Thursday, June 28, 2012

Saltworks and Hunting for Tympana in Southern Burgundy

When you hear "Burgundy" you think first and foremost of good food and Burgundy wine. Well, this was not the main goal of our trip to the southern parts of this beautiful French territory. Following last year's trip to CERN this year the Museumsgesellschaft Freiburg followed a guide well known for her knowledge of cultural history.

On our way to southern Burgundy and its Romanesque tympana we passed the Royal Salt Works at Arc-en-Senans.

The entrance to the salt works
Approaching the Works I couldn't believe my eyes: The entrance was the Brandenburg Gate as it looked after Napoleon robbed its quadriga in 1806.


Claude-Nicolas Ledoux

Let us get the timing right: Carl Gotthard Langhans planned and built the Brandenburg Gate in the years 1789 to 1791 basing its style on the Propylea entrance to Athen's Acropolis whilst Claude-Nicolas Ledoux constructed the first stage of the Royal Salt Works at Arc-et-Senans between 1775 and 1778 greatly influenced by Palladio’s works. Both architects built in the neoclassic style. So who copied whom?

Ledoux’s idea was to attract men for the job of a salt simmerer (Salzsieder) by building their living quarters close to their place of work.

Ledoux's original plan of a full circle of houses for workers around the factory
The Royal Salt Works included the director's house that again shows those six columns.

The director's building in the middle with factory halls to the left and right
Salt was a precious preservative agent in the Middle Ages. One way to arrive at the dry product was to evaporate salt water. The job of a salt simmerer was hard work.

Salt simmerers at work with the salt water fed into the pan from the left
Ledoux's plans however were only partly executed because the price of salt dropped so much that in 1895 all salt production was stopped at Arc-en-Senans.

Only half a circle was finished with the houses and gardens of the workers around the circumference.
The two columns were never started.


Our next stop on our way to our hotel in Mâcon was the Church St. Philibert in Tournus.


Built in the Romanesque style in the 12th century one of its spires carries a nicely decorated steepletop in the late Romanesque style.


The height of the nave is nearly that of a Gothic cathedral.


With cylinders penetrating each other the interior vault just looks disturbing.


Immediately M.C. Escher’s dream constructions came to my mind. When our guide queried why the style of St. Philibert's had not been copied elsewhere I thought that it was just too complicated to build compared with the upcoming Gothic style.

M. C. Escher: Boven en onder (High and low)
Pagan motives on the floor of the choir ambulatory of St. Philibert


Did you notice what we experienced waiting for our dinner?


The following morning we read the explantion in French above the entrance of our hotel.


The next two days of our trip were devoted to visiting churches in southern Burgundy built in the Romanesque style. The first tympanon from the 12th century we studied in Paray-le-Monial but before that we visited the city's Basilica Sacre Coeur built in the beginning of the 12th century on the site of a 10th-century monastery. It is a small-scale version of the lost Abbey of Cluny.


A detail built in the high Romanesque style.


The interior and ...


the impressive back of the church.



The tympanon we admired in Paray-le-Monial had been transferred from the parish church in Anzy-le-Duc to the Musée du Hiéron (the Greek word hieros means holy). Christ the teacher sits in a mandorla with two cherubs supporting him.


Tender and loving detail with Mary and baby Jesus looking like an adult.


The following tympanon we found above the entrance to Ste-Marie-Madeleine (Mary Magdalene) at Neuilly-en-Donjon. It shows Jesus sitting on St. Mary's lap accepting the gifts of the three Magi.


Below on the left hand side Eve is offering the famous apple to Adam who really is reluctant to take this sour one thinking about sweeter fruits behind him?


The scene below referring to Mary Magdalene is less common. On the left under the supper table Mary from Magdala answering for Eve's sin dries Jesus' feet with her hair. It is a story from the Bible where St. Luke (7:37 to 7:50) reports about a meal with Jesus and some friends invited to Simon’s house:


And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meal in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster box of ointment, and stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment.
Now when the Pharisee [Simon] which had bidden him saw it, he spoke within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner. And Jesus answering said unto him, Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee. And he saith, Master, say on:
There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty. And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most? Simon answered and said, I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most. And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged.
And he turned to the woman, and said unto Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head. Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet. My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment. Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little.
And he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven. And they that sat at meal with him began to say within themselves, Who is this that forgiveth sins also? And he said to the woman, Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace.


The little parish church in Monceaux-l'Etoile shows another of those talking medieval tympanons.


The tympanum depicts Jesus' ascension in a mandorla with two cherubs helping with the lift-off.


Among those watching Jesus with astonishment from below the person in the middle full of faith sticks out his long finger pointing to the Lord. Such a finger I had seen before. In the Isenheim altarpiece painted by Matthias Grünewald John the Baptist points his longish finger at the Lamb of God. The Isenheim retable is on display at the Museum in Colmar near Freiburg.

Photo from Wikipedia
Last not least we visited St. Hilarius with its unusual octagonal steeple in Semur-en-Brionnais.


The tympanon at the church shows Christ teaching the correct faith. Sitting in a mandorla he is surrounded by the four evangelists. In the lower part the tympanon from left to right tells the story of the church's patron.


In 353, although still a married man, Hilary was unanimously elected bishop of Poitiers. At that time Arianism was threatening to take over the Western Church. Settling the disagreement between the Catholics and the heretics was a great task for Hilary. One of his first steps was to secure the excommunication of prominent Arians. However their supporters banished Hilary from Gaul. After four years in exile spent in Phrygia Hilary came back and extended his fight against Arianism into northern Italy. When Hilary impeached as a heretic Bishop Auxentius of Milan, a man high in the imperial favor, Auxentius fought back and Hilary fell into disgrace.

It was all in vain. Bishop Auxentius was struck by a shameful death. Lacking sufficient bowel movement and constipated he pressed too hard and suffered a stroke, a medical phenomenon already known at the time. His soul is conventionally depicted as a small person escaping his mouth with the devil taking it immediately.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

A Diamond Jubilee

It is not Queen Elizabeth's jubilee I am addressing but the marriage between the territories of Baden and Württemberg sixty years ago becoming a new State in Germany's south west that was accordingly named Südweststaat at that time. Matching this union had not been without difficulties. In particular many people in South Baden with their capital Freiburg were opposed to such an unnatural wedding forcing Sauschwaben and Badenser as they mutually named themselves into one bed made in Stuttgart.

States in Germany's south west in the Weimar Republic and before (Wikipedia)

At the end of World War II the Allied Forces divided Germany into four zones. The US occupying most of southern Germany gave a territory to the French that comprised South Baden and the part of Württemberg, south of Stuttgart, just leaving the Autobahn between Stuttgart and Munich under US control. The French part encircled a tiny Prussian enclave with Hechingen castle, the ancestral seat of the House of Hohenzollern. It was in this castle where Frederick the Great's bones rested after the war until they were moved to their final destination at Sans souci castle in Potsdam in 1991, fulfilling Frederick's last will. He wanted to be buried near to the graves of his beloved whippets.

Let’s come back to the main story. Shortly after the war in 1946 with Germany regaining a little self-determination the south of Württemberg and the Hohenzollern territory under French occupation
Leo Wohleb
became a state called Württemberg-Hohenzollern with its capital Tübingen. The people in the south of Baden, likewise under French occupation, but disliking the Schwaben formed the state of Baden with its capital Freiburg. At the same time the north of Baden and of Württemberg occupied by the US forces united to the state of Baden-Württemberg with Stuttgart as their capital. Already the founding fathers of our Grundgesetz (Federal Constitution) considered this partition unnatural and favoured a marriage well aware that this was a mariage à trois. The man bitterly opposed that his beloved Baden should cuddle up in the same bed with two states dominated by Schwaben was Leo Wohleb, a guy of only 155 cm but of an enormous intelligence and assertiveness.

"Unnatural" partitioning in Germany's southwest following American and French occupation (Wikipedia)
Brought up in Hamburg my personal recollection of the marriage of the three states is rather dim. When I started studying physics in Tübingen in 1955 that was the capital of Württemberg-Hohenzollern until April 25, 1952, the dice had aleady been tossed. Only once I was confronted with these historical developments when at a Studentenkneipe (students' ceremonial drinking session) I sat together with the Liberal Reinhold Mayer, another of those stubborn characters in the south west. He was the last Ministerpräsident (governor) of Württemberg-Hohenzollern and the first one of the newly created Südweststaat until he was beaten in a state election in September 1953 by his christian-democratic opponent Gebhard Müller. All I remember: Mayer was slurping red wine from the nearby Remstal while we students were downing Stuttgarter Hofbräu beer. As usual the Kneipe was too noisy for a decent conversation.

Today 60 years ago this is all history. During a tour in Freiburg guided by a real expert we visited the historic places where Leo Wohleb lived and worked as pupil, student, teacher and eventually as President of Baden. We were reminded not to think of earlier divisions but rather of the common roots of Baden-Württemberg nicely presented in the form of a mosaic in front of the Basler Hof, Baden's former Ministry of Interior.

Baden-Württemberg

The three lions in the shield stand for the Hohenstaufen who in the early Middle Ages controlled most of the south west territory. On top of the shield from left to right we recognize the coats of arms of the various territories forming Baden-Württemberg starting with Franconia (the Franconian rake) followed by Prussia’s Hohenzollern, Baden, Württemberg, Palatinate’s lion and last not least the Habsburg colors, red-white-red.

Friday, June 22, 2012

From Westmister to Greenwich

While strolling through London before taking the boat at Westminster pier to Greenwich Elisabeth and I had an encounter with yesteryear:

A small town in Oregon late fall 1959.
Photo in Caffé Concerto on Regent Street.

The square in front of Buckingham Palace was full of tourists
all looking forward to the Queen's Jubilee.

The gates were closed but behind a lonely guard paraded forth and back.


We walked down to Westminster pier to catch a boat to Greenwich.


We left Westminster exactly at noon,


passed St. Paul's, and looked at some b&w photos on the other side.


When approaching the Tower Bridge ...


the London Tower beautifully restored was on our left.


We arrived at Greenwich just in time to watch the red ball dropping at exactly one o'clock. What they used to call Greenwich Mean Time on the BBC was in the meantime watered down to Universal Time.


When we left the boat  in Greenwich I felt an English sunburn.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Excellence Lost

No it's not the paradise lost but following a re-evaluation of Germany's universities Freiburg's alma mater lost its status of excellence it gained five years ago. The lost status not only is a blow to Freiburg's self esteem but also means a loss of special funding. The total money involved in the program for Germany's now eleven elite universities will amount to 2.5 billion euros over the next five years.

People who assembled in Freiburg's university’s rectorate yesterday night for a party to celebrate the university's confirmation in the rank of excellence were devastated when Rector Schiewer announced the bad news. Today Freiburg's media spread a general morning-after feeling (Katerstimmung). The Badische Zeitung published a photo with the university flag at half mast.

Photo Badische Zeitung
The following map shows the new distribution of elite universities, the lighthouses of science, in Germany. Yellow stars stand for the newcomers whereas blue stars mark the losers.

Map dpa
I am sad to see Göttingen where I passed in 1957 my Vordiplom (some sort of bachelor) in physics marked with a blue star but I am happy to see Berlin's venerable Humboldt University among the winners. Berlin once had its old university and a technical university but after the war following the city’s division into four allied forces sectors the Humboldt University was located in the east. So with the help of American funding the Free University was founded in Berlin's western sectors such that today there are three universities in our nation's capital with two labeled excellent. The choice of Tübingen where I started my studies in 1955 fills me with joy. In Dresden, following the fall of the Wall, I participated in a somewhat unofficial evaluation of one of the physic's institutes in spring 1990.

Friday, June 15, 2012

My Cornish Diary 2

England's farthest point out west is Land's End.


Getting a sunburn in a Mediterranean climate.



Yes, I was there, although the refreshment we took at St. Yves.


Cornwall Cream Tea, traditionally delivered with a Cornish split, a type of slightly sweet white bread roll, was served in St. Yves with a scone. The warm scone is spread with strawberry jam, and then topped with a spoonful of clotted cream. Simply delicious!


St. Yves harbour at low tide in the mist. The only place without sun on our whole trip we visited.


Other typical Cornish food are pasties. A Cornish Pasty is made by placing the uncooked filling on a flat pastry circle, and folding it to wrap the filling, crimping the edge at the side or top to form a seal. Traditionally a pasty is filled with beef, sliced or diced potato, turnip, and onion, seasoned with salt and pepper, and baked.



British humor: For the Queen's jubilee this driver invited Prince Philipp as his front-seat passenger.


Dartmoor is known for its sheep, its prison, and The Hound of the Baskervilles.


Here the hound is following Sherlock Holmes who possibly is late for his date with the escaped prisoner from Dartmoor serving him as a red herring whilst Sir Conan Doyle is watching from the top of the staircase.


We just drove by and did not stop on our way to London. However, we made a long stop in Bath ...


and were soon ad fontes. The water is not only warm but also of a greenish color.


In the nineteenth century the main pool was decorated with statues of famous Romans. Julius Cesar looks quite grouchily.


Minerva's gold-plated head was dug out of the Roman debris.


In 973 Edgar I was crowned at Bath Abbey and anointed together with his wife Ælfthryth in a ceremony that forms the basis of the present-day British coronation practice. The coronation was an important step to England's unification as other kings of Britain came and gave their allegiance to Edgar shortly afterwards at Chester and pledged their faith that they would be the king's liege-men on sea and land.



Placed in the center of the nave: a mirror to admire the fine structure of the Abbay's vault.


No, this is not Calvin but one of those many deans of Bath Abbey.