Wine was the Romans’ most preferred liquid, that’s why they started to cultivate it in Palatine region with its mild climate (ah, thanks dear Romans!). But – bad news for wine gourmets: Romans’ wine drinking habits have been quite… uuhm.. horrible in our terms. They preferred sweet wine (brrr) and made it by preparing sweet must. They had been quite advanced though to create several other tastes, like using rosin and pitch to make it tart, or aromas like cinnamon, fir or myrrh.
Wine was thinned down with water before consuming. They even thinned with hot water when they had dinner or banquets; the wine was prepared, i.e. cleaned from solids or sediments with the sieves, which are shown in the museum as well.
As a lot of wine was given to the dead for their final journey, very ancient wine was found in Roman tombs. Some of these are on display in Speyer’s museum, in the museum area (which is downstairs and to the left after leaving the atrium).
It is fascinating to stand in front of these showcases and imagine the age of these wines. Haha, of course they are no longer wine, more something solid with an oily liquid. The first photo shows the famous “Roman wine from Speyer” and is dated 4th century. The second photo shows even older wine, from Donauwörth (Germany) and Syria, dated 2nd century. There are also other old wines, but mostly from 16-18th century, Bavarian ones from Würzburg.
All these old wines are on display in a nice room – suggesting a wine cellar with the vaulted ceiling and coat of arms of wine region towns.
Parts of the “Barbarian Treasure(s)”, which have been found in the 80ies on several spots in the Rhine, are ancient Roman dishware. It is fascinating how these findings can add to understanding how life in these days must have been.
As already mentioned before, the Romans brought their handicrafters with them when settling in what is now Southern Germany. In the beginning, they also had all their “home ware” brought from Rome. When they had discovered that there are excellent sources for potter’s clay nearby, big manufacturing sites have been founded here, to be precise in Rheinzabern, where a museum is showing history and manufacturing of this special dishware.
It is called Terra Sigillata (modern name) or vas samium (ancient name) and means polished ware. While blazing the clay, oxygen was fed, which gave it the red colour. The gloss was achieved by coating with thin layers of clay, which was mixed with potassium carbonate.
But the museum does not only has exhibits of this clay dishes, but also very much exclusive glass vases and cups (see photos 1 and 2) and metal sieves (photo3), something that fascinated me most (I still don’t know why). These sieves have been used to filter the wine. My god, thinking of these things being nearly 2000 years old, and still have a “modern” design is unbelievable :-)
Nevertheless, all this exclusive dish ware was only used by wealthy Romans. The poorer people could only afford wooden or simple clay ware.
The website below is of a British archaeologic site, about ancient pottery in Europe and shows also some marvellous patterns of Terra Sigillata.
When browsing through Speyer’s museum of Palatine, it is fascinating to learn about how elaborate Roman culture was in already 2000 years ago. (I should have known, as I learnt it at school and I was in Italy as a kid, but well, sometimes old brains keep forgetting things, lol).
The museum shows how living and dining rooms and kitchen looked like in ancient times and also explains more in showcases and descriptions. Romans’ most important meals were taken in the evenings, and, as we know from movies, they did lie on specifically designed couches. Dining rooms were called Triclinum (means “3 couches”, which of course have been stocked up in case more guests here were expected). The Romans didn’t want to use fork and knife, as this was quite uncomfortable when lying on the sofas. That’s why dishes had to be prepared in palatable sizes. Cooking was done in the kitchen, which was usually a small room tucked away in remote parts of the houses (photo 1).
Romans loved their wine, which they brought to the region. That’s why they did get wine for their journey after death – a lot of tombs have been found with glass containers full of “Roman wine” (photo 3).
Now they also had to build houses, as they have been used to. Apart from the Rhine as transport river and the mild climate, another reason why Romans did chose the Palatine for settlement was the abundance of red sandstone. Many quarries have been located here, one being “Kriemhildenstuhl” near Bad Dürkheim (of course the name has been given to this quarry later, Kriemhild is a figure of Nibelungen Saga of mid 5th century). The museum shows a small model of this quarry and mentions that in Roman days, more than 20.000 m3 of rock was moved within short time.
Roman blacksmiths did not only manufacture silver kitchenware and dish plates, but also beautiful jewellery (again, given the early time, amazing pieces!). Much of these have been found in the Rhine and is now on display in the Museum of Palatine. The exhibits range from necklaces, bracelets, rings, hair decoration to clasps, which were used to hold the clothes together like buttons.
But also votiv deposits had been found in the mud of Rhine river. These were meant as a donation for rescue from distress. Some have been nailed on wooden pillars, some simply put into sand – depending on the holy site where they have been deposited. Mostly they were made of thin hammered silver, plain or engraved.
One of these votiv deposits has the name of an Obelexxus engraved in. Maybe a hint that Obelix did exist ?
One of the most amazing exhibits in Speyer’s museum are shown in the exhibition “Prehistory of Palatine”, where artefacts of the last 1500 years before Christ are shown. Among them is the Golden Hat of Schifferstadt, which is dated as far back as 1300 B.C. I saw the photos before I went to see it in reality and was astonished how small it is, only about 30 cm high. But what a work, given its date !! It is a ceremonial hat, worn by priests of most probably the Sun cult. It is made of thin gold plate and has embossings, which are believed to show a lunisolar calendar.
Another old and very delicate work are the bronze wheels, found in Haßloch (a small village in Palatine). Belief is that they have been manufactured in southern France around 9th century B.C. and were used as wheels for a ceremonial wagon.
In total, this prehistory exhibition has more than 1500 pieces of work, also bracelets and other jewellery and instruments.
Speyer’s museum not only shows the oldest wines, but also has a nice array of old instruments and barrels which have been used to process wine. All wine processing is described in detail here.
At the vineyard, grape presses (photo 2) have been used to pre”grind” the grapes and reduce their volume for the next step. Then, the bigger presses (photo 1) with horizontal pressure blocks and vertical spindle were used to press the liquid out of the grapes. These presses have already been used from Middle age on until just “recently”. Some traditional wine-growing estates still use similar presses today. They were made of oak wood mostly, as this wood gave the wine the traditional taste.
Another fun “instrument”, albeit not much fun for the ones who had to wear it, is the so-called “Schandgeige”, translated into something like shame/dishonour fiddle (fiddle because of the shape; photo 3). This instrument has been put on those who stole grapes or fruit from the field – they had to wear it for several days as punishment. The big hole was meant for the head and the smaller ones for the hands. The bell was an additional punishment – imagine how they “sounded” when they had to walk through town.
But the museum also exhibits the coopers’ instruments and explains about their handicraft (photo 4).
Photo 5 is showing a candle, which was a very necessary even life saving method to control the level of carbon dioxide in wine cellars. The candle was left burning on the wine barrels, and if it was no longer burning, it was a sign NOT to go inside without a mask.
Already the Romans have used wooden wine barrels to store wine. Wood was abundant and easy to be transformed into barrels. In the beginning, the barrels have been quite simple in style, but from around ancient days the coopers’ skill did develop quite much. The barrels became bigger, stored by being laid instead of standing. This gave focus to the barrel’s bottom, which was now beautifully carved and sometimes painted. Even stories were told on these carvings.
Speyer’s museum has beautiful barrels as well as barrel bottoms on display, such as the one made for Prince Elector Carl Theodor’s 25th wedding anniversary in 1766 (photo 1), showing the initials of him and his wife Elisabeth Auguste and the story of the making of this barrel, including the cooper’s name. These stories about the barrels’ creators have been very popular, and it is fun to read through Palatine’s history by just wandering around in the museum and look at the barrels.
Some have more down-to-earth carvings, such as in photo 4, where a little tub and figures of the cooper and his wife (missing in the photo) are placed in the middle of the barrel bottom.
But not only the wine storage containers but also the drinking ones developed to being art. The “Bembels” as on photo 5 are still produced and used today. Well, these are not exactly Bembels, but a kind of forerunner.
I am not sure if this eating feast happens on Sundays throughout the summer months, but our cruise moored in Speyer on a Sunday and the whole main street was closed to traffic, and huge long tables, like the ones in the picture, were on either side of the street with the stallholders cooking wonderful smelling food, and the locals were just having a ball, meeting up with friends and families and eating and drinking and generally being merry. It was a lovely hot day, so the German beer flowed.
There were even huge ovens in the street (portable I guess) baking bread, cooking fish, chicken etc., I have taken some pictures to show you.
… your fish is big enough
Altpörtel, the town gate and tower of Speyer (see to-do tip), has some fascinating features, about which I’d learned only recently. One is the two clocks, which, if one looks closer, show different parts of “the time”. The big clock is only to give the hour and the smaller beneath to give the minutes. This was made in the old days, to help the people approaching the town from the west to see how late it is. Well, this is what the exhibition in Altpörtel tells. It still works, as anyone who is coming from far away, will see the gate tower and can tell if he/she is in time for a date or has to hurry.
The other interesting feature is inside the gateway of the tower: in photo 3 you see an iron bar, mounted inside of the wall. This is the so-called “Speyrer Normalmaß”, something like a calibration standard, also from old days. It was meant to measure the sizes of fish and other goods and is exactly 12 inches in length.
A similar measurement standard is in Heidelberg, see what Christine.j wrote about pretzel size standard.
Other old measurement standards are in Dornoch (Scotland), cloth size (by Joan, @scotishvisitor), Venezia, fish scale and in Norcia, measuring grain.
On our walk through Speyer we spotted this car – a beautiful old Cadillac obviously done up for a wedding. Unlike in Britain, where some ribbons and a few flowers would be used to decorate the car, this one had a whole bouquet adorning its bonnet. Looking across at the Rathaus (Town Hall) we could see the wedding party posing for photos by the front entrance.
A little later, on our way back down Maximilianstraße from the cathedral, we heard a loud hooting of car horns, and turned to see the happy couple now parading through the town in their red Cadillac, waving happily to all the shoppers and tourists. What a lovely custom!
Due to a new law, not only the pope himself can do a beatification today, but also selected cardinals. When we have been in Speyer on October 22, it was the weekend of beatification of pastor Nardini, a local priest, who has set up hospitals and food serving for the poor and sick in Pirmasens around 1853. I was very much amazed and thrilled to hear that they have announced to fill the Cathedral cup with wine. As I had dear visitors from Scotland to take around, I even made a lot of jokes that just for their visit, they will get this little treat.
The town was packed with people, traffic was off-limits in the town. During the service, they have put a big video screen at the plaza besides the Cathedral, where thousands of people were watching the ceremonial.
After the service, wine was served. Well, haha, this was a tiny bit of a tourist trap, as they didn’t really fill the cup, but must have had a wine barrel inside, which fed the glass tubes laid around the cup (see pic 2). Wine was for free, but you had to either bring your own cup (which we forgot) or buy a glass from the stalls around (which have been sold out when we came). So no wine for us, but it was an unforgettable experience !
In the evening, we could go inside the Cathedral, while the technicians and service people were demounting their equipment, and could even get a glance at the relic of pastor Nardini – a leg bone of him.
Well, I am pretty sure that it will take a long time until the next beatification takes place in Speyer, but nevertheless, check for other events of diocese Speyer (website below, but only in German).
Update, January 4, 2007:
good news :-) Christine.j (thank you Christine!!) just informed me that March 2, 2008, the new Bishop Wiesemann will be inducted to his duty as bishop. This means - the cup will be filled with wine again:
Some parts of the old city wall did survive the massive destructions during the War of the Great Alliance, such as Altpörtl, the former western town gate and Heidetürmchen (would translate into heathland or fallowland tower, as the land there was too muddy to built houses) just west of the Cathedral.
The little tower was build in 1281 and was once one of the 21 towers of Speyer during Middle Age. It was also a kind of a museum, as it housed the city’s archive in 1843. You can walk up the stairs to get a nice view of Rhine river, just opposite of the Cathedral.
There are more parts of the city wall, and on my next visit, I’ll find them to show them here as well.
Coordinates on GoogleEarth:
49°19’01,61’’ N; 08°26’39,22’’ E
During Cesar’s war in Gaul some years A.D., Romans started to settle down along Rhine river and Palatine. It was only logical that artesans and handicrafters joined them to guarantee a smiliar living standard as at home.
In 3rd century A.d., martial German tribes started several attacks from the north and trekked plundering and ransacking southwest. On their way back they had waggonloads packed with treasures like weapons, votive plates, tableware, tools, jewellery and coins. Not all plunderers did succeed in bringing their loot back home, some have been hunted and caught by Roman soldiers when they tried to bring their ships and ferries across the Rhine. Parts of the loot did then sank in the river.
In the 80ies, during gravel digging in the Rhine “arms”, some of these treasures have been found, which resulted in an intense and systematic search for more of these treasures between Karlsruhe and Gernsheim (and of course people thought they might find the famous Nibelung treasure). The biggest one was found in Neupotz, 30 km south of Speyer. It did contain more than 1000 objects of all kind of gold, silver and bronze with a weight of 700 kg !! This treasure is actually shown on in wandering exhibition called “Der Barbarenschatz” (the Barbarian Treasure).
I did see it in Speyer in September 2006. At the moment, until August 8, 2007, it is shown in Augsburg. And the Barbarenschatz Website will most probably list the next destination end of July 2007.
But Speyer’s Historical Museum also holds several similar objects from other treasures found in the Rhine. They all give an excellent view of the Romans and teach about their daily life, which already has been very much advanced compared to today, given the exhibits.
We were very lucky to be visiting Speyer on the same day as many important Catholics. Cardinal Friedrich Wetter was in Seyer Cathedral along with two thousand invited guests to celebrate the Beatification of Paul Josef Nardini (1821 - 1862) on Sunday the 22nd. October 2006 in Speyer Cathedral. Father Paul Josef Nardini was a Priest in the Diocese of Speyer, he founded the order of Mallersdorfer Sisters who's motto is "Cartis Christi urget nos" = "The love of Christ pushes us" the Priest and the Sisters did great works for the poor in the growing industrial times in Pirmasens. Only invited guest were allowed into the Cathedral but we stopped to watch some of the ceremony on the Video Screens in the dom plaz. Later on, when the technicians were removing some equipment, the Cathedral was open to the public and we got a glimpse of the beautiful relic dedicated to Paul Josef Nardini. Maybe in the future the Priest's entry to Sainthood will appear in a local customs tip in VT.
Let us start on the left :
A cap of the Prussian Guard-Grenadeers of 1894
above in the middle :
an Infantrie helmet of Prussia 1915
above on the right :
and on the right below :
a Helmet of M.Schuhmacher with signature...
;-(( absolutely NOT my kind of tea...
ooo ooo ooo ooo ooo ooo ooo ooo ooo ooo ooo ooo ooo ooo ooo ooo ooo
Ganz links :
eine Mütze des 1. Preussischen Garde-Grenadier-Regimentes von 1894
Oben in der Mitte :
Mannschafts-Helm Preussische Infantrie 1915 mit brünierter Metallkalotte
rechts oben :
eine Nazi-uniform ohne weiteren Kommentar
Rechts unten :
ein Helm von M.Schuhmacher mit Unterschrift - ad gustibus NON est dispudandum...
...im Grunde wäre mir DER nicht wirklich abgegangen
ooo ooo ooo ooo ooo ooo ooo ooo ooo ooo ooo ooo ooo ooo ooo ooo ooo