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Niels Just Rasmussen




Location: Nykøbing Falster, Denmark
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PostPosted: Sun 09 Apr, 2017 11:50 am    Post subject: Depiction of Danish warrior from 1225-1250.         Reply with quote

An altarpiece - including a depiction of a warrior dated from around 1225-1250 AD - has since 1821 been at the Nationalmuseet in Copenhagen, Denmark. It belongs to a special group called "De gyldne Altre" (the golden/gilded altars).

Black-and-white picture of the whole altarpiece (image of warrior is bottom left):
Source: https://www.yumpu.com/da/document/view/7367534/odder-kirke-danmarks-kirker-nationalmuseet/19

This altarpiece is a composite constructed of parts from different churches. Done before 1645 as we have evidence the whole piece existing together when brought to Tvenstrup Kirke that year (possibly elements of altarpieces from Saksild Kirke & Odder Kirke).
So the image with the warrior is probably from a Church from within Odder Sogn, south of Århus, Jutland.
The image portrays the child murder in Bethlehem. Is the interesting one as the sculptor likely had used a local nobleman as model, since the depiction is quite detailed.

So we have a full mail, helmet with nasal guard and a fullered sword in hand with a spheroid or disc pommel (and very slightly upturned crossguard-endings?).

Image in colour from the side:

Source: http://samlinger.natmus.dk/DMR/asset/167934

Smaller frontal black and white picture:

Source: https://krigsvidenskab.dk/middelalderens-kongelige-hird-en-militaerorganisatorisk-undersoegelse
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Mark Lewis





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PostPosted: Tue 11 Apr, 2017 8:56 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Niels,
I browsed through an article on the Gyldne Altre at the library a while ago: "Visual Splendour and Verbal Argument in Romanesque Golden Altars" by Kristin Aavitsland. I was looking for similarities between inscriptions on altars and sword blades, and took photos of some of the figures that I found interesting...

http://www.kristinaavitsland.no/Websted/Golden_Altars.html

Here's a similar sleeping guard at Christ's tomb from an altarpiece from Ølst Kirke, and an illustration of different styles of text on various Danish altars.



The sword shown on the Odder altar could be be a representation of a type 2 cross, like on this sword also at the National Museum.

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Niels Just Rasmussen




Location: Nykøbing Falster, Denmark
Joined: 03 Sep 2014

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PostPosted: Tue 11 Apr, 2017 9:57 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Mark Lewis wrote:
Hi Niels,
I browsed through an article on the Gyldne Altre at the library a while ago: "Visual Splendour and Verbal Argument in Romanesque Golden Altars" by Kristin Aavitsland. I was looking for similarities between inscriptions on altars and sword blades, and took photos of some of the figures that I found interesting...

Here's a similar sleeping guard at Christ's tomb from an altarpiece from Ølst Kirke, and an illustration of different styles of text on various Danish altars.

The sword shown on the Odder altar could be be a representation of a type 2 cross, like on this sword also at the National Museum.


Nice job Mark, since her paper is apparently not available online.

I found a big image of the Ølst Kirke altarpiece and it has more images of warriors and swords:
See: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/8/85/Frontal_%C3%98lst_Church_Randers.jpg/1920px-Frontal_%C3%98lst_Church_Randers.jpg

We have the child-murder in Bethlehem with a mail-clad warrior with a raised sword.
Left of the sleeping guard you showed we have a another mail-clad warrior with a sword.
Also Herod is holding a sword and this has more pommel detail, than the others.

Found another image from the Odder altarpiece - Herod and warrior.

Source: http://denstoredanske.dk/Danmarkshistorien/Ki...vning/Saxo
Both swords are sheathed. The warrior is mail-clad while Herod is seated.

So it very possible that the swords are like those you depicted, but you also see swords depicted in church murals with big totally spheroid pommels (not facetted) and the sculpturing is not always clear enough to decide the question

The altarpiece from Lisbjerg Kirke is a century older - from ~1135.
Here we have an older Scandinavian Kingly Christ - "Hvidekrist" in Danish - (sadly without arms) showing no sign of having any pain.
Big size image: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/93/Det-gyldne-alter-fra-Lisbjerg-Kirke_DMR-167937_original.jpg
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Mart Shearer




Location: Jackson, MS, USA
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PostPosted: Tue 11 Apr, 2017 3:59 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The dating on a number of these seems rather recent. I would be more comfortable with a dating of 1180-1220.
ferrum ferro acuitur et homo exacuit faciem amici sui
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Niels Just Rasmussen




Location: Nykøbing Falster, Denmark
Joined: 03 Sep 2014

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PostPosted: Wed 12 Apr, 2017 4:13 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Mart Shearer wrote:
The dating on a number of these seems rather recent. I would be more comfortable with a dating of 1180-1220.


Denmark was pretty conservative in some respects, so certain inventions in central Europe often shows a significant delay. It is the case with Danish latin inscriptions continuing using the Romanische Majuskel script up to ~1300 AD, whereas the change is much earlier in the Rhine area. So a delay is also to be expected with armour and weapons.

The great influx of German nobility to Danish society really first kicks of "en masse" in the 1300-1400 hundreds, so from that time period Denmark follows German fashion more closely (if we observe these German-Danish nobles).
We know from Saxo's writings (finished around 1210-1220) that there was a huge Danish anti-sentiment against (perceived or real) "German" behavior and fashion, both among traditional Danish nobles and the Danish Clergy, so that some would try to project a "Nordic" (conservative) look on an altarpiece seems pretty likely.
From Saxo we know that some Kings tried to press for a German court culture and fashion, which were despised by the traditional Danish nobility and by Saxo himself (German behavior and fashion is effeminate to him).

I can say I totally agree with your dating 1180-1220 AD if we talk about Central- and Western Europe in general, but a ~50 year added delay in conservative anti-German Denmark gives us 1230-1270 AD, which are in the range of the Golden Altar from Odder.
We later see that other armour-types (Kastenbrust) seemingly are retained in Denmark (maybe even up to 1525!) and that is much longer than in Germany.
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Pedro Paulo Gaião




Location: Rio de Janeiro, Brasil
Joined: 14 Mar 2015

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PostPosted: Wed 12 Apr, 2017 3:19 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Niels Just Rasmussen wrote:
Mart Shearer wrote:
The dating on a number of these seems rather recent. I would be more comfortable with a dating of 1180-1220.

The great influx of German nobility to Danish society really first kicks of "en masse" in the 1300-1400 hundreds, so from that time period Denmark follows German fashion more closely (if we observe these German-Danish nobles).
We know from Saxo's writings (finished around 1210-1220) that there was a huge Danish anti-sentiment against (perceived or real) "German" behavior and fashion, both among traditional Danish nobles and the Danish Clergy, so that some would try to project a "Nordic" (conservative) look on an altarpiece seems pretty likely.


Denmark was pretty conservative in some respects, so certain inventions in central Europe often shows a significant delay. It is the case with Danish latin inscriptions continuing using the Romanische Majuskel script up to ~1300 AD, whereas the change is much earlier in the Rhine area. So a delay is also to be expected with and weapons.
[...]
I can say I totally agree with your dating 1180-1220 AD if we talk about Central- and Western Europe in general, but a ~50 year added delay in conservative anti-German Denmark gives us 1230-1270 AD, which are in the range of the Golden Altar from Odder.


I may not be an expert at scandinavian armor, but it doesn't seem wise to make an equivalence of fashion resistance (whether it is civilian or military fashion) and armor. I agree that scandinavia was usually military oudated compared to Western Europe in terms of armor, but there are plenty of evidence showing that, in some aspects, scandinavian harness were almost or actually as updated as in Germany: the first written sources speaking about the armored surcoats doesn't came from Germany, but from the norwegian Speculum Regale (1250), which is as early as this german manuscript's detail from 1249-1250:


'Expositio in Apocalypsim', Cambridge MS Mm.5.31, fo.139r, Bremen, 1249-1250

I also had read in wikipedia that in the norwegian Hirdskraa (1270) we also have reference for such armor by this earlier date. In any case, I discussed this in depth at this thread:
http:///talk/viewtopic.php?t=33438&highlight=

A norwegian guy said that in Hirdskrá such armor was only permited for those with the status of knighthood, at least. So I would say that ed surcoats would be at least common in Scandinavia's Nobility by this date. And, since I'm not aware of Norway being more updated in terms of armor than Denmark, it's safe to say that Denmark was at least in equal grounds.

I didn't have the original Heath's book to post here, but he covers 13th century scandinavian knights:
http://warfare.uphero.com/Norse/Feudal-58-60-...12-13C.htm
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Mark Lewis





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PostPosted: Thu 13 Apr, 2017 4:51 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Niels Just Rasmussen wrote:
Denmark was pretty conservative in some respects, so certain inventions in central Europe often shows a significant delay.

Pedro Paulo Gaião wrote:
I agree that scandinavia was usually military oudated compared to Western Europe in terms of armor, but there are plenty of evidence showing that, in some aspects, scandinavian harness were almost or actually as updated as in Germany

It might be that cultural conservatism is expressed most directly in the arts? This is the impression I have from some of the later 15th century Danish frescos that seem to show "old fashioned" arms. Foreign artwork is disdained and local artists continue to write and sculpt and paint in their traditional way, while practical improvements to arms and armour are readily adopted out of military necessity. So the upshot of this might be that we may need to expect an even greater time lag between military equipment as it appears in art and in reality in Scandinavia as compared to some other parts of Europe.
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Niels Just Rasmussen




Location: Nykøbing Falster, Denmark
Joined: 03 Sep 2014

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Posts: 800

PostPosted: Thu 13 Apr, 2017 6:16 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Pedro Paulo Gaião wrote:
Niels Just Rasmussen wrote:
Mart Shearer wrote:
The dating on a number of these seems rather recent. I would be more comfortable with a dating of 1180-1220.

The great influx of German nobility to Danish society really first kicks of "en masse" in the 1300-1400 hundreds, so from that time period Denmark follows German fashion more closely (if we observe these German-Danish nobles).
We know from Saxo's writings (finished around 1210-1220) that there was a huge Danish anti-sentiment against (perceived or real) "German" behavior and fashion, both among traditional Danish nobles and the Danish Clergy, so that some would try to project a "Nordic" (conservative) look on an altarpiece seems pretty likely.


Denmark was pretty conservative in some respects, so certain inventions in central Europe often shows a significant delay. It is the case with Danish latin inscriptions continuing using the Romanische Majuskel script up to ~1300 AD, whereas the change is much earlier in the Rhine area. So a delay is also to be expected with and weapons.
[...]
I can say I totally agree with your dating 1180-1220 AD if we talk about Central- and Western Europe in general, but a ~50 year added delay in conservative anti-German Denmark gives us 1230-1270 AD, which are in the range of the Golden Altar from Odder.


I may not be an expert at scandinavian armor, but it doesn't seem wise to make an equivalence of fashion resistance (whether it is civilian or military fashion) and armor. I agree that scandinavia was usually military oudated compared to Western Europe in terms of armor, but there are plenty of evidence showing that, in some aspects, scandinavian harness were almost or actually as updated as in Germany: the first written sources speaking about the armored surcoats doesn't came from Germany, but from the norwegian Speculum Regale (1250), which is as early as this german manuscript's detail from 1249-1250:


'Expositio in Apocalypsim', Cambridge MS Mm.5.31, fo.139r, Bremen, 1249-1250

I also had read in wikipedia that in the norwegian Hirdskraa (1270) we also have reference for such armor by this earlier date. In any case, I discussed this in depth at this thread:
http:///talk/viewtopic.php?t=33438&highlight=

A norwegian guy said that in Hirdskrá such armor was only permited for those with the status of knighthood, at least. So I would say that ed surcoats would be at least common in Scandinavia's Nobility by this date. And, since I'm not aware of Norway being more updated in terms of armor than Denmark, it's safe to say that Denmark was at least in equal grounds.

I didn't have the original Heath's book to post here, but he covers 13th century scandinavian knights:
http://warfare.uphero.com/Norse/Feudal-58-60-...12-13C.htm


Well I perfectly understand you point and actually agrees with it, that military equipment out of necessity should follow the new! [EDIT: Mark might actually have found a good answer to this conundrum, see his reply just above this post]

Yet Danish (and Scandinavian) conservatism is present in many spheres in this period. It does seem their choices were based on a totally different strategic and tactical view on how to conduct warfare and what type of equipment were needed to conduct it?
Scandinavia also kept a markedly strong "resistance" religiously to German influences even down to parish level as the early 1200's as the Golden altars show.

1) Use of charge cavalry is first observed at the battle of Fotevik in 1134 AD. Until this instance cavalry was used as mobile infantry as it has been in the Viking Age. Denmark became Christian in 986 AD and had fought with Frankish armies for centuries before the conversion. So why did it take 150 years even after becoming Christian, before charge-cavalry was used? Some conservatism in how to conduct warfare seems reasonable.
In the early 1200's Denmark had fully embraced Charge-Cavalry ("Knights") and actually danish warhorses was famed all over Europe.

2) Another interesting tactical aspect is that Scandinavian armies in civil war actively sought - through maneuvering on both land and sea - to engage each other in pitched battles and avoid prolonged sieges, even when they had good castles.

A good example is the Bagler vs Birkebeiner civil war as described in
Arstad, Knut (2013): The use of castles as military strongholds in the Norwegian civil wars of the 12th and 13th centuries.

"As the existence of the Norwegian castles demonstrates, there was no absence of knowledge in this country of techniques for effectively fortifying strongholds during the 12th and 13th centuries. The limited number of such constructions was therefore not the result of the Norwegian commanders' ignorance of military science or effective methods of fortifications. Instead, this was the outcome of a deliberate choice based on what was regarded as appropriate within a Norwegian context. This lead to a formulation of a strategy of manoeuvre based on a field arm capable of giving battle, both on land and sea, Consequently, the commanders attached only minor importance to castles and strongholds".

Only with Håkon V (1299-1319) is the method of building counter-castles (Bohus Castle) introduced in Norway. Meaning the first instance where a Norwegian King cared about "borders" and places, instead of strength of field armies.
So the European way of fighting was well known, just not something copied for a long time.

For me it seems that pre-1300's a Norwegian pretender or King would lose all support if he "cowardly" took a defensive stance. Only a "manly" aggressive and offensive approach of seeking out the enemies forces, no matter where in Norway they were located, was central. Control of places meant nothing, defeat of the opposing pretender on the battlefield everything.

For Denmark it seems as well that a European style of fighting (strong focus of strongholds and place-control) also first really emerged in the 1300's.
First with Valdemar IV Atterdag (1340-1375) it is most certainly there as the absolutely central strategy in his struggles against the Hanseatic League. [He certainly still continued bold offensive campaigns as the attack on Visby 1361, but it was no longer the prime strategic focus to seek out the deciding pitched battle].
I have a gut feeling that the change might have started in Denmark after Valdemar II Sejr's defeat at Børnhoved in Holsten 1227 and the dissolution of the Danish Baltic Sea Empire.
See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Bornh%C3%B6ved_(1227)
A more defensive stance as the result of the heavy defeat could have caused a gradual change in Danish rulers towards a more defensive posture.

3) Religious stance of Christology - the concern for Danish clergy even at parish level, that German iconography was against the dignity of Christ. Again certainly obvious for Saxo and his view of the effeminate ways of Germans.

Nyborg, Ebbe (2014): Bysantinisk prægede krucifikser i højmiddelalderens Danmark – hvordan, hvornår, hvorfor?
See: https://ojs.abo.fi/ojs/index.php/ico/article/view/759/810

"The royal crucifixes so characteristic of the 12th century only gradually gave way to the Gothic suffering-Christs (Christus Patiens) in Scandinavia. In Denmark we find instances of an earlier, transitional type with a Byzantinizing, right-curving Christ in book illuminations, metal-work, stone and polychrome wooden sculptures.".............
"One main reason for the obvious conservatism would have been a (lay and clerical) concern for the dignity of Christ."

The Christus Patiens first gets really dominant in Denmark after 1250 AD.
So Denmark kept a Byzantine Christology as the "Distant Lord and King", whereas the "Suffering Gothic Christ" emphasized him as man. So a change to an emotionalizing and emphasize on love between God and man on a individual basis.
This change happened in Germany in the 1100's.
In Denmark we again see a 150 year delay - (interestingly the use of charge-cavalry also showed a 150 year delay) - and that must show a very deliberate stance against a neighbor's views.
Probably this "un-manly" suffering Christ with a focus on emotions is another typical example of the effeminate ways of the Germans, that makes for an undignified Christ.
No, a Scandinavian Christ is a "real man", a Cosmic King never showing weakness on the cross (Christus Triumphans).

Adam of Bremen (1070) in Danish translation quoted by Nyborg:
"tårer, gråd og sorg blev i den grad afskyet hos danskerne, at ingen måtte græde over deres synder eller kære afdøde".
-> Tears, weeping and grief was to a high degree despised by the Danes and no one was to cry over their sins and their beloved deceased.
A suffering Christ and an emotional attachment to him was an offense to conservative Scandinavians. The change to accept this Christology took a long time.
I have to say that still up until modern times weeping is seen as something absolutely un-manly. With globalization it might be changing somewhat. At funerals you absolutely do not engage in emotional displays as a man, as it shows offense to the person deceased. If you really loved the person, you would control yourself, even when it is most unbearable. A display of emotion shows the world, you didn't really care that much, as you didn't use all your effort to send the beloved on with dignity.
We have the expression "Tudefjæs" (Cry-face) for men and women showing tears. It's a bit more accepted for women, but still regarded as weak and undignified.

With the regard to the Børnhoved battle we have a german image from the Sächsische Weltchronik (1229-1277) of the German- (left) and Danish knights (right) .
It is unknown whether the image is based from a witness to the actual battle, but it does highlight one important point. The artist clearly displays that some Germans have helmets with horns and crests and the Danes do not. Both have surcoats, though.

See: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/c/c9/S%C3%A4chsische_Weltchronik_Bornhoeved.jpg/300px-S%C3%A4chsische_Weltchronik_Bornhoeved.jpg
Also since the Weltchronik was made over a long timespan, we don't know if the image is a few years after the battle or 40 years later?

So it is absolutely possible that Danish Knights did have surcoats in the early 1200's, but that the warrior portrayed on the Odder Kirke altarpiece just didn't wear it.


Last edited by Niels Just Rasmussen on Thu 13 Apr, 2017 7:15 am; edited 2 times in total
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Niels Just Rasmussen




Location: Nykøbing Falster, Denmark
Joined: 03 Sep 2014

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PostPosted: Thu 13 Apr, 2017 6:35 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Mark Lewis wrote:
Niels Just Rasmussen wrote:
Denmark was pretty conservative in some respects, so certain inventions in central Europe often shows a significant delay.

Pedro Paulo Gaião wrote:
I agree that scandinavia was usually military oudated compared to Western Europe in terms of armor, but there are plenty of evidence showing that, in some aspects, scandinavian harness were almost or actually as updated as in Germany

It might be that cultural conservatism is expressed most directly in the arts? This is the impression I have from some of the later 15th century Danish frescos that seem to show "old fashioned" arms. Foreign artwork is disdained and local artists continue to write and sculpt and paint in their traditional way, while practical improvements to arms and armour are readily adopted out of military necessity. So the upshot of this might be that we may need to expect an even greater time lag between military equipment as it appears in art and in reality in Scandinavia as compared to some other parts of Europe.


That is actually an intriguing possibility, Mark.
A Danish noble being used as a model for an altarpiece in local parish might actually arrive in old-school armour!
So the helmet with nasal guard and good old mail without any "german fanciness" on the Odder Altarpiece!
When the King calls for "leding" and he has to fight Germans, he can more safely appear in more modern gear without losing face. Yet there are limits in the early half of the 1200's, no german fancy crest Laughing Out Loud

So if one freely speculates a noblemen could have "home-armour" and "campaign-armour"?!

We did see that enormous long use of Kastenbrust on danish church murals, so it might be a conservatist signaling on the local parish level.
It was after all the Kings and imported german nobility (especially from ~1400) that were most pro-german and the old school danish Herremænd and the general populace, who likely were most against.
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