Thursday, 6 September 2012

castle week: rheinland-pfalz

Castle Week happened to coincide with the beginning of Wikipedia’s month long call for sub- missions of landmarks, monuments and memorials. While I do not think anything looked at and looked after as a castle is something novel and undiscovered, there is always something to learn and maybe by sharing some of things I’ve seen can inspire a little deeper investigation. Erecting and maintaining a castle, even while not under constant siege, was a very, very expensive prospect, especially in medieval times before the sophistication of trade and monetary instruments in the Renaissance.
Most of the landed-gentry only had a single settlement to their name and did not live in much fancier quarters than their tenant-farmers. Sometimes, like with the gorgeous Burg Eltz along the Moselle river, flowing through Germany and France, different branches of one noble family combined their resources to build a shared residence and defensive fortification. Three lines of the same family (and descendants of the same founding members at that) live in separate sections of the castle nestled in the wine-growing valley on the road to Trier. At the other end of the Land, separated from its neighbouring state capital by the river Rhein, the ancient city of Mainz hosts an array of fine architecture.
One particularly interesting structure is Ostein Court (Osteiner Hof). This mansion was originally built as residence for the prince-elector of Mainz and his descendants. The unrest and upheaval of the French Revolution and subsequent Franco-Prussian War, however, meant its owners did not get to enjoy it for long. French forces occupied the Rhineland-Pfalz side of the Rhine and the court became the administrative building of the newly appropriated land. Once Prussian forces retook the German territories (and grabbed more than what they had lost with the conquest of Alsace-Lorraine), the building served as a military headquarters under various commands, mostly uninterrupted until the present. Just in the foreground, there is the elaborate and nine-metre high Fastnachtsbrunnen (the fountain of the so-called fifth season, Carnival) commemorating the yearly proclamation on 11. November at 11:11 of the beginning of the local revelry and abandon lasting forty days until Lent. Long before the fountain was dedicated, another announcement came from the same balcony to the people of Mainz, the declaration of war in 1914. It’s kind of bittersweet that the decree of party-time echoes from the same location and at the same exact time the armistice of the fighting is observed.