Official Post 4: Cheers! 

I can’t believe that this is our final night in London. It seems like just yesterday we were just exploring Oban. I enjoyed everything that we’ve seen, but I have a few highlights. The first was the Bodnant Gardens. The gardens had probably the least historical significance to the course, but it was a very refreshing experience. I really enjoyed walking around and experiencing such a beautiful space. My next favorite place was Lacock Abbey. I really liked this place because it is the first place of the negative photograph. As a photographer, it was really amazing to see the place where Henry Fox Talbot researched and developed photography. Along with this I was amazed by the British Library. I was able to see Fox Talbot’s notebook and actually read his notes on photography. Iona will always hold a special place in my heart. The island was so peaceful and relaxing, I cannot wait to go back. I also got to travel the world with one of my best friend before we graduate on Sunday, and it was truly a trip of a lifetime. Along with these, I throughly enjoyed how the course was set up, I was able to see a plethora of castles and cathedrals without seeing anything that was exactly the same. This kept everyday new and exciting. I am going to miss the obvious things like seeing new structures everyday and the wonderful pub food. The thing I am going to miss most though is the people. I felt so welcomed wherever I went. Even though I was a tourist, no one ever made me feel like an outsider. Everyone was enthusiastic about their country and wanted to have us be apart of it. Because of these people I was able to ask for directions when learning how to navigate the public transportation system and just ask them questions in general. I think the biggest take away for me is remembering to take everything in and reminding myself that it’s alright to feel small, I felt small a lot—basically everything we saw made me feel small because of the history and sheer beauty I was being exposed to. Feeling small challenges you to learn and grow more, and that’s what I feel like happened on this trip, I challenged myself to learn, which made me grow. This was the bests way to end my four years at Wartburg, I wouldn’t change it for the world.   

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Official Post 3: The Romans 

Today we had a major travel day. We traveled from Bath to Cirencester starting at 8 am, taking three different buses and having a quick walk in the rain. When we finally arrived in Cirencester and got settled at our hostel, we made our way to the Corinium Museum, so the Roman Museum that displayed a lot of the archeological items of the Cotswolds. The museum is located right in the middle of downtown Cirencester, and the main displays are from a Roman town called Corinium Dobunnorum; the museum also took us through a timeline of the Cotswolds from the prehistoric times all the way to modern day. I found the whole museum in general to be very interesting, but there were specific things that really stood out to me.  The Celtic Art, so art produced in Britain during the pre-Roman Iron Age, is different from the classical Mediterranean world. The style did have traditional decorative elements, but adapted those motifs to its own needs. This led to pieces looking abstract. Celtic art was made for the aristocracy, weapons, horse fittings, battle equipment and detail on important religious items. I also found it interesting that the aristocracy of the Dobunni was very into the Celtic decoration and that the surviving pieces show such detail.

I was also enthralled by the legionary equipment. Each legionary wore a linen under-tunic and a short-sleeved and knee length woolen tunic. He would wear open work boots known as caligae. Then over that was a shirt of metal armor or boys armor and a galea (a helmet). The shield carried was known as a scutum and was rectangular and curved to fit the legion’s body; it was made of wood and was covered in leather and linen. Each legion also had two heavy javelins known as pilas, a gladius also known as a sword and a dagger called a pugio.  


One of the most interesting things l learned at the museum is that the Romans had heated floors. This really blew my mind because this was done in an era so long ago. Larger and wealthier houses in Corinium used an underfloor heating system known as a hypocaust. Other places hypocausts were used were in public buildings and villas. The whole process of making the hypocaust is extensive. The floor of the room was supported on small columns called pilae, which were made from square tiles cemented together on top of each other, or solid stone blocks were used. Larger tiles were used to take up the extra space between the pilae and the floor. Then a stoke hole had to be made and a fire had to be constantly burning in order for the floor to stay heated, so the stoke hole was usually kept burning by slaves. By creating the fire along with the bricks or stone, the hot air and smoke circulated under the floors up into hollow parts of the wall known as tubuli, and the fumes were circulated out through the vents at the eaves. The only way to make sure the fire did not get out of hand was to constantly watch the fire.


These are just a few of the countless things that the Corinium Museum has to offer and for all to explore. I am beyond excited to see what else Cirencester has to offer!

Official Post 1: A Book Lover’s Dream Come True 

Ever since I was a child I have had a special place in my heart for literature. I expected to see a lot of castles and cathedrals (obviously) on this trip, but being fortunate enough to see libraries as well has been an amazing experience. I think the first “old time” type of library I remember from my childhood was the library from Beauty and the Beast, corny I know. Belle was my favorite, because she was so smart and inquisitive, she always wanted to know more.  There is something so thrilling and wonderful about seeing all of these books and thinking about the time and energy people were putting into the texts that we take for granted everyday. The first library we saw was the Leighton Library across from Dunblane Cathedral in Scotland. Going into this library was magical, but heartbreaking at the same time, as we only had about two minutes to look around before our bus left. The Leighton Library was named after Robert Leighton, who originally owned most of the books, and donated them to the library in 1400. The attendant said that the library has over 4,500 volumes in over 89 languages, which just blew my mind for this tiny space. This library looks like a small house from the outside that is about the size of a dorm room back on campus. The coolest book I saw from my quick glance around was Two Breeches Bibles, which was an original signed by Queen Victoria.

The next library we saw was at Salisbury Cathedral. This library was built in 1445 to house the cathedral’s manuscripts. The library also dates back to the 11th century for the Bishop to use as a center for learning. The library in present day holds just over 8,000 books on a variety of topics falling under manuscripts, printed books pre 1900 and modern books, so post 1900. I think that is was my favorite library that we’ve visited because of how much history was in not only the library itself but in the books. I could spend weeks just paging through the books and admiring them before beginning to read them.


Today we went to the Wells Cathedral Library, and again, I was amazed. Like the other libraries, Wells is a chained library, meaning that most of the books are attached to chains and there is a light and a small reading station for people (who are fortunate enough) to read the books, as the books are on the shelves spine in, instead of out. There were about 150 books in the library at the time of the Reformation in the 1530’s, but a lot of these books were lost. In the present day there are over 4,000 volumes in the chained library that are all gifts from bishops and cannons. The subjects vary from medicine, science, languages, history, travel and poetry. And obviously, religious texts. My only complaint, again, is that I was not able to go into the main part of the library and really investigate the books further.

Official Post 2: Historical Adventures in York  

Our day started out pretty early by getting on a minibus at 9 am. We traveled to four different places. Mount Grace Priory, Rievaulx Abbey, Helmsley Castle and Pickering Castle. Each of these historical sites, Mount Grace Priory, Rievaulx Abbey, Helmsley Castle and Pickering Castle had individual elements that made them stand out, but Rievaulx Abby and Pickering Castle really stood out to me. The Rievaulx Abbey caught my attention first because of the size. Even though the site is now in ruins, it is still huge, and a lot of the cathedral was still standing even though it was built in 1132 and disestablished by Henry VIII of England in 1538. The Rievaulx Abbey was also one of the wealthiest of its time. The Rievaulx Abbey was founded by 12 Cistercian monks that wanted to colonize northern England and Scotland. Flash forward to when the Rievaulx Abbey was in its prime, it housed over 140 monks. The location was chosen for the Cistercians to follow their strict life of prayer and self reliance; a big part of this was having little to almost no contact with the outside world. Sarah also explained that there are still 15 of the 92 acres that are accessible but less than half of the 72 buildings are still standing today. There was something surreal about being in the cathedral to me. Something medieval from the 1100’s was still standing proudly on its own today, it’s truly amazing. I also found the history of self torture very interesting. Apparently the monks would punish themselves for having impure thoughts. A few of the torture methods included whipping themselves and wearing a rawhide shirt under their clothes that would tear open their skin. I found this particularly interesting because the monks live a peaceful and routine life, so I do not know what they need to punish themselves for. 


Pickering Castle was very different from the castles we have seen so far, because it is a lot of ruins. Because of this it first came off as a more understated castle. The castle was originally a timber and motte and bailey castle. The original castle was built by the Normans in 1069-1070. Even though the castle is in ruins, the ruins are well preserved because Pickering Castle is one of the few castles that was not hugely impacted by the War of the Roses and the English Civil War in the 17 century. 


I was particularly intrigued by the towers at Pickering Castle. The towers are the older medieval style, meaning they are square and not cylindrical. When talking to the employee at Pickering Castle he said that the castle was used by people of nobility often, and it was used as a hunting lodge. I immediately saw the arrow slits differently, because of their size, these were most likely used for weapons a lot, but for hunting. Even though there is not a lot of Pickering Castle left that is still standing, I was able to envision the layout of the castle because of what was left.

Official Post 6 Almost There!

We are almost there! T minus nine days! I am beyond excited to be traveling to England, Scotland and Wales.  I am most excited to see the scenery and to truly immerse myself in a new culture!  I am so thrilled to see things that are so historic and detailed and connect the dots from what we have been learning in class.  As I said before, I have gone to Costa Rica and Nicaragua for my freshmen and junior May Terms, but this will be a totally different experience!  I also have never taken a history class at Wartburg College, so I’m really excited for this to be my one and only history class!  I’m super curious to see what the hostels in England, Scotland and Wales are like compared to Nicaragua, I know they will be different, but I am excited to see how they are similar.  I also have my packing done, and have bought a few extra things to take with me as well.  I am bringing a backpack in addition to my suitcase and I will be bringing a waterproof camera, so if you want certain pictures taken and it’s raining, just let me know, this camera has been in the waterfalls of Costa Rica and the waves in Nicaragua!  I have wanted to go to England for so long, and I was unable to study abroad for a whole semester, so going to England, Scotland and Wales for a month is the perfect way to end my career at Wartburg College!

Official Post 5 Take a Tour: Conwy

I will be going into more detail about the history, architecture and details of Conwy Castle when we visit, so this is more of an overview.  Conwy Castle was built between 1283 and 1289 for Edward, by James of St. George, when Edward I took over Wales and is located in the town of Conwy.  Conwy Castle was the largest and most expensive project Edward I, costing £15,000.  That would not seem like nearly enough now, but in 1283, that was a tremendous amount of money.  Conwy Castle was involved in many medieval wars.  According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization credits Conwy Castle to being “one of the finest examples of late 13th century and early 14th century military architecture in Europe.” It is also a recognized by the United Nations as a World Heritage Site.  So this is the European version of either a national park, monument or landmark in the United States.

From the reconstruction pictures online, it seems that Conwy Castle was in front of the town and the walls of Conwy castle.  The castle is built grey sand and limestone.  According to United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization it is most likely that the stones used to build Conwy castle came from a nearby shore after the area was chosen.  After doing some research online and looking over some material from Dr. L about the architecture of Conwy Castle.  I have also attached a picture I found that shows the layout of Conwy Castle so the following description makes more sense.  The castle is rectangular, with an inner and outer ward.  The western barbican defends the main entrance.  There is a drawbridge and a ditch on the western side of Conwy Castle as well.  Once inside Conwy Castle, you are right inside of the outer ward.  The things included in the outer wards are the kitchen, stables, chapel, a passage, great hall, ante-room and a lesser hall.  The prison tower is also located in the outer ward up a staircase.  There is also a well and a drawbridge.  The bakehouse tower is connected to the inner ward, along with the stockhouse tower, the chapel tower, the granary and the King’s tower.  The King’s tower is defended by the ease barbican and there are stairs to the postern water gate.

The most interesting piece of architecture to me is the fact that there is a town wall.  This led me to research further to see if the town wall still exists today.  The town walls still exist today; however, they have been modified.  The walls were used as another form of defense when built, but over the decades, the defense was no longer needed, and the country made modern updates, such as putting in a railway system.  Two new gateways had to be built to accommodate the changes.

I think that when we see the castle in person all of this will really tie together.  Even though I can go on and on with information and research and photos, I think everything will be so much better in person!

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Official Post 4 Navigation In Medieval Times

When doing the reading for last week I was fascinated by the development of navigation in medieval England.  I was very intrigued by the Gough Map.  First off, I was blown away by the fact that a map even existed in medieval times.  The Gough Map was inly mentioned briefly in the text, so I did a bit of digging and found goughmap.org, and as it turns out, there is a lot of information about the Gough Map, but not a lot of information about how it came to be.  The Gough Map is said to have been created around 1300.  The most unclear thing about the Gough Map is that it is not clear who the author was.  In 1809 the Gough Map was gifted to the Bodleian Library by Richard Gough.  Richard Gough inherited the map from Thomas Martin in 1774.  I found it funny that the map is named after the last person to have the map and not the first.

When looking at pictures of the man I was amazed by the detail and accuracy of the Gough Map.  The map is very accurate in most regions including England and Wales, but the Gough Map is not even close to accurate when you look at Scotland.  For a medieval map, it is very detailed.  Some places have detailed towns.  The Gough Map has red lines, like a present day map, but historians are not sure how the distance is measured even though there are roman numeral markings.

While the Gough Map is the most sophisticated for its time, but historians still cannot explain why some of the map is extremely detailed and why some parts are missing all together.  The current theory is that the Gough Map is actually three layers of three different maps, from three different time periods.  The first layer is believed to be from 1390-140 and shows all of Britain.  The second layer shows the south of England to Wales and the third layer was only south-east and south-central England.  When researching the different layers, I found it interesting that the last two layers were put on the Gough Map with color and some of the names of places were changed.  This was most likely because of who was ruling the country at which time and the development of towns.

Fast forwarding to present day, a BBC television series, called In Search of Medieval Britain was done in 2008, following someone around the country while they navigated around England, Scotland and Wales while only using the Gough Map.  The Gough Map has also been inscribed into the UK Memory of the World Register.  The most fascinating thing that has been done with the Gough Map in present day is the online digitization.  Over the course of a year the Gough Map was digitized in 2010-2011.  The map is now available online for everyone to access.  I have attached a picture of the original Gough Map from the goughmap.org below to make connection with the information above.

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Official Post 3 Meet the Monarchs: Richard II

 

Richard II lived from 1367-1400; he was the king of England from 1377-1399.  Richard II became king at 10 years old.  Think about what we were doing at 10 years old…interestingly enough, Richard II became second in line to the throne at three years old when his brother, Edward of Angoleme died.  Richard II was the grandson of King Edward III and the son of Edward, who was known as the Black Prince. After further research, I learned that Richard’s father, Edward was known as the Black Prince, but there is no evidence to why.  It is assumed that he is named after either his black shield or he had a brutal reputation, especially towards the French.

The life of Richard II was definitely interesting.  While he did accomplish many things, I am beyond impressed that the Richard II was only ten years old when he came to power.  I cannot begin to imagine what Richard II was feeling; from what we have learned so far in class, it has been made very clear that children were not well respected, so inheriting the crown at such a young age just blows my mind.

When Richard first became king, the government was run by a set of councils.  I can see why, as a ten-year old child, Richard II probably was not sure how to do certain math problems, let alone run a country.  The first event that Richard II experienced was the Peasant’s Revolt in 1381.  The Peasant’s Revolt was caused by socioeconomic and political issues that were a direct result of the Black Death.  Richard II did the best he could to put an end to the revolt and was successful, from the research I found, there is not clear evidence of what Richard II actually did to end the Peasant’s Revolt, but they are clear that he had a big say in the negotiations
Richard II was married shortly after the Peasant’s Revolt to Anne of Bohemia, who happened to be the daughter of the Holy Roman Emperor.  The two were married for diplomatic reasons and this made a lot of the country mad because the marriage was a symbol of alliance between England and the Czech Lands against France.  The couple did not have any children and Anne died from the plague in 1394.  It was rumored that Richard II and Robert de Vere, Earl of Oxford had a relationship.  Richard II married Isabella of Valois (France) in 1396.

Richard II had a period of tyranny, known as Richard’s Tyranny.  In 1397, executed and exiled countless appellants.  Although it cannot be proven historians are convinced that Richard II had a personality disorder.  When John Guant was exiled by Richard II, his son was disinherited.  Henry of Bolinbroke was out for revenge.  He wanted to take back his royal title.  He overthrew Richard II and announced himself as Henry IV.  Richard died shortly after while in captivity at the age of thirty–three years old.  It is not known how Richard II died for sure, but it is assumed that he starved to death.

Official Post 2 Gloucester Cathedral

Our last assignment was to look at a few cathedrals and I was beyond excited that Gloucester Cathedral was on our list!  I am so excited to see this cathedral in only a few short months.  For those of you that don’t know, Gloucester Cathedral is one of the many filming locations for the Harry Potter movies.  I happen to be a huge fan of the Harry Potter movies, so this explains my excitement.  The cathedral was built between 1089 and the 19th century, and was dedicated to Saint Peter; founded by King Henry VIII.  It also contains two royal burials and the cathedral has been remodeled over the years.  As for the architecture, the core of the architecture is Norman, but the cathedral also has Gothic additions.  The columns are Norman and are separated by heavy walls and rounded arches that support a Gothic vaulted ceiling.  Most of the fabric is Romanesque and the frame of the Cathedral is Gothic.  The most important feature is the Great East Window, it was the largest window created in the middle ages.  The window was also the first war memorial in England. The cathedral is important because it showcases the mix of different architectural elements and the history of the Great East Window.  I absolutely love the Great East Window and cannot wait to see it in person.  The attention to detail is beautiful and the concept in general of dedicating a window to war heroes in beautiful in itself.  When researching I thought this would be regular sized window, but no, it is 22 meters high and 12 meters wide, which happens to be the size of tennis court, just for reference.  The East Window has many different scenes, but they are all centered around the Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ.  I also found it interesting that the window was taken apart during Word War II for safety, but survived every other event in history without being dismantled.  When I looked into the cathedral further I came across a lot of articles explaining how the historic cathedral was transformed into the wizarding world of Harry Potter.  As you can imagine, there are not a lot of original modern finishes on the cathedral, so the staff actually had to go in and cover up all of the “modern” switches.  The movies also do not take place in a cathedral, they take place in a castle, so all traces of a cathedral had to be covered up; stained glass windows were covered with sheets of plastic and the statue of Adam and Eve was actually left in the movie, but producers decided to give them clothes and lightening bolts on their foreheads.  One of the most famous elements of the cathedral is the dark red door in the Chamber of Secrets.  The staff actually had to build a water tank to pump water into the cathedral and block off the door while flooding the bathroom.  If you’ve seen the movie you’ll now exactly what I’m talking about.  There are so many more things about this cathedral that connect to the movie, but the most interesting thing is that there was actually a lot of pushback when it was announced that the Harry Potter movies were going to be filmed on site.  If you haven’t seen the movies, I highly suggest watching them all, just one or at least a trailer to see this beautiful cathedral.