Wednesday, June 25, 2008


In the 1920s the cloister was a convenient place to get building material. The stones, which had been held together since the early 1400s with a mortar made from egg whites, were readily accessible and free. And there were old walls and ruins everywhere. So when my grandfather started to build his house and dug into the ground he found walls and arches, and used the stones from these to build his foundation. He told his son, my father, that he had found doorways and passages, and that he was sure there were tunnels underground, probably escape routes leading from the old cloister, he speculated – a rumor that persists to this day.

In the late 1990s, when we started to dig the foundation for our house on the site of my grandfather’s house, we encountered the same ruins, but now these stones had historical value and we had to stop construction until the heritage protection people could do an archeological dig. Unfortunately, they did not have the money to conduct such a dig, so we paid for it, setting back the construction of our house by over year. But it was neat to see the ruins, which turned out to be of a house constructed in the late 1300s, probably to house the workers who went on to build the cloister. The picture below shows some of these ruins. Note that right behind me there is a more substantial wall with modern mortar. This is part of the foundation my grandfather built.

We did not discover any priceless artifacts, but several neat stones turned up. The two stone fragments below are clearly in Latin but there is not enough of it to make out what the message was.

After the dig was done we had a large hole in the ground. How now to build our house? Clearly none of us wanted to destroy the ruins, but there appeared to be no better building site on our lot (as had been attested to by the builders 700 years ago, and by our grandfather). So we decided to fill the entire hole up with sand, being careful to preserve as much of the structure as possible, and to build the house on a floating concrete slab. The elevation of the house had to be raised to make this possible. But there was a limit to the increase in elevation and there was one particularly interesting arch that would have had to have been destroyed if we were to go ahead with the construction. The solution was to allow the arch to stick up through the floor! We put a glass case around it and now history pops out from the middle of our floor as a daily reminder of the people who used to live and work on this very spot.

-- Aarne


pamela said...

I have to know -- who comes up with an idea to bring a stone wall up through the floor? An engineer? An architect? A writer?

rollingestonian5 said...

A bass trombone player... ;)

pvarchitect555 said...

It could very well have been a trombone playing architect (smile).

Hasti tehtud!!