Bronze Age

Two armies clashed at a river crossing near the Baltic Sea, about 3200 years ago.

Why did so much military force converge on the narrow Tollense Valley? The size of the site and remains found so far suggest a warrior class of 4,000 people from across Europe.

Geomagnetic surveys in 2013, revealed evidence of a 120 meter long bridge or causeway stretching across the valley. The submerged structure was made of wooden posts and stone. Radiocarbon dating showed that although much of the structure predated the battle by more than 500 years, parts of it may have been built or restored around the time of the battle, suggesting the causeway had been in continuous use for centuries.

From the scale and brutality of the battle to the presence of a warrior class wielding sophisticated weapons, the Tollense Valley could be the first evidence of a turning point in social organization and warfare in Europe.

How warriors were equipped for battle:

Around 3200 years ago was a an era of significant upheaval from the Mediterranean to the Baltic. The scattered farmsteads of northern Europe gave way to concentrated, heavily fortified settlements, once seen only to the south. The sophisticated Mycenaean civilization collapsed and in Egypt, pharaohs boasted of besting the “Sea People,” marauders who toppled the Hittites.

Source: Unexpected and Gruesome Battle of 1250 BC Involved 4,000 Men from Across Northern Europe

Volkstedt porcelain

Johann Friedrich was the ruling Prince of Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt from 1744 to 1767.

After Georg Heinrich Macheleid had received the privilege to establish a porcelain manufactory in his native village Sitzendorf, the factory was relocated to the hamlet Volkstedt near Rudolstadt in 1762. The manufactory was run by a consortium of several noble men, Georg Heinrich Macheleid and Prince Johann Friedrich of Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt himself.

National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne. Presented in memory of Mrs L. May by her family, 1988

Gallery location: 17th & 18th Century Decorative Arts & Paintings Gallery, Level 2, NGV International.

Source: Johann Friedrich Prince of Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt, plaque | VOLKSTEDT PORCELAIN FACTORY, Volkstedt (manufacturer) | NGV | View Work

Paris Bible

In the late twelfth century, theologians at the University of Paris compiled a highly authoritative recension of St. Jerome’s Latin Bible. Whereas earlier Bibles almost invariably had appeared in multiple volumes, with the books in no canonical sequence, thirteenth-century Parisian scriptoria began producing single-volume manuscripts of the new Paris Vulgate in unprecedented quantities. Intended for individual rather than institutional use, these portable Bibles were often richly illuminated.

Thirteenth-Century Portable Paris Bible

Wandering scholar

Desiderius Erasmus, (born October 27, 1469, Rotterdam, Holland [now in the Netherlands]—died July 12, 1536, Basel, Switzerland), humanist who was the greatest scholar of the northern Renaissance, the first editor of the New Testament, and also an important figure in patristics and classical literature.

Using the philological methods pioneered by Italian humanists, Erasmus helped lay the groundwork for the historical-critical study of the past, especially in his studies of the Greek New Testament and the Church Fathers. His educational writings contributed to the replacement of the older scholastic curriculum by the new humanist emphasis on the classics.

Source: Desiderius Erasmus: The wandering scholar

To the sources! 

Rejecting a thousand years of commentary and discussion, new men in a new age sought truth in ancient sources.

The Seven Sages, depicted in the Nuremberg Chronicle 1493

Those who had the ability and the determination to master difficult ancient languages with the corresponding grammar, rhetoric, poetics, history and moral philosophy, became members of an intellectual nobility. These scholars of the studia humanitatis adopted classical names to identify them as a literary nobility, the nobilitas literaria.

Some took the name of their place of origin, others translated their names into Latin, and others derived their name from the occupation of their father.

All were engaged in the same noble pursuit: to find and study the manuscripts of the ancient civilizations of Rome and Greece. They hoped dissemination this knowledge could restore society to the former glory of thought, when free men of virtue and prudence, spoke and wrote with eloquence.
Ad fontes! They cry.  To the sources! 

Brethren schools

Originating in the Low Countries, Brethren schools provided poor students with food, books, paper, and lodging rather than forcing them to beg. The Brethren taught a new form of piety known as the Devotio Moderna, the modern devotion. True spirituality is within us, not in religious customs, for did not Jesus say, The kingdom of heaven is within you? In the inmost depths of our hearts, we may hear the voice of God.

What good does it do, Groote asked, for a man merely to go to church?  He must do more than listen to his preacher. A man must train his conscience by studying for himself.

Groote also said that devout women who serve God in the privacy of their homes, without taking monastic vows, are just as religious as nuns in their convents. To love God and worship him is religion; not the taking of special vows. If one’s goal is to live a religious life, then his life becomes religious in God’s opinion and according to the judgment of conscience. It all comes down to two things: Love God and love man.

Source: The Brethren of the Common Life

University of Basel

One of the centers of learning in the Renaissance.

Basel became an early center of book printing and humanism. The official opening ceremony was held on April 4, 1460. The University of Basel was decreed to have four faculties: arts, medicine, theology, and jurisprudence. The faculty of arts served until 1818 as the foundation for the other three.

Inauguration ceremony of the University of Basel, 1460
The Cathedral of Basel sits on a high bluff overlooking the Rhine where it bends and widens to begin its northward journey.


In the German speaking lands, six cities dominated printing: Cologne, Strasbourg, Leipzig, Basle, Augsburg, and Nuremberg.

Nuremberg Chronicle–The Ark

In the years following the appearance of Johannes Gutenberg’s Bible around 1455, printing spread through German speaking regions and other parts of Europe. The beginning of printing in Nuremberg is traced to the decade of the 1470s.

The Seven Sages, depicted in the Nuremberg Chronicle 1493

Charles’s Golden Bull of 1356 named Nuremberg as the city where newly elected kings of Germany must hold their first Imperial Diet, making Nuremberg one of the three highest cities of the Empire, along with Frankfurt, where kings were elected, and Aachen, where Emperors were crowned and which had been the capital of the old Frankish Empire. The royal and Imperial connection was strengthened when Sigismund of Luxembourg granted the Imperial regalia to be kept permanently in Nuremberg in 1423.

Gothic Bible

During the third century, the Goths lived on the northeast border of the Roman Empire, in what is now Ukraine, Bulgaria and Romania. The first Greek references to the Goths call them Scythians, based on the name for this region along the Black Sea.

During the fourth century, the Goths were converted to Christianity, largely through the efforts of Bishop Wulfila, who invented the Gothic alphabet and translated the Bible into the Gothic language in Nicopolis ad Istrum in today’s northern Bulgaria. Portions of this translation survive, affording the main surviving text written in the Gothic language.

During the fifth century, the Goths overran parts of the Western Roman Empire, including Italy, southern France, and Spain. Gothic Christianity reigned in these areas for two centuries.

Wulfila, literally “Little Wolf”, was of Cappadocian Greek descent. His parents were captured by plundering Goths in 264. Raised as a Goth, he later became proficient in both Greek and Latin. He was ordained a bishop by Eusebius of Nicomedia and returned to work as a missionary, converted many among the Goths to Arian Christianity. When they reached the western Mediterranean, this set them apart from their orthodox neighbours and subjects.

To escape religious persecution, he obtained permission from Constantius II in 348 to migrate with his flock of converts and settle near Nicopolis ad Istrum in modern northern Bulgaria, where he translated the Bible from Greek into the Gothic language and devised the Gothic alphabet. Fragments of his translation have survived, notably the Codex Argenteus held since 1648 in the University Library of Uppsala in Sweden.


The Duchy of Friuli became a march of the Carolingian Empire after 774, when Charlemagne conquered the Kingdom of the Lombards. Land in southern Italy held by Lombard Dukes was claimed by two empires: the Carolingian Empire to the north and west and the Byzantine Empire to the east.

The Lombards were Arian Christians from the valley of the Danube, where they had migrated from southern Scandinavia. In the Spring of 568 they had been joined by numerous Saxons, Bulgars, Ostrogoths, and Thuringians for the conquest of Italy.

The strategic importance of this coast on the Adriatic sea was recognised by Julius Caesar, who quartered his legions in Aquileia during winter. Diocletian moved the capital of the Western Roman Empire from Rome to Milan in 286. Constantine issued the Edict of Milan in 313, granting tolerance to all religions within the Empire. Aquileia became one of the most prestigious bishoprics, competing with Milan and Ravenna, for second place to Rome. Milan was besieged by the Goths in 492 and the Imperial residence was moved to Ravenna.

Attila the Hun forced Aquileia to surrender in 452 during an invasion that brought devastation and threatened Rome. The previous year Attila had been defeated at the Battle of the Catalaunian Plains in Gaul, after crossing the Rhine from Thuringia, which was a Hunnic vassal at the time. The original population of Venice consisted of refugees from Roman cities and the undefended countryside, who were fleeing successive invasions.

Henry IV assigned the marches of Carniola and Istria to the patriarchs of Aquileia as ecclesiastical Princes of the Holy Roman Empire. The patriarchal state of Friuli was one of the best organized of the Middle Ages. A parliament representing the communes as well as the nobility and the clergy survived until 1805, when it was abolished by Napoleon Bonaparte.

Food culture has been enriched by the historical melting pot of peoples, languages and traditions.

The region spans a wide variety of climates and landscapes from the mild Mediterranean climate in the south to Alpine continental in the north.

The foremost white wine produced in this region is the dry and aromatic Tocai Friulano. The European Community demanded a name change, because of a confusion with Hungarian Tokaj and French Tokay.

Seafood dishes include crostacei e conchiglie (a crustacean and shellfish dish), specialities such as boreto from Grado, “scampi a la busara” from Istria, sardoni from the Gulf of Trieste and ribalta vapor from the Marano lagoon.

Montasio, smoked ricotta cheese with the taste of Alpine meadows is the best known cheese of the region and cheeses that are little known but much-loved, are formadi frant and Asìno.

Delicacies such as Sauris cured ham, cured ham from Cormòns, salami, speck (smoked ham), local bacon, brusaola and pitina, smoked meatball of sheep, goat or wild animal are all characteristic foods of the region.