Lovely Lorsch: The Abbey of Lorsch, Germany

My brother is a medievalist professor, which can be a dangerous thing if he spots his favorite Carolingian abbey while zipping along the autobahn in Germany.  He yelled, “LORSCH!” and swerved towards the exit—I gripped my seat in terror.  At least The Abbey of Lorsch and the town are absolutely lovely.  The Abbey, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is considered one of the most important pre-Romanesque-Carolingian style buildings in Germany.  The Abbey was founded in 764 AD and consecrated in 774 AD—Charlemagne was there! The library and scriptorium made Lorsch one of the cultural centers of Germany during the ninth century.  The entrance to the abbey (what you see in the photographs) is considered one of the best examples of Carolingian architecture.  It is a truly a beautifully preserved monument to the past.

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Picts, and Vikings, and Scots, Oh My: Dunnottar Castle

Dunnottar Castle, Stonehaven/Aberdeenshire, Scotland

Sitting atop craggy cliffs overlooking the churning ocean lie the ruins of Dunnottar Castle, which are impressive and haunting.  The site of the castle—and the castle itself—has an incredibly rich and varied history.  Here we go . . .According to the website provided below, the area was first inhabited by Picts; during the 5th Century a saint chose Dunnottar as a site for a church; the Vikings came along and attacked/destroyed the castle during the 9th century; the castle then became a Catholic settlement in the 12th century; a 15th century poet wrote that William Wallace (Braveheart) set the castle chapel on fire with a garrison of English soldiers inside; the castle was home to one of the most powerful families in Scotland starting during the 14th century; kings and queens stayed at the castle; the Honours of Scotland were hidden at the castle; the castle was the site of major battles during the ‘rule’ of Oliver Cromwell; in 1685, 165 people were imprisoned in the Whig Vault at Dunnottar for refusing to acknowledge the King’s supremacy over religion; the last Earl that owed Dunnottar Castle was convicted for treason in 1715 for his role in the Jacobite  rising and the government seized the castle; the castle was neglected until purchased in 1925, had some repair and was opened to visitors.  Phew!  So, that’s it in a nutshell.

I loved wandering around the ruins of Dunnotttar.  It is hardly a moldering heap, but a beautiful collection of structures and features.  To get to the ruins, you have to descend many stone steps and pass through a tunnel—I was completely enchanted.  There were few visitors the day I visited, making the site particularly eerie; I couldn’t stand to be in the vaults/dungeons for very long.

To learn more about this impressive castle, check out: