Knowledge about the Medieval Royal Palaces in Sachsen-Anhalt is sporadic. New publication is going to remedy this
During his reign (936 – 973) the Holy-Roman Emperor Otto the Great (912 -973) covered a realm from Schleswig on the border on Denmark towards the mountains around Monte Casino south of Rome. Nevertheless there is no doubt about what constituted the heart of his realm: Sachsen-Anhalt.
Historians have calculated how many days he and his entourage spent in different locations from the dates and locations stipulated in documents and charters. Out of 5532 days accounted for in Germany, 48% were spent in this region between the Elb and the Weser.
Accordingly, one of the key features of this landscape was the royal palaces. Spread out along the royal roads, there seemed to be no more than a day’s travel between them. Here the Ottonian and Salian Kings were forced to practice an itinerant lordship, regularly traveling from one place to another in order to excise their political authority as well as impress their surroundings with highly developed ceremonial representations. One of these was the communal meal, which took place in the great halls – the Aula – of these palaces. Another was the procession from palace to church as can be seen at the model from Paderborn (See photo)
For the last 60 years German Historians and Archaeologists have been busy excavating and documenting these extraordinary buildings, some of which are still standing (at least so much that it is possible to get a feeling for the type of buildings, which were at hand.) Curiously enough the palaces of Sachsen-Anhalt are if not the least documented, those which lack their own publication in the series: Repertorium der Pfalzen, Königshöfe und übrigen Aufenthaltsorte der Könige im deutschen Reich des Mittelalters – Repertory of Palaces, Royal Castles and other Royal Strongholds (Royal Monasteries) in Medieval Germany.
Next week a conference is organised in order to gather the relevant institutions and researchers with an interest in planning this publication. Focus will be on history and topography, aim is to get an overview of the current level of research.
Apart from a general introduction, focus is on the history and archaeology of the different palaces.
Otto Von Guericke–Universität Magdeburg
Home of the Project
Repertorium der Pfalzen
Otto the Great
Read about the current exhibition in Magdeburg on the Ottonian revival of the Holy Roman Empire
Royal Norwegian Estate from 13th century found at Avaldsnes
Less than a week ago the archaeologist Eigil Marstein Bauer found a stone-wall app. 50 meters from the Olav-Church (from app 1250) at Avaldsnes. Everything points to it being part of a royal hall from the 13th century.
It is known that King Håkon wrote seven letters from the royal Manor at Avaldsnes. Probably the wall is part of the building where the king stayed when visiting the place and where he had access to a number of priests attached to the Olav-Church, one of his four collegiate churches. It is believed the new-found stone-building was erected at the same time as the church in the beginning of the 13th century and demolished in the 17th, when a new parsonage was built. At that time it appears the ground was filled with earth and a garden was laid out.
Håkon’s Hall seen to the left
Although the excavation has raised nation-wide interest, the whole building will not be extensively excavated. The primary goal of the excavations at Avaldnes is to uncover the development of the site as far back as possible. So far results have shown that magnates have used the site for more than 2000 years – the last piece of evidence being the remnants of the royal hall from the 13th century. However it is hoped that at least size and overall plan will be determined. Afterwards this information can be compared to another of the stone-buildings from that time, the so-called Håkon’s Hall in Bergen. measuring 37 x 16,4 m three floors. This hall is the largest secular medieval building still standing in Norway. It was built of local stone with corners, window and door casings of worked soapstone. Its closest parallels were probably contemporary Gothic stone halls in England. The “new” hall at Avaldsnes is the fourth royal stone-hall known in Norway. Apart from Bergen other are located in Oslo and Tønsberg.
In the Sagas of the Kings (Heimskringla) by Snorri Sturluson (1179 -1241) Avaldsnes is described as a royal manor. The name is possibly derived from Augvald – allegedly a king in the 6th/7th century. His name has been interpreted to mean, among other things, “ruler of the coast”, a clear indication of the strong connection between the farm of Avaldsnes and the control of the coastal area and waterway – the “North-Way” towards the South. The farm of Avaldsnes is strategically situated at Karmøy on the western side of the narrow strait Karmsund.
Arvaldness has long been known as a significant center in this landscape of power. Bronze Age graves and monumental mounds at Reheia from 1800 BC as well as two ship graves from the Later Iron Age and the church are visible signs of this. Due to the extensive excavations carried out since 2011 we now have in our possession a significant more detailed knowledge about the shifting layout of this center over time, not least information about what is believed to have been the royal manor of Harald Hårfagre (ca. 850 – 931/32).
The Local Museum: Nordveien Historiesenter