Thursday, March 24, 2016

Via Dolorosa

As I had promised for the Passion Week: here comes the blog about the Via Crucis. My memory about my trip to the Holy Land is slowly fading so I decided to limit my writing to two more blogs dealing with Fort Masada and Yad Vashem. With new topics coming up all the time I shall skip my reports about the annexed Golan Heights, the mystical Kabala, the crusader stronghold Akko, and about Haifa, the city of the German Templars and the Bahai.

Before Jesus walked his Way of the Cross he had a last supper with his twelve disciples in the so-called Upper Room. The place located near the Jaffa Gate is nowadays called Mount Zion and is crowned by a church, the Basilica of the Assumption.

Our guide Jonathan is explaining the situation of the Jerusalem quarters.
The Jaffa Gate to the old city is in the Armenian quarter (white)
near the Christian quarter (rose)
The religious density around Mount Sion is high as on the ground floor Jews venerate King David's Tomb.

Entrance to King David's Tomb

King David's coffin

Orthodox Jews are studying the Talmud in an adjacent room

For Christians the vaulting Basilica commemorates the death of the Virgin and the place where she was taken to heaven with body and soul.

Basilica of Assumption
Somewhere in this labyrinth on an upper floor there is the place where, according to tradition, Jesus broke the bread and offered the cup to his disciples: On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Where do you want us to make preparations for you to eat the Passover?” He replied, “Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, ‘The Teacher says: My appointed time is near. I am going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples at your house.’” So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them and prepared the Passover. When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve (Matthew 26:17-20).

The Upper-Room was one of the few places on our trip that was overcrowded. The air was sticky and the place was noisy with guides babbling in many languages. We simply walked through.

People visiting the Upper Room looked bored and tired.

The Via Dolorosa and the Way of the Cross start about 200 meter down the street from the Lions' Gate into the city with two churches on the right hand side: The Church of the Flagellation and the Church of the Condemnation and Imposition of the Cross.

Entrance to the Church of Flagellation
Then Pilatus released Barabbas unto them: and when he had scourged Jesus then he delivered him to be crucified (Matthew 27:26)

Station I: Jesus is condemned to death.
And after that [the soldiers] had mocked him, they took the robe off from him, and put his own raiment on him and led him away to crucify him (Matthew 27:31).

Station II: Jesus receives His Cross
Another 200 meters down the street we stopped for snack at the Austrian Hospice of the Holy Family. Red Baron paid a fortune for a small piece of Sachertorte and an espresso.

This place founded in 1863 is worthwhile visiting. It surely smells the Habsburg monarchy.

We felt well protected with Israeli soldiers all along the Way of the Cross.

Station III: Jesus falls the first time under His Cross
And as they came out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name: him they compelled to bear his cross (Matthew 27:32).

Station V: Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus to carry His Cross

Station VII: Jesus falls a second time
The last 200 meters of the Way of the Cross to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre were fully commercialized.

As it was time for lunch Red Baron was looking for a frugal meal and enjoyed an Arabic salad with pita bread and a glass of Israeli beer.

After lunch our group entered the church complex of the Holy Sepulchre built over the last three stations of the Way of the Cross.

Entrance to the church complex of the Holy Sepulchre
Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost. And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent; and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, and came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many (Matthew 27:50-53)

Station XII: Jesus dies on the Cross
When the even was come, there came a rich man of Arimathaea, named Joseph, who also himself was Jesus' disciple. He went to Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded the body to be delivered (Matthew 27:57-58)

Station XIII: Jesus is taken down from the Cross
And laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock: and he rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulchre, and departed (Matthew 27:60).

Station XIV: Jesus is laid in the tomb
All people around us were not calm but rather hectic standing in a long line to enter the Aedicula Sacra (Holy Shrine). We decided not to wait but rather had a look at similar caves in the building complex.

And suddenly all was quiet. I was alone in the tastefully decorated Catholic chapel.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Wikipedia 15

On March 16, 2016, the German Wikipedia celebrated its 15th anniversary. In 2011 Red Baron reported on the 10th birthday of the English Wikipedia that got its first articles uploaded on January 15, 2001. Germany's free encyclopedia was second following only two months later.

Here I like to re-mention my first article in the German Wikipedia published three years later on March 6, 2004, about Karl von Rotteck, professor at Freiburg's university. When I started my Wiki activities the German Wikipedia had about 100,000 articles, now there are more than 1.9 million entries and we are still growing.

The Wikipedia Foundation authorized, i.e., financed our monthly Stammtisch numbered 111 in the form of a seminar that took place in the library of the Institut für Pharmakologie und Toxikologie (Otto-Krayer-Haus) of Freiburg's university.

In his welcoming introduction Professor Klaus Starke, former chair holder, Wiki author, and host of the seminar, introduced Otto Krayer, name giver of the building. Krayer was born in Köndringen near Freiburg in 1899, studied medicine focusing on pharmacology, and obeyed his conscience when in 1933 he was offered the chair of pharmacology at the University of Düsseldorf. Following the Nazi takeover the position had been opened up by removing the Jewish professor. Krayer wrote to the Prussian Minister of Education: I consider the elimination of Jewish scientists an injustice ... I prefer to renounce a position corresponding to my inclination and ability rather than to decide against my conviction ... Needless to say, as a result of his letter Krayer lost his job. He went abroad and following some appointments in other countries he became head of the Department of Pharmacology at Harvard University in 1939.

In his talk on Virtuelle Mediävistik und Wissen im Prozess Professor Bent Gebert mentioned that 79% of the students use Wikipedia. However one of his colleagues had once told his students: Wikipedia is awesome as a first source of information but you cannot rely on anything.

Gebert for his part rather deplored the frequently outdated information in Wikipedia as far as topics about the Middle Ages are concerned and he had noticed how frustrating it was for students to see their written seminar papers graded and then vertically filed.

With these two premises in mind he therefore asked his students to write new articles about medieval subjects in a collaborative and collective effort using MediaWiki. This resulted in a boost of motivation. His students collect, interpret, edit, and stylistically improve contributions to the articles. Instead of living by the atavistic attitude "my knowledge is mine" teams of two to five people successfully work together and are rewarded that their texts will be used and continue to be improved.

The second speaker, Matthias Frank, introduced the Semantic MediaWiki (SMW) that turns "a wiki into a powerful and flexible knowledge management system". Frank gave the following example starting with a

MediaWiki: In the west the city of Karlsruhe touches the river [[Rhine]].

The MW becomes a Semantic MW:

In the west the city of Karlsruhe touches the river [[touches::Rhine]].

This is like a construct of Subject (Karlsruhe) Verb (touches) Object (Rhine).

Red Baron has some experience with relational data bases, e.g., Oracle where information is retrieved with the help of sometimes complicated queries. With SMW it becomes possible to store information in wiki pages that can be queried and published semantically.

Kai Woodfin reported in his talk Translating Wikipedia about the challenge for students of English to translate German texts into English. In the exercise he had perviously used articles of about 300 words taken from the German press. As in Professor Gebert's case the result of all those translations ended in the paper bin. Recently Kai had asked his students to translate articles taken from the German Wikipedia into English. Here again many students participate in the translation of -- what else? -- articles about Freiburg. An example is the Freiburg Bächle where the German version is classified as lesenswerter Artikel (good article). As a side effect of their translation efforts students are familiarized with Wikipedia techniques, e.g., the creation of individual user pages and they learn to read the contents of existing articles critically. So they considered the German article about Theater Freiburg in parts incomprehensible. That raises the question whether their translation in the English Wikipedia is better than the German original.

The seminar ended by slicing and eating the birthday cake pictured above:

Admire the skillful hands of our colleague who had organized all so well.
Thank you, Ireas.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Parkinson's Law Reloaded

In Freiburg we are reinventing not the wheel but the bicycle stand. The state elections barely checked off, our municipal council enters a more serious debate about the Freiburger Bügel (Freiburg bracket) so far used with success to park and fix bicycles.

Freiburger Bügel "delicately" bent in Freiburg's prison by inmates (©Bamberger/BZ)
Red Baron still remembers the famous bicycle shed that was extensively discussed in C. Northcote Parkinson's book of 1958 on the Pursuit of Progress. While a board of directors simply rubber stamped the construction of a £ 10,000,000 atomic reactor (hear, hear, but in 1958 such a project was still politically correct) it debated for hours the installation of a bicycle shed for £ 350. The crux was not the amount of money involved but the fact that each director had an expert opinion on the bicycle shed and wanted to put in his two cents' worth.

Parkinson's Law in Freiburg? The debate on how the city's bicycle stands should look in the future has just started. Here is one most symbolic proposition: Place 10 bicycles in the space for one car.


Monday, March 14, 2016


Alea iacta est. Yesterday on Super Sunday Germany moved to the right in three state elections. The ruling parties in Berlin, the Christian Democrats (CDU) and the Social Democrats (SPD), are the losers while the populist Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) is the winner. Does this mean twilight for goddess Angela?

In Baden-Württemberg's state election the CDU lost 12% of their previous votes and the SPD more than 10%. A winner in the Ländle is Ministerpräsident (governor) Winfried Kretschmann and his Green Party gaining 6%. They pass the Christian Democrats and become the strongest party in our state parliament with 30.3% of the votes. What is worrying is that starting from scratch the right leaning AfD got 15.1% right away.

Neither did last-minute efforts in Freiburg by left wingers and Christian movements combined help to stop the Alternative for Germany ...

Rather solid-aryan than solid Aryan (©Freiburger Wochenbericht)
... nor did law-and-order slogans by the CDU help turning the tide:

Enforce the police. End Green and Red mistrust against our cobs.
Therefore vote CDU.
More than 15% of the voters in Baden-Württemberg punished Merkel's policy of opening the German borders to refugees. Refugees came too many, too rapidly and, what a German citizen will never tolerate, uncontrolled. It is even estimated that up to 20% of those persons having entered Germany last summer and fall never registered or disappeared following their registrations. On the other hand some people registered several times hence a correct count is impossible. Only slowly our authorities get the situation under control.

European solidarity? Nope. According to many a head of government in the European Union those refugees are a German problem for it was Angela who lured an increasing number of refugees to flee the Middle East with her Wir schaffen das (We will make it). Will the lost state elections be Angela's twilight in Berlin?

The Greens lost more than 2/3 of their previous votes in the state elections of Rhineland-Palatinate and about 1/3 in Saxony-Anhalt. Nowadays all parties in Germany have a green touch. Why bother still with the Greens who had their peak values following the Fukushima nuclear disaster? On the other hand personality plays a decisive role in local elections and many voters in the Ländle like Winfried, the Green father of the state, who now has to look for another, more, and other coalition partner(s) supporting a government lead by him.

With all established parties stating not to enter in a coalition with the AfD it will become difficult to form stable state governments in all three states. Now the great fiddling of coalitions will start. They are easily named after countries referring to the colors in their flag. I wrote already about the Jamaica coalition (black, green, yellow, i.e. Christian Democrats, the Greens, and the Liberals will govern together).

Presently excluding light blue other color coalitions are possible, e.g., a Kenia coalition (black, red, green). The most perfidious combination not respecting the will of the voters (Wählerwillen) in Baden-Württemberg will be a Deutschland-Koalition (black, red, yellow) proposed by loser Guido Wolf (CDU) banning winner Kretschmann to the opposition benches. These days nothing is excluded.

Let us hope that the many votes for the AfD are protest votes and therefore ephemeral. An good example is the populist Party of Law and Order Offensive, shorter named after its founder Schill Party, in the state of Hamburg. In 2001 the right-wing party entered into the city parliament with 19,4% of the votes but four years later it was reduced to a mere 0.4%.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Stumbling Stones

Last December, the Badische Zeitung (BZ) reported about a quarrel regarding the pavement in front of the new university library. The city had ordered basalt stones that had been imported from Vietnam. The lobbyists of the Industrieverband Steine und Erden (Industrial Association Stones and Earth) started a shitstorm suggesting that the acquired material was the result of child labor. The news was spread that in the Far East, children are exploited in quarries working for starvation wages. Besides, the transport of the stones from Vietnam to Freiburg is not climate-friendly.

The city answered that they had requested gray basalt in large quantities for covering the surfaces in front of the new university and of the Square of the Old Synagogue and not the usual black or blue basalt from the German Eifel region.

Gray basalt in front
of the new university library (©Michael Bamberger/BZ)
The story boiled up again this March when an expert from Zürich (As you know, a prophet has no honor in his own country) declared: For this project, only the basalt from Vietnam is suited. It has the required quality for heavy use. During a press conference Matthias Pliefke of Freiburg's garden and civil engineering department and project manager of the Umgestaltung des Rotteck-Rings (Transformation of the Rotteck-Ring), presented samples of the two basalts in question. The basalt lava from the Eifel does not have the same quality as the basalt from Vietnam. The selected Vietnamese material is certified with the label Fairstone signifying that child labor is excluded. However, no foreigner has access to the quarries that are located in prohibited military areas. Working conditions are checked by communist trade unions that, in turn, are controlled by the Vietnam government. Indeed it is rather a blue than a grey area or as the Bavarians are saying: Nichts Genaues weiß man nicht (One does not know anything precisely).

Matthias Pliefke showing samples of Vietnam basalt (left) and
Eifel basalt lava (©Michael Bamberger/BZ)
Starting at the end of the 19th-century blue basalt became the material of choice for stable roadways in Germany. However, with the increasing car traffic after the war, the abrasion-resistant surface showed its drawbacks. In 1950 Der Spiegel wrote: Road surfaces made from blue basalt are covered by a layer of dust and dripped-off oil that becomes slippery in times of beginning rain or fog. Drivers experience this floating layer as a delightful toboggan run.

A typical road strip in Germany covered with blue basalt (©Panoramio)
As a high school graduate in Hamburg Red Baron did not read Der Spiegel, my driver's license dated February 1954, and I had a little driving experience. So I was unaware of the danger when in April of the same year, driving in Hamburg's notorious drizzle, I had to brake my father's brand new car on a downslope covered with blue basalt. I slid into the vehicle of a driving school (sic!). That was no delightful toboggan run at all.

It is no excuse that in the '50s, neither the treads of tires were covered with today's intelligent rubber compounds nor there was ABS. Luckily the car had only body damage with the left fender being crushed. When I arrived at my father's office, he ordered me to return the vehicle immediately to the workshop from where I just had come. I shall never forget the smirking looks of the people pointing to the crushed fender and the headlight in pieces. It felt like running the gauntlet. The order was that I had to stay at the workshop until a new unpainted fender had been installed. My father taught me a lesson but had confidence in me for three days later he asked me to drive my mother to a funeral in far Westphalia the new fender being still unpainted.

Coming back to the basalt quarrel. In Wikipedia, I learned about another one that is much older and has to do with creation. In the late 18th century, two groups in Europe, the Plutonists and the Neptunists, disputed the origin of basalt. The latter defended the Urozean (primeval ocean) as the origin of basalt: In the beginning, God created heaven and earth. The earth was void and empty, and darkness was upon the deep, and the spirit of God moved upon the water (Moses 1,1-2). Therefore water was at the origin of everything and naturally of the formation of rock. Water contains minerals that settled out of suspension in the process of sedimentation to form the core of the planet and the continents as a series of layers. The Plutonists, however, noted that basalt does not include any fossils, and hence the stone should be of volcanic origin. The dispute was on: Neptunists and Plutonists quarreled fiercely for decades.

Why do I write this? Our national genius Goethe being Neptunist and a specialist in geology too, took actively part in the debate. When, following Alexander von Humboldt's opinion in the basalt quarrel, Johann Wolfgang saw his position dashed he did what he knew best, writing a poem, an ode dedicated to the States:

Den Vereinigten Staaten

Amerika, du hast es besser
Als unser Continent, das alte,
Hast keine verfallene Schlösser
Und keine Basalte.
Dich stört nicht im Innern,
Zu lebendiger Zeit,
Unnützes Erinnern
Und vergeblicher Streit.
To the United States

America, you're better off
than our continent, the old.
Neither do you sport decaying castles
nor basalt rocks.
Your heart is not troubled
these days
by useless reminiscing
and empty disputes.

Well, is it still like this? The firm reference of the Neptunists to the bible reminded me of the on-going dispute between creationists and evolutionists in the States. On our continent, the old, this is no issue. So it seems that nowadays we in Europe are better off than the US at least in this kind of quarrel.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Women's Day

Today, on March 8, the world celebrates Women's Day. Red Baron was reminded by an article in Freiburg's Amtsblatt (Official Journal) showing a poster of March 1914. The Frauentag was already celebrated at the evening of the Great War demanding the right to vote.

The right for women to vote in Germany eventually came in 1918 following total defeat in World War I and the transition from the 2nd Empire to the Republic of Weimar. Somehow we are proud for the USA introduced universal suffrage only in 1920 and the UK in 1928. France eventually followed in 1944 after the shock of World War II. In Germany the other side of the coin was that in the Weimar Republic the percentages of women voting Hitler and his party NSDAP were always higher than those of men.

Today there is still inequality between men and women, e.g., with respect to wages, the latter being payed less for doing the same job. While in the European Union the percentage of women in leading positions is only 33% this figure is even lower in Germany with 28%.

But let us not grumble but rather write about real women power. In 2012 German Chancellor Angela Merkel and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton were the world's most powerful women, according to Forbes magazine's annual survey.

I think the two ladies met at a talk show in Berlin in 2003 for the first time. Angela was chairwoman of Germany's strongest party, the Christian Democrats (CDU), and Hillary Senator of the State of New York. At that time Hillary was impressed how Angela managed the Boy's Club and predicted her a great future.

Hillary and Angela following the appearance on German television
 in Sabine Christiansen's political talk show (©dpa)
Ten Years later in 2013 when Angela was Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany and Hillary US Secretary of State they again met in Washington.

Shaking hands like men (©ap)

Both ladies were wearing trouser suits. In front of the microphones Hillary seems to pray
while Angela is trying to form her favorite rhombus (©Reuters)

Women at power, power women. What makes them different from men? During his professional life Red Baron had two female bosses and both were excellent leaders though I always felt a certain stubbornness in their leadership. Didn't Angela Merkel say with respect to the stream of refugees flooding Germany: Wir schaffen das (We will make it) and stay with her statement although of all the opposition? Wasn't Margaret Thatcher always insisting: I want my money back referring to the European Union? Wasn't Indira Gandhi prolonging the state of emergency in India several times from 1971 to 1975 defending her quasi-dictatorship: Not a dog barked?

It will be interesting to watch Forbes magazine's annual survey about the most powerful women in 2017: Will Hillary be the unchallenged number one and will Angela still figure on that list? For changing the guard in Germany another lady already is in her starting blocks: Ursula von der Leyen.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Pork Obligation

With all those Muslim refugees arriving the German society gets polarized and nervous or should I say hysteric? While most of my fellow "countrypersons" try hard to be politically correct they get frustrated when finding out that some of the refugees are not reacting alike. Reactions are ranging from incomprehension via frustration to anger even giving rise to conspiracy theories.

There is a general tendency to serve healthy food in German school cafeterias, i.e., offering less sugar, fat, and meat and more vegetables. This however did not please Schleswig-Holstein's pig farmers. So the parliamentary group of the Christian Democrats asked in their motion 13/3947 the government in Germany's most northern state to stand up for pork. Pork should remain in the range of foodstuff to be offered in cafeterias and canteens of Kitas (day nurseries) and schools. The CDU continued their motion: No Muslim shall be forced to eat pork and we do not demand the introduction of a "Pork-Day" (in English in the German text). Tolerance in a pluralistic society means recognizing and condoning other food cultures and lifestyles.

Already the Romans knew: Si tacuisses philosophus mansisses. The supporting phrases were simply too much and although seemingly politically correct they backfired. For when the press took up the subject most papers were eager to shorten the news by coining a new German word Schweinefleischpflicht or in modern orthography Schweinefleisch-Pflicht (pork obligation). The CDU motion caused a "pigstorm" in the social media. It just proves that with regard to refugees my countrypersons's nerves are on edge.

While I was still deliberating whether to honor the story by a blog I read a comic strip The Atheist Pig. The author drew it as a tribute to one of his favorite comics Jesus and Mo and wrote about the latter: If you’re not reading it, then may you receive 30 lashes with bacon strips.

Here is a typical Jesus and Mo comic ...

...  and what Winston, the Atheist Pig, made out of it in a blanket:

FYI means for your information and haram is Arabic for forbidden, e.g., certain food
For my non-American friends "pigs in blankets" possibly need some explanation. Here is a photo:

These are not hot dogs but pigs in blankets (©stef yau/Wikipedia)

P.S.:During the debate on the Christian Democrat pork initiative Deputy Martin Habersaat of the Social Democrats ironically responded in Schleswig-Holstein's state parliament: "We are experiencing a new climax of the millennial kulturkampf of orient versus occident. As it is well known, today Muslim refugees come to Central Europe solely for the purpose of putting us off pork, together with vegetarians, vegans, and rheumatics. Here it is to nip early signs in the bud and to defend our freedom of barbecuing" (Wir stehen auf einem neuen Höhepunkt des jahrtausendealten Kulturkampfes zwischen Orient und Okzident. Heute kommen die muslimischen Flüchtlinge bekanntlich zu keinem anderen Zweck nach Mitteleuropa, als uns, Seite an Seite mit Vegetariern, Veganern und Rheumatikern, das Schwein madig zu machen. Hier gilt es, den Anfängen zu wehren und unsere Freiheit am Schwenkgrill zu verteidigen).

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Sexuality in the Middle Ages

It was obvious that a conference on sexuality in the Middle Ages would draw the crowds so Red Baron went early to get a seat in the library of Freiburg's Alemannisches Institut in a position near the projector. Mind you, I did not feel like a voyeur but rather wanted to take readable photos of slides containing old German texts. In fact, the following pictures except for the colored one on the Church Council of Constance I took with my iPhone and later processed them. They are copyrighted Professor Gerhard Fritz of Schwäbisch-Gmünd. As predicted, when he started his scientific lecture the library was cramped full.

From the beginning Professor Fritz made it clear that he will limit his talk to examples from the Upper Rhine region while he circulated the table of contents of a book on the topic that he is presently finishing covering a wider range.

Sexuality of people in the Middle Ages was characterized by their relation with the Catholic Church. Although many a marriage was arranged is was essential that bride and bridegroom were not forced to marry but giving their mutual consent in front of a priest till death us do part. To avoid later claims that a marriage had not been consumed - being a valid ground for an anullment - often a third person had to tenir la chandelle, i.e., observe and witness the first sexual embrace.

A bishop holding a candle (French: tenir la chandelle) for a freshly married noble couple
 or is it an aspergillum?
Professor Fritz explained that the Middle Age society distinguished three classes. The nobility got away with many a sin profiting from its good contacts with the Church authorities, the majority, farmers and citizens, suffered from the Church commandments of chastity, and the lower class of vagabonds and beggars could not care less about sexual rules. There was even some sort of tension between clergymen and physicians when the latter claimed that both genders need regular sexual intercourse ... for health reasons.

And indeed, in spite of the strict Church chastity rules even for married couples bathhouses and brothels where men were looking for Kurzweil (amusement i.e., orgasms) were common in the Middle Ages. The best known example is the Council of Constance when offene Frauen (open women) satisfied the needs of domestic and foreign men in den hurenhüsern, also die, die selb hüser gemietet hattend und in den stälen lagen und was sy mochten. Seien gegen 700 da gewesen, ohne die haimlichen, die lass ich bleiben (in whore houses, i.e., those who had rented houses, lay in stables, or elsewhere. About 700 should have been present, without the clandestine women, I do not count those).

In houses and stables
In fact, it is said that when Constance housewives saw who easy it is to earn money they did this with pleasure and for a lower price. The whores who had come to Constance from all over Europe organized a protest march against unfair competition. Eventually a delegation of whores saw the German King Sigismund who gave them justice.

Wellness in Constance
Jan Hus wrote home to Prague: Ich habe die Schwaben öfters sagen hören, dass ihre Stadt Konstanz in dreißig Jahren die Sünden nicht los wird, die während des Konzils in ihren Mauern verübt wurden; viel haben ausgespuckt, weil sie gar zu schändliche Sachen gesehen (I often heard the Swabians say that their town Constance will not get rid of its sins in thirty years, sins that were committed within its walls; many people spit out for they saw too shameful things). Hus's remarks clearly reflect the stricter views of Protestantism on sexuality I shall come back to.

For "noble" men trying to get rid of their wives the Church nearly always kept an escape route open although in the Reformation there is the famous exception of King Henry VIII. A good argument for giving his wife the boot was the sudden discovery that a couple was related although at the time of marriage the only argument that counted had been the bride's dowry. Being related was a valid argument for the pope to annul a marriage.

Here is a story about a dowry with a different ending. The bankrupt Polish King Sigismund knew that Kaiser Maximilian had once consolidated his finances by marrying the rich Bianca Maria Sforza. Sigismund wanted to copy the emperor and proposed to Bianca's niece Bona Sforza. The marriage was arranged and Bona was sent on the long journey from Bari to Kraków. The days were long but the nights were even longer and so she amused herself with one or more? of the accompanying noble knights. When after three months she eventually arrived in Poland's capital the king soon noticed and then noted in Latin: Regina Bona attulit nobis tria dona: faciem pictam, dotem fictam et vulvam non strictam (Queen Bona bought us three gifts: a picture of her face, a fictitious dowry, and a vulva not being tight). This remark was not fair for in Wikipedia you may read: Bona's dowry was very large – 100,000 ducats and personal items worth 50,000 ducats in addition to Bari and Rossano that she would inherit after her mother's death.

Cuckold Sigismund of Poland and Bona Sforza's picture, her first gift.
Indeed no money is seen, and in particular the worn-out vulva is not shown.

Not only Polish King Sigismund suffered from the so-called Nachtschaden (nightly damage). When a man from Erstein in Alsace went to see a capitular in Strasbourg to demand the divorce because the wife he had married was no virgin the high ranking dignitary simply told him: Auch mechtig könig und fürsten müssten solches erleiden (Even mighty kings and princes have to suffer from this).

Nightmare about a Nachtschaden
With the advent of Protestantism sexuality became greatly suppressed. Protestants introduced parish books to register marriages, births, and deaths meaning that many an illegitimate child was assigned a father. But there were other factors causing the decline of extramarital sex activities.

In 1494 syphilis broke out in Naples that apparently Columbus's men had contracted in the Americas. Soldiers of the French King Charles VIII brought the sexual scourge to France so that other nations later called it the French disease. Already in 1498 at the time of the Reichstag (Imperial Diet) in Freiburg the böse Blattern (named evil or great pox to distinguish the new plague from the common smallpox) had reached the city. The most prominent victim in Freiburg was Berthold von Henneberg, Archbishop of Mainz, elector, chancellor and in this capacity chairman of the Imperial Diet. When all the other participants of the Reichstag were leaving the city he had to stay behind and in bed. Berthold died in Mainz in 1504 of his protracted illness.

As a third reason for the oppression of sexuality Professor Fritz mentioned witch-hunting. In their witch mania decent people concluded that women who fornicate with men will whore with devils too. Whores became outlawed. Even today in many countries prostitution is illegal and where it is tolerated working girls have a bad reputation.

Witches in action

A divorce, possible with trickery for people belonging to the true Catholic Church, was an evil for early and fundamental Protestants. While Protestant princes had confiscated Catholic Church property with pleasure they now were bound to their wives in "unpleasure" till death do them part.

Schenk Philipp Albrecht von Limpurg
Schenk Philipp Albrecht von Limpurg (1648-1682) was known as a womanizer. Married to Dorothea Maria, born von Hohenlohe-Waldenburg, he was taken to court in 1676 about his relation with Sophia Dorothea von Limpurg-Speckfeld, born Wild- und Rheingräfin zu Daun. However, this was just a prelude or should I write foreplay to his situation in 1678 when, still being married to Dorothea Maria, he no longer just wanted to live but to legalize another relation this time with a commoner, Maria Barbara, geb. Gratianus. Philipp Abrecht asked the University of Strasburg for help in his divorce proceeding.

In 1679 the theological and the law faculties furnished expert opinions presenting facti species (facts of the case) of the marriage between Titus (Philipp Albrecht) and Xantippe (Dorothea Maria). To make a long story short, for getting his divorce there was no other way for Philipp Albrecht than to convert to Catholicism. While doing so others gained kingdoms (Henry IV of France and Augustus II the Strong of Saxony) Philipp Abrecht only got a new wife and many problems. Even his brother Schenk Wilhelm Heinrich von Limpurg complained at the Corpus Evangelicorum of the permanent Reichstag (Imperial Diet) and at the imperial Reichshofrat (Aulic Concil) about his brother's repudiation of wife Dorothea Maria following the change of confession and Philipp Abrecht's endeavor to raise his new wife Maria Barbara to the ranks of nobility. All efforts of the freshly married husband however had been a waste of time when he died in 1682.

Professor Fritz presented other colorful testimonies about sexuality in the Middle Ages that ranged from impotence to super virility.

A landgrave was impotent with respect to his wife. So her family complained to the emperor. When the Kaiser took the husband to task the landgrave blamed his dick: Derselbig welle den beren nit stechen, er thue im gleich, wie er welle (It does not want to prick the bear and he, the landgrave, is doing alike just following its will). The emperor's verdict was surprising: Nun, nun ich kan sein schwanz nit mandieren (Well, well I cannot command his prick).

Ironically the other extreme was a well-known monk, Thomas Murner, who in 1506 had studied and finished his thesis in theology at Freiburg's university. Opposed to the Reformation and Martin Luther he wrote, among other texts, a book titled: Von dem großen Lutherischen Narren (About the big Lutheran fool). Back to the subject. Monk Murner once saw a girl in Straßburg and was capable of helping her catching the fleas between her legs eighteen times within a few hours (ihr innerhalb wenig stunden achzehen mal die flech zwischen den bainen helfen fehen).

Another clergyman, a capitular from Mainz, verspürt ein solliche unruhe in der bruech, das im der wadel in etlichen wochen weder tag oder nacht nicht mocht gebogen oder geschwecht werden (feels such an unrest in his breeches that neither by day nor by night his willie would bend or be weakened). For me this citation has nothing to do with sexuality but rather is an early description of priapisme.

After the talk I wondered who many of the people present had already decided to buy Gerhard Fritz's outcoming book?