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For themes of conflict, present in any country, see Studying War.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Enger - Sudden Saint Widukind and the Church


Widukind, King or Chieftain or Saint or all of these

or mere Saxon leader arising as needed
to oppose Charlemagne and the Christians invading, 
subduing, and taking over Saxon lands

What was Widukind's relationship to the Church.  He was forced to convert, but was that also "voluntary" in that he had a vision and saw the light? Did it stick either way. Was he banished to a monastery to get him out of the way of Charlemagne once and for all, or did he seek to go in order to be devout?  Is that his body in the Church at Enger. Why is he made a Saint? To absorb, spin and defuse?  He is said to have ridden a dark horse before his conversion and a white horse after.  Why decides if that is so, and what it signifies, if anything.

Germany is as full of whimsy as it is the serious, so some things we will never know, and there is noone to ask.

 A small Widukind in the Town Square.

Click to enlarge any of these.

King of Saxons, or Chieftain, depending on representation of costume, projections of others about their own political systems that necessitated hereditary authority figures.  Some say that the Saxons were decentralized, which drove the Romans crazy.  Leaders appeared as the disparate groups were threatened, then melted back into their own groups when there was a breather.  Who was the leader here? 

Finally, one set of tales tell, Charlemagne asked 4500 of his Saxon prisoners of war, who are your leaders? They would not identify only a few. They all saw themselves as responsible.  Charlemagne had them all beheaded in one day, at Sachsenhain, near Verden, not fat. Is that so?

Legends of Widukind. These grow, morph.  This version also appeared in a children's book for the 10 year age group here in our Library.  Interesting. Even there, Charlemagne's choice was seen as a terrible reflection on him. Widukind:  who would not say he converted, faced with that kind of consequence.  Did he really?  Tooth fairy and rewriting history to suit the winner's dogma.  Is that so?

A body labeled Widukind is on display behind the altarpiece. Walk around. The ambulatory.

Altarpieces were teaching tools as well as objects of devotion.  

It is not at all unusual to see representations of Baptisms as taking place nude, including as to Jesus, in many places in Germany and Scandinavia. 

There have been tests to try to identify these bones, but nothing firm resulted. 

The medallion is behind the glass case is upright, reflecting and obscuring the head area, the Saint representation at top.

The skull and other relics are separate.

Have to look back at notes here. Were there competing bones?

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Enger - Widukind, Saxon Bane of Charlemagne

Widukind. Saxon. Wittekind. 
No Uniform Spellings in That 8th Century Time

Some names culturally will not die.  Widukind is one.  He led the Saxons for decades against Charlemagne and the Pope, in the 8th Century in northern Europe. The Century's horrors for people who sought to remain independent in their own lands extended into the 9th, when Widukind appears to have been elevated from folk hero to legendary heroic; and to the present.  Like the Symphony without the glorious affirmation at the end. Just slaughter for the resistors. Is that so? Widukind capitulated to Charlemagne and agreed to convert after decades of fighting, in exchange for safe passage of the people.  Charlemagne responded by slaughtering 4500 Saxon prisoners in a single day.  See ://

Was "religion" used as a weapon. Convert or die. Is it now. Believe this way, or we will get you.

Widukind cut an impressive figure.  Here is the original statue, a photograph of it from the Enger Widukind Museum.  This stood, as we understand it, at the church, then was moved to the town square.

Enter Enger.  Enger is the town that lays claim to Widukind.  We had seen the photo of the statue and had come to see it.  The photo shows a life-size representation.  See the head of a real person below -- note the very distinguished top-hatted gentleman at the lower right.  The original Monopoly model.

Someone there even still claims direct descendance.

So could we (shall we? with tongue in cheek aimed at runes, we do, see Riding the Royal Ingwaz) with the Wid word root meaning wood, or forest, or underbrush; and the -ing or its equivalent as to ingwaz and old concepts for king.

It is said that the 10th Century Holy Roman Emperor Otto is descended therefrom -- see if you are interested in the leads of Wiki, ://  People there are skeptical of the contemporary claim of a Duke, so we heard  when we asked. Smiles of indulgence.  No way to prove anything. Other overviews: at ://

We went back to the church after services concluded to see if Widukind is buried at the church, as some said.  They also (coffee shop) said it was not clear at all if that was Widukind. Later post.

The Church at Enger is said to have been begun by Widukind. 

Doubtful. The town was not even there, see ://  Enger: again what is fiction and what is fact in the almanac that has to turn a local heroic figure into something the Church can embrace and justify as one of its own.  Remaking history is a global phenomenon, and one that sometimes can be noted with some fondness, depending on the intent of the distortion to glorify the historian's cause
. Here, however, after the killing of the Saxons, Widukind as sincere and continuing convert is dubious. Vet it yourself.

Best source we see yet:  Read the 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia, for ongoing questions that even the Church people had as to their own positions, and perhaps a better summary of Widukind's life (what do we know?)  than we get now, at ://

Enger is charming -- really.  Twisting streets up the hill to the church, elegant patterns of shingling.

We arrived as the service was starting at the church, so walked around looking for Widukind on our own.  Oh - here is the town square.  What?

Is this it?  Is this Big Widukind? Squint up closer.  It is absolutely tiny.

What does the loop and ball pattern represent? It looks like a topper to a well, but no well is beneath. Oh ....

Yet, there is a pedestal over there.  Not here, but by the building, another lovely half-timber. And at the square also.

He is not here. Was the pedestal brought from the church grounds, or was it always here? Where is Widukind? We saw the fine photograph!

Enter the museum.  There he is, a reproduction of what had been that huge monument, now in a little glass case.  But looking regal and very winged, as we had hoped, but in such a shrunken state.  What happened?

Compare this with the original photograph at the top.  It is very close, but not exact.  Perhaps the small one was done only from the photograph, and not from the original. Have to find out.  Still, what happened to him? 

Q:  Why is he not on his pedestal?

A: The Nazis

See them celebrate Widukind with the people, at a parade before the war, Widukind's original statue as shown at the top.  We believe this is part of the same series of photographs in the museum, but would have to check again.  Notes are not always detailed enough.

Could this event have been after the War began?  Possibly.

After celebrating the town, and their cause, either way, the Nazis returned and removed the statue of Widukind and melted it down for munitions.
Far more cared for, is this modern representation of the German soldier, the "Wanderer"

We believe this to be at Enger, but have to check. The point is the same:  history's Widukind, diminished, cartoonish in public view;  the WWI soldier with weeping woman, child, imposing, living on.

Enger claims Widukind, but Enger should commission a real statue of him. But money is tight, we know. Money is tight and memories are shorter.


Google translator: they want to know if we mean "denkst" instead of "dankst". We looked back, and it says on the statue, "dankst". Moving along with denkst, the translation is:


And with "denkst" --



FN 1  The Pope and would-be Emperor in Chief, see timeline at ://; combined philosophies and forces.  Deference to the Pope and dogma lent Charlemagne the "motivator" force he otherwise lacked; and as to the Pope, he needed Charlemagne to further his own expansion of the religion he created out of a mild Iesu. Convert or die, said they, and so they did. Saxons died, tribes died, people trying to hold on to their traditions. 

So, that sad retrospective on Western "Christian" expansion rant over, meet what we know -- or don't know -- of Widukind.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Varusschlacht, Kalkreise hill, Battle in the Teutoburg Forest. Roman Legions Defeated

 Tribes vs. Rome
Tribes Won -- 
Germania was Never Made Part of the Roman Empire

Battle in the Teutoburg Forest

The Northern Germanic Tribes were never conquered by Rome, Germania -- their lands -- were never made part of the Roman Empire.  What happened to stop the Roman advance.

At the archeological park and memorial at the Kalkreise hill area, at Varusschlacht, at the Teutoburg Forest, there are clues, dating from 9 ACE.  See; and the account of the Roman historian, Livius, at  There, it appears that the Roman Commander named Publius Quintilius Varus (thus the Varusschlacht) and the three legions he led, were defeated, and by decentralized Germanic tribes called "Cheruscian" led by one Arminius.

There have been other archeological claims for the location of the Varus battle, perhaps in Holland.  But in 1987, combinations of finds, including coins and military objects, led to the Kalkreis hill site here, near Osnabruck., near Vorden. Roman army, auxiliary soldiers and cavalry, an ideal site for an ambush. A nearby town, Engter (the same as "Enger?") means , and the topography fits the ambush idea.

There is this memorial, specifically mentioning this battle, and one of the legions believed to have fought here.

There is a museum, and a planned walkway around the areas of battlements, fortifications, wicker fences high, and descriptions. See Marcus Caelius, Livius site 

But a main point is how the story of this battle is presented to German children.  The displays pound home the idea, that could well be right, that this battle was suppressed by historians of the time because it was so unthinkable.  How could disciplined, well supplied Roman legions -- even three of them -- be defeated by wild tribes, as they saw it.  These barbarians had no centralized system:  they came together when they had to, rallied and fought with a fervor that mere skill in the arts of combat could not combat.  Fervor.  Emotional frenzy.  Think berserk, although the berserkers were more Norse.  Look them up.  No stopping them.  Rome was humiliated, and never forgot that they had been bested by the Germans -- clearly superior Germans in how they fought, overcoming all that Rome stood for.  

That is the lesson.  That Germans on the move are unstoppable. That Germans have an internal grit and source of such energy and ferocity and Germans are to be feared.  Rightfully so because Germans do what needs to be done to win.  Visit the exhibits.  Very nationalistic, patriotic even, although there were only loosely associated populations at the time.  They had fervor when they chose to let it loose. 

Ramparts, marsh, narrows:  the ambush

Now, the scene is a park.

And a botanical note.  This appears to be a poster alerting us that there is St. John's Wort about -- a plant used in healing, medicinal uses.  Watch where you step.

Try some for depressive moods, or agitation. 

And look for a historic pattern:  Unlikely action; predictable reaction.  The greater defeated by the "lesser" -- and the lesser suffering for it.
  • Custer defeated by Native Americans asserting rights to lands that had been set aside for them, led by Sitting Bull at the Battle of Little Bighorn; 
  • Russia and probably (perhaps, realistically, now the US and United Nations) US defeated by Afghans asserting rights to lands that had always been Afghan of one ilk or another; 
  • Iraq, fast-overwhelmed about a decade ago;  now coming back and expelling the US for its miscalculation
  • Rome's legions defeated by Germanic tribes at Varusschlacht
  • Teutonic Knights defeated by Poles at Grunewald, later Tanenburg
And what happens afterwards: the humiliated power does not forget.

Native Americans ever more deprived, led to death.  US resources and spirit gone, perhaps, in Afghanistan and the futility ; and Saxons defeated ultimately -- centuries after Varusschlacht -- by Charlemagne and the Pope; and Germany, aiming once again to "redeem" its humiliation at Grunewald, making that a major battlefield in WWI -- and prevailing, at least for a time. 

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Osnabruck -- Charlemagne and a Dance Contest

Arrive just right, and sometimes thee lucks out and the hotel right up from the main City Gate will let you have the A-1 suite just because it is late, and nobody is probably going to ask for it now.  Just go up to the desk and ask.  We ended up in a penthouse, top floor, the glam of private spacious dressing rooms, kitchen (we did not need) and gleaming everything.

First, the hotel hunt.  The GPS put us right in the middle of the Old Town, a no-car zone.  Out fast.

This is elegant, but right on the main Square.  Noisy? We headed just outside the gates instead.

Outside the gates, we lucked out.  Got a suite, would you believe, because it was late and we must have looked deserving. Excellent price. Hotel Remarque.  Here is the glass elevator.  Aargh.

Meanwhile, inside the Gates at the main square at Town Hall, a dance contest was setting up,

Much loudness and a good time, some rain.  Back to the hotel. 

All was fine until the TV went on at 7AM and we couldn't get it off. We are not techie, so got up.


Sunday, November 14, 2010

Osnabruck - City of Peace. A Treaty signed here. But More Warring than Peace?

Charlemagne started a Christian mission here in 780 AD, and the town then grew some 20 years later into a market town, a place for minting coin, and a commerce center. It is surrounded by a nature park, including the Teutoborg Forest. Long history as an administrative and cultural center - see ://

The City of Peace they call it. Friedensstatt.  That is ironic because the mission was clearly still on the frontier area where Charlemagne had been fighting the recalcitrant and frustratingly decentralized fierce Saxons for decades.  His efforts to subdue them -- they had the gall to want their own lands, their own culture, their own religion -- started just two years before Charlemagne's disastrous and fabled massacre of 4500 Saxon prisoners. Defenseless. Whack whack whack.  See Verden, and Saxon Grove or Saxon Wood nearby.  Sachsenhain. See summary at ://

Peace.  Harrumph.

See the city walls.  The famous watch towers.  More peace? Who is watching out for them still. Towers like this, tall with the conical top, were often called "witches' towers" because women accused of witchcraft were kept there.  In Osnabruck, another gate (looks like this one, with more ivy) was used as a prison, and also a witches pen.  Some 300 women were burned as witches in Osnabruck, says this blase article.  See ://

Peace. More harrumph.

Then again, any country remembers its dead, its lost causes; and glorifies it anyway. So also, our South, our Dixie, with Johnny Reb.

Back to Osnabruck: Protests against imprisonment, but not clear which groups these are. The hands do touch, see the lower arc.

Then, in through one of the many gates.

The gate was built as a memorial to the German soldiers from Osnabruck who died at Waterloo. See the inscription: there is the Waterloo. It is now known as the Heger Tor. See ://

The Treaty of Westphalia, that ended the Thirty Years' War, was signed here, in the Town Hall, in 1648.

That is Charlemagne at the upper level. In the marketplatz outside a dance competition is setting up, and the food and goody booths are ready.

When the rain got serious, we ducked into a fine old tavern. 

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Vorden - World's Best Church Chandelier. Searching for the Saxons and Charlemagne

Vorden is not Verden, and not Verdun
Vorden is Vorden, and fine it is

Story is:  Charlemagne had killed some 4,500 Saxon prisoners after a particularly bruising battle, in a series of battles over 30-40 years to force conversion and subjugation of the Saxons. Year: 782 AD.  Place: Verden. 

We had trouble finding Verden, but found little Vorden and aimed for it thinking it was Verden spelled differently, silly us. If that is not the Saxon place, other things were bound to be there.

Tiny crossroads, lovely old church, half-timbered houses, a nice deli and convenience store with excellent sandwiches.  And a slice of ordinary hometown life, no hype.  Sit and chat a while.

But not our Saxons.  A little trove of its own, however.

Follow Black Madonnas throughout Europe.  This one is in a similar pose to others, but is costumed differently, and with a prominent nimbus at the child's head. 

Chandelier, Vorden's Church, Vorden, Germany. World's best church chandelier.

This chandelier just has Charlemagne coming out of every pore.  The famous chandelier at the Cathedral in Aachen, however, the Barbarossa Chandelier made to commemorate Charlemagne's canonization, is fussier with towers and walls -- see ://
The chandelier here may have no connection to Charlemagne, but we think it is dignified and lovely.

The frescoes look as though the shown parts were preserved, and other parts whitewashed. Perhaps unrecoverable.

Half-timber as a building technique produces a strong frame, and a fill of bricks increases its durability.   This site for children, to introduce the method, works for grown-ups, too.  See ://  The size of old half-timber houses and other medieval buildings is surprising.  Big.  Very big.

Ask at a house where Charlemagne and the Saxons might be, and get redirected -- it turned out to be directions to where Roman Legions met their demise at the hands of fervored Germanics in 9AD, at nearby Varusschlacht. That is different from the Saxons of Charlemagne's time. So we went there anyway.