Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Walk through medieval Neuss

Last week sweltering heat kept me away from the workbench. Although I tried some brushstrokes on the hussars I'm working on nothing presentable came together. Over 34 °C was simply too much for me.

Anyway last weekend was dominated by another event which a dear club fellow of mine prepared weeks ago. Under Kalle's guidance we took a walk on the scent of medieval Neuss. Neuss is a city on the west bank of the river Rhine opposite of the Renish pearl Düsseldorf with about 150.000 inhabitants. It's mentioned in sources from more than 2.000 years ago and therefore holds the title of 'Germany's oldest city' alongside the city of Trier
For us the medieval part of its history became interesting when a couple of THS fellows applied their attention to the Burgundian Wars. As part of the Charles the Bold besieged Neuss for ten months from 1474 to 1475 but lost against the brave and persistent Rhinelanders. Employing the wonderful 28mm ranges available for the Wars of the Roses (e. g. Perry Miniatures excellent plastic sets) we're going to present a part of this siege sooner or later and thus we tried to get an idea of the old city wall.

Thus we started our tour at Saint Quirinius Minster right in the middle of 15th century Neuss. It's one of the most important late romanesque churche in the Lower Rhine region and has been watching Neuss's history for more than thousand years. It was one of the sanctuaries of the citizens during the siege of 1474/75 and  source of hope during those painful months.
Picture from Wikipedia
Then we walked to the city hall. It's a lot younger than the minster but around it the city festival 'Zeitsprünge' (time leaps) took place. A couple of reenactors presented some steps of Neuss's history from the stone age to the 20th century there. Small but very nice.
Volunteers that fought Napoleon

A fellow from Lützow Free Corps
After this little detour we picked up the scent of the Middle Ages again. And found one of the oldest houses in Neuss's old town. Although it's younger than 1475 it gives an idea of the timber framed architecture of the 15th and 16th century:
From 1586
During the next two hours we followed the city walls and found a couple of remains. Especially the Obertor (upper gate) is worth a visit. It's preserved in more or less the same shape that it had six hundred years ago. Only at the frontage you see the imprints of early 20th century restoration work. A pity on the one hand but on the other hand it saved this imposing structure.
Along the old city wall there are a couple of bronze sculptures. They show the look of the old city gates and explaine their fate. For example the Hamtor (Ham-gate):
Historical 'Hamtor'
Thus we had a wonderful walk through Neuss and got an idea of its medieval size. Unfortunately there's nothing left of the old battlefield because Neuss grew over it's historical boundaries long ago. Funily we met a well known Corsican who was up to mischief in early 19th century Neuss:
But the climax of the day was our visit of the Clemens Sels Museum. It's inhabiting a large number of exhibits from Stone Age and Roman artifacts right up to a decent number of modern paintings. The latter are not my cup of tea but the medieval exhibits are simply excellent. It covers the medieval part of Neuss's history and explains its importance at that time. They have a lot of finds from the siege of Neuss which are presented one of the turrets of the Obertor:
Heads of crossbow bolts.

Spurs found on the battelfield

A 16th century Bartman jug

A 15th century stone canon ball
Most eye-catching pieces of the exhibition are three dioramas covering scenes from the siege of Neuss. They are made of excellently painted flat figures and provide a lot of wonderful little scenes. One of them shows Charles's headquarter while the other two recreate the bombardment of the city as well as a brave foray of the defenders. Here are some impressions:
The bombardment

Burgundian mercenaries

The Burgundian headquarter

The English detachment among the Burgundians

Bungundian nobles gathering.

One of the smaller Burgundian guns.

Camp life

Neuss daring one of its many forays

Crossbowmen from Neuss

Men at arms attacking one of the Burgundian camps

A Burgundian knight somehow puzzled.
So after about three and a half hours our tour ended with coffee and ice cream at our fellow Axel's house. Really the crowning moment of a wonderful day. We all enjoyed the walk very much and even eagar Mrs Monty was impressed by her humble husband's hobby this time. Finally she took a picture of the three gentlemen she spent the day with:
left to right: The humble author, Axel our later host and Kalle our well-read guide
In case that you're intrested in the history of Neuss then have a look here (German only):

Especially how a small city brought the mighty Duke of Burgundy about his downfall is a very interesting one. Really worth a wargaming coverage which a wargaming friend from our club is preparing for one of the years to come.


  1. I had heard that Germany had topped the European hot spot for July, wow! Looks like you have found plenty to keep you busy though, great photographs Stefan.

    1. On Saturday we were above 40 °C. Really disgusting to my mind. I prefer 20 °C with a good shower of rain now and then. Anyway in Neuss we scampered from shadow to shadow and thus it was bearable.

  2. Perfectly right! We all learned a lot and did have a lot of fun. Karl-Heinz (Kalle) Kieckers

    1. Many thanks to you for preparing our tour!

  3. That looks like a very nice day. Even when it was so hot. I am sorry about missing it :-(

    1. Indeed it was. But I'm sure you'll get another chance.

  4. Will make a superb project Stefan. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Very nice day out Stefan. Thanks for sharing. Would dearly like to visit myself one day.

    1. You're welcome, Carl.
      In case that you make it to the Rhine area one day let me know. I'd love to have a pint with you or accompany you on your trip to Neuss.

  6. Great pictures. Love those dioramas.