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April 200
3 - Nr. 4


The Editor
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Rachel Seilern
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Good Citizen Award
Dick reports...
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Ham Se det jehört?
Germany & Easter Eggs
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Age of Chivalry
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Ute Lemper Tour
Help Baghdad Museum
Celebrating Lucas Cranach
Leipzig 2012 Olympics

Speyer Sheds Light on
"Age of Chivalry"

   TWIG - Shining coats of armor, iron helmets, deadly lances and more than 300 other symbols of the medieval tradition of knighthood are on display through October 26 at the Historical Museum of the Palatinate in Speyer (Rhineland-Palatinate). According to museum curator Sabine Kaufmann, knights and their trappings are always a big draw, bringing people face to face with history even if they have little knowledge of the field. But the show in Speyer doesn’t just reinforce fairytale visions of the era of chivalry, says museum spokeswoman Heike Scholz. Contemporary accounts confirm greed, robbery and murder were also the order of the day. "The exhibition directs attention to the real world," Scholz promises.

Visitors are invited to follow the development of the knightly tradition from its beginnings in the 8th and 9th centuries, when the Carolingian emperors recruited members of the nobility to create a well-equipped mounted army. Soon enough, the aristocratic force broke into warring factions, posing a threat to the rest of the population. It took the church to bring order to the fray, by assigning the knights a mission: to care for the poor and weak, and, as soldiers of God, to fight so-called unbelievers in the Crusades.

A major portion of the exhibit shows how armor and arms developed through the Middle Ages. "Nasal helmets," commonly worn in the 11th and 12th centuries, came equipped with a metal bar to protect the knight’s nose. The 14th-century featured the Hundsgugel, an iron helmet that tapered gradually to a point in front like a dog’s snout, making it easier for the wearer to breathe.

Knights needed a strong constitution to bear the weight of their armor. Under their chain mail they wore a thick padded jacket for warmth. To keep from overheating in the sun, they wore a tunic over their mail, which later bore the knight’s coat of arms. "The wearer couldn’t be recognized with his helmet on - that’s partly why the coat of arms tradition developed," explains Kaufmann. From the 13th century on, chain mail gave way to iron plates and eventually to full suits of armor. Armor created especially for jousting could weigh as much as 50 pounds.

Knights generally paid for their equipment out of their own pockets, and it was expensive. A helmet and sword cost the equivalent of a compact car, according to Kaufmann. Buying a steed was like purchasing a luxury sedan.

Toward the end of the 15th century, the knightly tradition faded, as mercenary armies emerged with weapons that were effective against opponents on horseback. Foot soldiers used a so-called "two-hander" - a long sword that had to be swung with both hands - to topple their mounted foes.

Younger visitors eager to try their hand at such exploits will enjoy the exhibit’s interactive room, where helmets and chain mail shirts can be tried on, and a play area has been set aside for jousting. In case visitors get hungry, a medieval kitchen will be serving period cuisine.


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