an easy man to get along with, so Adolf started negotiations with Philipp of Swabia and in January 1205 crowned him as well. Ops. :-)
Keep with remains of the Mainzer House (left)
Pope Innocent did not like that one bit, so he sent Archbishop Adolf of Cologne a letter of dismissal and banned him. But the Rhineland was mostly pro-Staufen, so Adolf's successor didn't have much success in forcing papal policies against Adolf who refused to pack his laptop and leave his office, thus creating a nice, messy schism. Adolf even went to Rome in hope to get reinstalled (which proved vain), but the assassination of the Staufen candidate Philipp of Swabia in June 1208 changed the situation. Adolf submitted to the pope and talked his followers into accepting his successor. He got out of the whole mess with a handsome annual retirement funds, much like failed politicians (or bishops) these days.
(left: Paderborn House, interior)
His cousin Engelbert, provost of the chapter of Cologne since 1198, who supported Adolf during the schism and who had been discharged and excommunicated in 1205 because of the destruction his military actions caused, got away better. He came back into grace and into his position as provost in 1208. It seems he developed a better sensibility for the political currents and played along.
Otto IV could not resist trying to reconquer Sicily (which had been part of the German realm under his successor, Heinrich VI, son of Friedrich Barbarossa) thus breaking his promise to Pope Innocent to stay out of Sicily. That earned him an excommunication. It also gave the Staufen party in Germany a boost. Friedrich II (the son of Heinrich VI) was elected king and Otto was forced to return from Italy to sort out things at home in spring 1212. Friedrich also traveled to Germany to receive the oaths of the princes and nobles, and the conflict continued in Germany both on the political and the battlefield. Otto died, politically isolated in May 1218.
Adolf was in no position to play a role in these conflicts, though he tried to regain his job in Cologne, while his cousin Eberhard laid low. His neutrality payed out for Eberhard in 1216. Eberhard was elected archbishop of Cologne in February and consecrated in September 1217 with the blessing of both the new pope, Honorius III, and the emperor Friedrich II.
The good relationship with Friedrich would last. Engelbert was named guardian of Friedrich's son Heinrich who was crowned king in 1222, and regent in Germany (Friedrich spent a lot of time in Sicily and on crusade). That made him one of the most influential people of the realm. He was assassinated in November 1225 on his was back from Soest to Cologne.
Gate and curtain wall seen from the bailey
Engelbert used his position to strengthen the dominion of the see and to expand its territories. One wonders how voluntary the pledge of the abbot of Helmarshausen was. The information I got focusses on the increasing power of Paderborn, but that brought the bishopric in conflict with Eberhard of Cologne and it could well have been that he *ahem* suggested
they better called for his protection. The monastery of Helmarshausen with its artisans who created beautiful book illuminations (Gospel Book of Heinrich the Lion
) was a prestige object worth having.
Curtain wall from the outside; also the out-facing wall of Paderborn house
Engelbert pawned the castle out to Count Hermann of Everstein
in 1223; in 1238 it was pawned out to the archbishop of Paderborn who erected the Paderborn House
Paderborn House is what one may call a tower house. The entrance was in the first storey to make access more difficult. The outer walls only have small windows but the inner side facing the bailey had larger windows and overall gave a rather representative look. Which makes me wonder how safe the place really was when you could throw heavy objects inside. Well, maybe they used thick wooden shutters. Remains of beam holes and fireplaces can still be seen inside. There also was a cellar for storage and perhaps prison.
Paderborn House with the parapet in the foreground
In the following times the castle - and with it the hold over Helmarshausen monastery - changed possession a few times between the sees of Paderborn, Cologne and Mainz, sometimes also in part only, which meant that for a few years there were two bailiffs living in the castle. The Mainzer House
was built in 1405 (of this only the cellar and one outer wall that also was the curtain wall, remain).
I could not find much detailed information about the role of the Krukenburg in the later Middle Ages. It was conquered by Ludwig II Landgrave of Hessia who set up a garrison there during a feud with Paderborn in 1465, but the bishop bought it back in 1496 and installed a bailiff again.
Another view from the gate to the chapel
After the Reformation, the monastery of Helmarshausen - and with it the Krukenburg - lost its importance; the castle fell into decay after 1617.
The 22 metres high keep has been repaired in 1968. There is a platform on its top with a great view over the Diemel valley, and the forests of Solling and Rheinhardswald. But it was closed last time I went there.
(1) That does not include the posts I do immediately after a journey where I present the places I’ve visited. Those were always meant as teasers.
I'll stay in Germany for my spring tour this year and travel to some places in southern Germany, namely Bamberg, Nuremberg and Regensburg which will bring me all the way to the Danube. There should be old cathedrals, pretty houses, Mediaeval town fortifications and the odd castle. Those towns have a long history going back to early Mediaeval and even Roman (Regensburg) times. I've been to Nuremberg as child and have fond memories of the place - I liked old stuff even then.
The Horseman of Bamberg, early 13th century
(This is a copy from an exhibition in Naumburg we visited in 2012; the original stands in Bamberg Cathedral)
And Aelius Rufus will be glad to hear there should be Roman remains, too. I plan a tour to the cavalry fort and Limesmuseum
in Aalen, and there's some fun stuff in Weissenburg, the Roman Biriciana, near Nuremberg. Including the remains of a bath. :-) Regensburg, the ancient Castra Regina, was an important Roman site as well, but is has been built over during the Middle Ages, and so most remains can be only found in the underground, for example under the cathedral (like in York), but I'm not sure if photographing will be allowed there.
Grave monument in shape of a sella curulis
(The decoration of the back shows a battle scene; Varus Exhibition 2009, Haltern.
The monument is usually in Hever Castle)
The tour is scheduled for April (9 days, after Easter) since the were no affordable rooms to be found in Nuremberg during May. Let's hope the weather won't be too bad.