Tag Archives: Middle Ages

Burg Waldeck in Waldeck, Germany

Below is a series of photos I took recently when my family and I visited the castle ruins of Burg Waldeck in Waldeck, Germany.  The top photo is a screen shot from Google Earth showing the layout of the castle as it appears today.

Overhead view of the castle and the hill it sits on from Google Earth.

Burg Waldeck is a typical Keep and Bailey type castle.  There is a rounded keep at the center of the complex with a small courtyard and various outbuildings.  It is surrounded by a curtain wall that is currently about 10-15 foot high with rounded turrets defending the most vulnerable parts of the wall.  It sits on top of fairly steep hill that rises about 300-350 feet above the surrounding terrain.  Today the castle complex is entered from the northeast but in medieval times the entrance was through a double gate on the southeast corner of the complex.  There are a couple of cisterns I found at the base of the hill that had tunnels leading in the general direction of the keep and may have been built concurrently with the castle to ensure water supply.  I did not follow them very far because of lack of equipment and they were fairly full of rubble and probably dangerous.  I did get some pictures of the interior though.

Complex Map that I found on-site. The translation follows:
1. The Inner Palace
2. Prince’s Parlor and Chamber
3. Keep
4. Chapel of Saint Agid
5. Granary
6. Outer and Inner Gate
7. New Bastion
8. Smithy, powder and ammunition chamber
9. Stables, rifle, and storage chamber
10. Round Tower “Ober Waldeck”
11. Stables and Bakery
12. Kemnath Tower
13. Courtyard
14. Forward Bastion
15. Armesberger or Trinity Tower
16. Kulmain Tower
17. Granau Tower
18. Tower

The castle itself was originally constructed in the 12th Century and was in almost continuous use until its destruction in 1705 at the end of an unsuccessful seven month siege.  The castle was besieged several times in its history and passed back and forth in possession between Bavaria, Franconia, and the Swedes.  Much of what exists today are reconstructions completed by the local historical society.

Approaching the modern entrance to the castle


The medieval entrance to the castle. Only the inner gate is still standing, the ruins of the exterior gate are in the foreground of the photo
South side of Castle complex showing the Courtyard/Inner bailey and storerooms and workshops against the southern wall
This was next to the keep and I am not sure what it is. It looks somewhat like a filled in well to me but I am not sure.
A view looking north towards the central keep. Note the large basalt outcropping the keep is constructed on.
The remains of the Prince’s Parlor with the Kitchen to the left and storage rooms or servants quarters to the right. The actual living quarters for the lord of the manor would have been on an upper floor that no loner exists.
View from the Kemnath Tower looking west towards the Town of Kemnath
View from the inner gate looking over the south wall towards the “Rauher Kulm”, a volcanic basalt cone south of Waldeck.
Castle Goats, the castle’s current occupants and guardians. They chased my son up the hill when he tried to get close and menaced my wife.
More Castle goats, there were some sheep too but like sheep everywhere they were too timid to let me get close enough for a picture.
Cistern entrance below the castle on the east side of the hill. Beware Goblins :)
Interior view of the cistern showing the closed up opening in the roof. I don’t know how deep it is, I stuck a stick about 5 feet long into the water and did not touch bottom so that gives us a minimum.
Entrance to the other cave. Notice the worked stone on the upper part of the hole. This cave extended into the hill for at least 75-100 feet. I did not go very far in because I did not have any caving gear or a flashlight except for the app on my phone. One of my goals is to go back with the right gear and see what I can find out. There are bats in there because the smell of guano is almost overpowering, even in the entrance.
View from just inside the entrance to the second cave.

Book Review: The Last Full Measure: How Soldiers Die in Battle by Michael Stephenson

[FULL DISCLOSURE: I received my copy of this book free from the publisher for purposes of reviewing it. I was not paid for this review and the opinion expressed is purely my own]

Michael Stephenson’s work The Last Full Measure: How Soldiers Die in Battle follows somewhat in the tradition of classics such a Keegan’s The Face of Battle and Victor David Hanson’s The Western Way of War. Where it differs from these two works as that while Keegan and Hanson focus on specific battles or time periods this book aims to be a more general description of the experience of combat throughout recorded history.  In that, the book is amazingly successful.  The author has produced a volume that does the job of bringing home te reality of warfare to those who have never experienced it.  What I finds even more refreshing is that he does without weighing the book down with moral judgements on the rightness or wrongness of war itself, instead he accepts the objective reality that war happens and goes about the business of explaining what it is like.

It is written in an easy free-flowing style that is almost a pleasure to read and the text is organized in such a way that it is also compelling to read.  I found myself making excuses to my wife to keep reading to the end of the chapter before I did something else.  The descriptions of combat and death, ultimately this book is about violent death, ring true.  I was struck in particular by the realism of the combat descriptions in the section on the Iraq war.  On page 361 he talks about the US Marines “Pine Box Rule” in which if someone has to go home in a pine box, it is not going to be Marines. In my own experience in Iraq in 2004 my unit had a similar rule except we called it doing the “Death Blossom” when we came under enemy fire.  If his descriptions of combat and death hold as true to reality throughout the rest of the book as they do for modern war, and I have no reason, to think they don’t, then Mr. Stephenson has produced what should be an instant classic.  It should also make its way to the official reading lists of all the services, especially the US Army and Marines.

At 406 pages of text the book is not too long for the interested layman and includes an index, extensive notes, and a truly impressive bibliography that together amount to 54 pages alone.  The book is organized into eight thematic, chronological chapters that cover warfare from the Ancient World to the modern wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with an appendix discussing the state of military medicine through time.  The only very minor criticism I could have for this book is that it is Western Centric in focus, that is true of much western scholarship though  and this book makes no claim to universal history.

As a combat veteran myself, I have said for years in private conversation and on some public forums that no one who has not been in combat can possibly grasp what it is like, this work goes a long way to roving me wrong.  Michael Stephenson comes as close to describing the reality of combat as I have ever read from a non-combat vet.  This objective and fair description of death in battle should be on the shelf of every military historian, whether they are a veteran or not.  Anyone who wants to know what combat is like without putting their own skin on the line should read this book.  If nothing else, they will gain a better understanding of the sacrifices made by those who don the uniform of their country and go forth to do battle.  This is a good description of what George Orwell’s “rough men” go through to allow their countrymen to sleep safe at home.An outstanding book that is sure to remain the standard in its niche for years to come.


Saint John of Nepomuk in Prague

I went to Prague last weekend with my family and took the opportunity to walk across the Charles Bridge where St. John of Nepomuk was martyred.

There are two shrines to St. John on the bridge and both are crowded.  I took some photos while I was there and they are blow with description sin the captions.  It was interesting to walk across the Charles Bridge because it is full of statuary and shrines along its entire 520m length.  Man are difficult to interpret and the inscriptions are so worn that it is difficult to make out what they say.  Well, the pictures are below.  It was cold and cloudy when I took them so the quality is not the best on all of the them.


View of Hradcany Castle from the Old Town
The shrine to St John of Nepomuk on the Charles Bridge in Prague

The bright spots are polished by people touching them for luck.

View of the Charles Bride from the Old Town
Mini Shrine marking the spot where St. John was thrown off the bridge by the King's men

Supposedly, if you rub the cross embedded in the bridge railing and the figure on the metalwork it will bring good luck.  Of course, we did. :)

A view of the complete Nepomuk shrine.


The Combat of the Thirty

Here is an interesting episode that occurred in March, 1351 during the Hundred Years War.  It occurred during the Hundred Years War but was only really a peripheral part of it.  The combat occurred between the French garrison of Josselin Castle and the English garrison of Ploërmel Castle Brittany, part of modern day France. It was instigated because the English were not abiding by the terms a truce that had been made locally.

The challenge to combat was issued by the French commander Jean de Beaumanoir to Robert Bramborough. On 26 or 27 March, 1351 the challengers met each other midway between the two castles with 29 retainers giving each a force of thirty men to decide the issue.  Before the battle commenced the two parties met and exchanged greetings and pleasantries before backing away from each other to make final preparations.

At a prearranged signal the two parties rushed to attack each other and the battle commenced.  Any weapons was allowed as well as being mounted and using lances.  The battle lasted for approximately nine hours before the English were beaten.  Nine Englishmen and four Frenchmen were killed in the fighting and all of the English were taken prisoner and later release after the payment of a ransom.  Additionally, almost every participant was wounded in some way.

The episode had no perceptible effect on the course of the War but became famous as an example of the purest form of Chivalry.  It was celebrated in a poem by Froissart that became famous and the surviving combatants became famous and were honored for the rest of their lives.  Their is a famous anecdote about Froissart meeting a participant at a party hosted by Charles V in which the veteran was seated at the head table and honored for his participation in the Combat.

Below are some links to both the poem by Froissart and a text account as well:

This is video of a reenactment of the Combat of the Thirty at one of the modern Rennfests.

Below is a list of the comabatants in the Combat of the Thirty.

The Combatants

  • Sir Jean de Beaumanoir, Constable of Brittany, Governor of Josselin
  • Sir Olivier Arrel
  • Sir Caron de Bosdegas
  • Sir Geoffroy du Bois
  • Sir Yves Charruel
  • Sir Guy de Rochefort
  • Sir Jean Rouxelot
  • Sir Robin Raguenel
  • Sir Huon de Saint-Hugeon
  • Sir Jean de Tinténiac


  • Geoffroy de Beaucorps
  • Hughes Capus-le-Sage
  • Olivier de Fontenay
  • Louis de Goyon
  • Alain de Keranrais
  • Guillaume de la Lande
  • Guillaume de la Marche
  • Geoffroy de Mellon †
  • Guillaume de Montauban
  • Olivier de Monteville
  • Maurice du Parc
  • Tristan de Pestivien
  • Guyon de Pontblanc
  • Geoffroy Poulard †
  • Simonet Pachard
  • Geoffroy de la Roche
  • Jean de Serent
  • Alain de Tinténiac
  • Maurice de Tréziguify
  • Geslin de Trésiguidy


  • Sir Robert Bramborough Captain of Ploërmel †
  • Sir Robert Knolles
  • Sir Thomas Billefort
  • Sir Thomas Walton
  • Sir Hugh Calveley
  • Sir Hervé Laxaualan
  • Sir Richard Lalande

Squires & Men-at-Arms

  • John Plesington
  • Richard Gaillard
  • Hughes Gaillard
  • Huceton Clemenbean
  • Hennequin de Guenchamp
  • Renequin Hérouart
  • Hennequin Le Mareschal
  • Raoulet d’Aspremont
  • Gaultier l’Alemant
  • Bobinet Melipart
  • Jean Troussel
  • Robin Adès
  • Perrot Gannelon
  • Guillemin-le-Gaillard
  • Jennequin Taillard
  • Rango-le-Couart
  • Raoul Prévot
  • Dardaine †
  • Repefort
  • Croquart the German
  • Isannay
  • Dagworth (nephew of Thomas Dagworth)
  • Helichon
  • Helecoq

† indicates that the combatant was killed. Nine Englishmen were killed in total and the remainder captured. At least three Frenchmen were killed and a number of them were captured during the fighting, but were released after the final French victory.

The Peace of Augsburg and Modern Germany

The Peace of Augsburg is the settlement between the Holy Roman Emperor and all his princes and nobility that established that the religion of a locality in Imperial Germany will be the same as that of its ruler.  The only two religions allowed were what we today call Lutheranism and Roman Catholicism.  At the Peace every German state and principality had its religion determined.

Many people may wonder what the 460 year old Religious Peace of Augsburg has to do with a modern European state.  I did too until recently when I started to think about it.  Let me lay out my train of thought.  It all started with the German holiday that is celebrated today.  That holiday is Maria Himmelfahrt or the Assumption of Mary in English.  That is a Roman Catholic holiday and what it has to do with the Peace of Augsburg is the following.  After the peace, each city, town, and region in Germany was allotted to a different confession.  Those distinctions have held down to the present day whether they have any relation to present reality or not.

The reason it applies to modern Germany is because there are specific holidays on the German calendar that are only observed by Catholic communities and vice-versa.  Maria Himmelfahrt, being a Catholic holiday brought this up last week when we were talking some friends of ours.  The town I live in, Kemnath, is Catholic and even today overwhelmingly so, something like 95%.  It also celebrates Maria Himmelfahrt and the stroes are closed ad everything else that applies on a typical German holiday.  A friend of ours lives in Neustadt am Kulm, about 3 miles from us, it is a Lutheran town and Maria Himmelfahrt is not observed there so they have to work.  I remarked when we were talking about it that the distinctions were a medieval remnant and it was good for a laugh.

However, if you really think about it, things like this should bring home how the past is not really dead even though many people like to think it is.