This town boasts a great ring of medieval walls. The town dates from early 8th century. The Fritzlar official site is at www.fritzlar.de/, and shows good photos. The Alsfeld official site lacks photos, so go to Alsfeld at Wikipedia, at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alsfeld. Big squares.
Seeing these preserved towns, unbombed, was the best start for a trip in Germany. There has been destruction of entire cities, now reconstructed as best could be done with the money and time and urgency. Half timber is hardest to reconstruct, because the old cities show such bulges and tilted rooms inside, walls and ceilings askew. That cannot be replicated. The botox of reconstruction; but here, not voluntary.
This town is a contemporary of Fritzlar, dating from the late 9th century. In both, see later 16th-17th century half-timber houses so big and old that the top floors tilt over the little alleyways and nearly meet (some may even meet at the top).
3. Our interest: Life In Between the foundings and the later merchant eras: Teutonic Knights; Crusades and Post Crusades
Spending time in these old towns leads to considering what life was like from the many foundings in the 8th-9th Centuries, through the dominance of the Roman Church over the Orthodox Christians, and others, wars against Islam, and the Crusades, see that era at Crusader Characters at ://www.snunit.k12.il/njeru/crusaders_characters.htm. That may be the best site for a fast look at Crusader times.
Then, there is time until the later emerging wealth, independence and merchant eras, seen in the big half-timbered places of the 16th and 17th Centuries. What happened after the fervor and failure of the Crusades, to all those militarists who then had nothing noble to do?
That era includes most of the Crusades and persecutions of Reform types in Europe; and battle against "Infidels" abroad. Heady stuff. Adenalin, purpose, go!
The Teutonic Knights were separate from other Knights of the Crusades era.
It was strongly ethnic, as opposed to the Templars and the Hospitallers that were more international in character, although it began as a Hospitaller Order. See "The Knights of the Teutonic Order," at ://www.snunit.k12.il/njeru/ef37.htm.
They were recognized in 1199 - is that also when Pope Innocent III ordered their uniforms - the white tunic and black cross. We believe there was a Papal bull to that effect. There were many competitions and power-plays among rulers-sponsors, and it looks like only the Teutons lived on. See ://www.middle-ages.org.uk/teutonic-knights.htm/,
After the Crusades, they moved their center to Venice, and then to Prussia, looking for work and finally finding it. They became a mercenary-militaristic group commissioned to conquer the Orthodox Christians in Eastern Europe* just as they had been after the "infidels" in the Holy Land.
The concept suited, even though those Orthodox were themselves Christian. Kill your brethren; the Grand Master and God so require. A human differential. The "other" is expendable.
They limited their membership to Germans, as Teutonic Knights, so there were no members whose relatives might be involved, to oppose the mission. At their Church of St. Mary, only German speakers received a blessing. This also from ://www.snunit.k12.il/njeru/crusaders_characters.htm/
Is it no accident that our concept of "club" comes from the German, an honored tradition - the old German gelubde, the "bodies of men united by a common vow," see the History of Friedrich II, by Thomas Carlyle, at ://carlyle.classicauthors.net/Friedrich/Friedrich16.html - this from Chapter 6, "The Teutsch Ritters or Teutonic Order."
The Teutch Order. Take time for some serious reading. Go there, at the Carlyle site.
Are these observations about old Germania on point:
- That there are deep roots of fealty to an individual leader, even unto death. This was common in the middle ages, in a feudal social structure; so the question is whether it is more pronounced in Germany than in other European countries. Does loyalty to the leader trump what the follower is asked to do in the name of the leader.Of interest is the evolution of the Teutonic Knights during and after the Crusades. They continued openly, whereas the Knights Templar were destroyed; but the Teutons carried forward in a different and more mercenary and politicized function. Why the differing treatment? Why were the Teutons embraced, but the Templars ground down, as we are told they were. Were the Templars too independent of the rulers of the time, too wealthy, too powerful.
- That there are deep roots of the special quality that Germans perceive in their own heritage. The membership in the Teutonic Knights was limited to Germans. Is that mere convenience of locale and common custom, or early Aryanism? This takes more research, and professionals and we are not that. We look and ask.
Was a combination of the Teutonic militarist power with loyalty to God and Mary and the Grand Master, combined with the exclusivity of only German membership, contribute to their amenability to the slaughter of the Orthodox Christians in Eastern Europe, because the Eastern Europeans had not been converted by the Roman branch, and so were considered pagan (but were really just a threat to the Pope?)
See Martin Luther's Stove, Fear the Follower. What, if anything, does the Teutonic Knight or other Crusading experience have on our cultures. Obey the authority. Is that our heritage.
Difficult issues. Look up Saints Cyril and Methodius - their legacy of conversions to Eastern Europe to Orthodoxy is still strong despite all. * Look at the deep wounds from the perception of the Orthodox in the Balkan states during WWII that the Roman branch stood by as the Orthodox were killed by the Nazi regimes. People disagree. Look up Cardinal Stepinac, said to have stood by and converted Orthodox to Roman Catholicism before their deaths, rather than oppose the slaughter; is that so? and Jasenovac, starting with Zagreb, Croatia, and his burial place at Croatia Road Ways, Cardinal Stepinac, St. Stephen's. See also the site itself at Croatia Road Ways, Jasenovac. Is he asking for forgiveness, or giving thanks.
Religion, politics, who the leader, who the follower, who takes responsibility, who is freed from it, if anyone.
These issues do not stop at country borders. We all follow something. Everybody is everybody. Read further Teutonic Knight history, and see its emblem, at The Teutonic Order, at ://www.heraldica.org/topics/orders/teutonic.htm/
* Saints Cyril and Methodius:
They began their conversions in the 9th Century, when all were Orthodox who were Christian, and before the Roman Branch separated itself from the other Orthodox Branches of Christianity.
Starting from Thessaloniki, Greece, they moved north into eastern Europe, and that included parts of Germany and Prussia.
Read about Saints Cyril and Methodius at Czech Republic Road Ways, entry for Operation Anthropoid during World War II where members of the Czech Resistance were betrayed, found and died in the crypt of this Orthodox Church named for Cyril and Methodius. See http://czechrepublicroadways.blogspot.com/2007/08/prague-at-war-world-war-ii-operation.html