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Drawings discovered in ruins of medieval castle

#Drawings discovered in ruins of medieval castle

A new survey of a German castle dating back to the 13th century has revealed dozens of drawings carved into its ruined walls. They depict a variety of images including a lock and key, tools, agricultural implements, everyday objects, geometric shapes and Christian, heraldic and magical symbols. 

The discovery was made at a castle overlooking the village of Questenburg, located in central Germany. Research carried out by Felix Biermann from the Saxony-Anhalt State Office for the Preservation of Monuments and Archaeology has just been published in Jahresschrift für Mitteldeutsche Vorgeschichte.

The Castle of Questenberg, district of Mansfeld-Südharz. View of the tower remains from the southeast. Photo by Felix Biermann / State Office for Monument Preservation and Archeology Saxony-Anhalt

Biermann focused his work on a roofless tower, 8.8 metres wide on the outside and still 7 metres high. Near the bottom of the tower one can find around 70 graffiti inscriptions which would have been made with a chisel, nail, or even another rock. The images include depictions of everyday objects: hammers, knives, plows, a padlock, socket wrench, and religious and magical symbols such as crosses and pentagrams, there were even two shield-shaped coats of arms etched into the wall.

The interior of the tower – photo by ErwinMeier / Wikimedia Commons

The images seem to date from the end of the Middle Ages or the beginning of the early modern period. Biermann speculates that these inscriptions were made by people kept imprisoned at the bottom of the tower.

The castle at Questenburg was probably built in the middle of the 13th century, most likely by the Counts of Beichlingen-Rothenburg. By the end of the Middle Ages, it has passed into the possession of the Knauth family and would stay with them until the 17th century. It was even used during the Thirty Years’ War when Swedish troops were stationed there in 1633.

Today the fortification forms a picturesque ruin with a commanding position above the valley. In the elongated main or upper castle are the ruins of a palace, some outbuildings and the round keep, which has largely been stripped of its outer shells by stone thieves. The tower covered the fortification on the attack side in the northwest, which was protected by deep trenches dug into the rock. To the south-west below the main castle there is a walled outer bailey and another terrace, which is probably also part of the fortification complex. There were probably half-timbered buildings here. The building material was otherwise predominantly a light gray, quite soft dolomite limestone or gypsum.

The castle overlooking the village – Photo: Vincent Eisfeld / / CC-BY-SA-4.0

You can see more images of the graffiti in the article, “Botschaften aus Burgverliesen – spätmittelalterlich-frühneuzeitliche Ritzzeichnungen in Questenberg (Harz) und Greiffenberg (Uckermark),” by Felix Biermann. Click here to read it.

Top Image: Engraving of a lock and key. Photo by Felix Biermann / State Office for Heritage Management and Archaeology Saxony-Anhalt

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