Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Incense and Gunsmoke

When the building of the Badische Kommunale Landesbank (Bakola) constructed in 1954 was taken down in 2007 to make room for a modern shopping center scientists started to search for traces of earlier settlements at the place that had always been within the inner city boundaries. Yesterday Dr. Jenisch, the director of the Bakola excavation, guided a group of the Breisgau Geschichtsverein (historical society) through an exhibition of charts documenting the archaeological results and presenting the artifacts he and his team had dug out at the former site of Freiburg's Dominican monastery.

The exhibition called Weihrauch und Pulverdampf (Incense and gun-smoke) is devoted to the former monastery and the times when Freiburg was besieged in the 17th and 18th century by Swedish and French troops. The Dominican monastery within and close to the city walls was located near an important access gate called Predigertor (preacher's gate). The monastery became famous when from 1236 to 1238 the great Albertus Magnus held the position of Lesemeister (reading master).

Albertus Magnus' monument at the site of the Dominican monastery (Photo Wikipedia)
Among the most interesting artifacts found at the site of the monastery were hand grenades made from glass. The word grenade comes from pomegranate (Granatapfel) because the original grenades had such a form.

French hand grenades made from glass around 1740
For me the term hand grenade bears some reminiscence of the 1970ies when at CERN we were building the Intersecting Storage Rings for protons. To assure the necessary water pressure in the magnet cooling circuits of the ISR it became necessary to erect an old-fashioned water tower. Soon my Anglo-American colleagues had nicknamed the building the German hand grenade. In fact, the stick hand grenade for a long time was in competition with the pineapple design also called Eierhandgranate (egg hand grenade).

Aerial view of the ISR ring stucture with the German hand grenade in the back
close to the CERN fence (Photo CERN)
The glass hand grenades found in Freiburg are from 1745 and  of French origin. During the dismantling of Vauban's fortifications, they were used as explosives but did not detonate as planned. In battle, a grenadier (sic!) i.e. infantryman throwing a glass hand grenade lived dangerously for the time between ignition and detonation was ill-defined and many a man lost his life before he could fling the grenade at the enemy.

A "grenadier"  his shoulder bag full of hand grenades igniting one 

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