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Sunday, October 31, 2010




"The Greek Spirit is the plastic artist, forming the stone into a work of art." (Hegel, Philosophy of History)

Hera stoops to finish off a fallen giant.

[click on images to expand their size]

The Siphnian Treasury was a building dedicated to the Greek city (polis) of Delphi by the city-state of Siphnos, located in the island of that name, of which a view below. This island, now known as Sifnos, is one of the Cyclades, lying between Serifos and Paros, and north of Milos, about 80 nautical miles from the port of Athens. In ancient times, the people of Siphnos had gained enormous wealth from their silver and gold mines, as Herodotus records in his Histories, and they vaunted their wealth in the construction of their treasury in Delphi, the first religious structure in that holy site that was made entirely out of marble.

Sifnos today


“The Samians who had fought against Polycrates, when they knew that the Lacedaemonians were about to forsake them, left Samos themselves, and sailed to Siphnos. They happened to be in want of money; and the Siphnians at that time were at the height of their greatness, no islanders having so much wealth as they. There were mines of gold and silver in their country, and of so rich a yield, that from a tithe of the ores the Siphnians furnished out a treasury at Delphi which was on a par with the grandest there. What the mines yielded was divided year by year among the citizens.”
[Herodotos, Histories, III.57]

But the Treasure House was not just the branch of a Siphnian bank in Delphi. It was a dedication to the god Apollo, and therefore it was itself a holy site, a religious building designed to house the offerings of the Siphnians, and as such a temple, with all the outward characteristics of a temple, including its artful sculptural adornments.

As a practical matter, however, the building was used to house many lavish gifts given to the priests to be offered to Apollo, among other gods and goddesses. Pausanias also confirms that the treasury was built from one-tenth of the proceeds of the gold mines of the island and its purpose was to impress the other Greeks with its splendor, as it was not meant to commemorate any victory or other important event in the history of Siphnos.

 [“The Siphnians also built a Treasure House, and this is why: the island of Siphnos yielded gold-mines, and the god commanded them to bring a tithe of the produce to Delphi, so they built a treasure-house and brought the tithe. When out of insatiable greed they gave up this tribute, the sea flooded in and obliterated the mines.” Pausanias, Guide to Greece: Phokis. XI, 2]

Delphi: The Sacred Way at Delphi, downhill towards the West


In Delphi, the Treasure House of the Siphnians was located at the “crossroads of the treasuries,” where the Sacred Way turns abruptly and ascends the mountain towards the east. In the map below (click on the image to expand its size) the remaining foundations of the Siphnian treasury are marked as number 13, in the bottom left center of the image. The Sacred Way originates at the gate located in the extreme right bottom corner of the map and moves towards the west, turning abruptly, a few feet north of the Siphnian treasury, in its ascent up the hill towards the east.

In time, the Treasure House fell into disrepair and was buried. The ruined foundations of the building were uncovered sometime between 1903 and 1906, during the excavation of the Delphi site, and the friezes and pedimental sculpture of the treasury were discovered at that time. These are now housed at the Delphi Archaelogical Museum.

The treasury building is built in two parts; a pronaos, or porch, and a cella, or enclosure. The pronaos is distyle-in-antis, which means that the side walls extend to the front of the porch, and the pediment is supported by two caryatids in the form of Korai (maidens), instead of plain pilasters. Below the pediment runs a continuous frieze, which is described below.

The eastern pediment of the treasury shows the story of Hercules stealing Apollo’s tripod, an object which was strongly associated with the god’s oracular inspirations. Not much is known of the western pediment, and nothing has remained of it. The sculptural friezes ran around the building depicting various scenes from Greek Mythology. Only a few broken pieces remain. The Southern side depicts scenes that support the East side, where the gods sit watching the Greeks raid the village of Troy. As Hegel wrote, “Homer is the element in which the Greek world lives, as man does in the air.” (Philosophy of History). The West side, only a few pieces of which remain, shows the story of the ‘Judgment of Paris,’ depicting three chariots groups (each attributed to Athena, Aphrodite and Hera). The north side displays another version of the familiar Gigantomachy. The remains of the eastern pediment and the four friezes are described in detail and illustrated below.

These fascinating remains, surviving from the treasury’s pediments and friezes, are displayed at the Museum in Delphi. They date from 525 BCE. The building was erected over a period of years, from 530 to 525 BCE. The sculptural decorations, made of Parian marble and painted with bright colors, still visible in places, represent the mature archaic style of Ancient Greek art and are believed to be the work of two groups of craftsmen, each under a sculptor with his assistant, whose names have not been preserved. The western and southern friezes are made by one sculptor and his group, showing tendencies of Ionic art. It is self-contained and static, as a painting. The other artist, who made the northern and the eastern friezes seem to have been exposed to the influence of the art of Chios. It is plastic, narrative and bears the mark of the artistic activity of Attica.

Eastern Frieze: Aeneas and Hector


What is the religious significance of the sculptures? What is their meaning? I suggest that the question of their meaning turns on the struggles that are depicted in the sculptures, similar to those depicted in the pediments of the Temple of Zeus at Olympia, in the friezes of the Parthenon in Athens, and in the great Altar of Pergamon, a recurring Hellenic theme. It is, in fact, the meaning of the god Apollo himself in ancient Greek religion: the Hellenic self-imposed imperative to dominate and control its own instinctual and animalic nature, expressed in the two phrases which were carved on the Temple of Apollo in Delphi: Meden agan (Nothing in Excess) and Gnothi se auton (Know Thyself). It is sublimation depicted in the form of battle. The giants, the beasts, the centaurs, represent the insatiability and the over-reaching which is the hubris of man. Man as beast and as debased [kakoi] without rational control. And that insatiability within man, the possibility of hubris, is that which is fearful within us. To dominate it and control it is the ultimate bid for power over our selves. The insight is Nietzsche’s:

“From scenting out ‘beautiful souls,’ ‘golden means,’ and other perfections in the Greeks, from admiring in them such things as their repose in grandeur, their ideal disposition, their sublime simplicity –from this ‘sublime simplicity,’ a niaiserie allemande [a German silliness or inanity], when all is said and done, I was preserved by the psychologist in me. I saw their strongest instinct, the will to power, I saw them trembling at the intractable force of this drive –I saw all their institutions evolve out of protective measures designed for mutual security against the explosive material within them. The tremendous internal tension then discharged itself in fearful and ruthless external hostility: the city states tore one another to pieces so that the citizen of each of them might find peace within himself. One needed to be strong: danger was close at hand –it lurked everywhere. The splendid supple physique, the reckless realism and immorality which pertains to the Hellene was a necessity, not a ‘natural quality.’ It was produced, it was not there from the beginning. And one employed festivals and arts for no other purpose than to feel oneself dominant, to show oneself dominant: they are means for making oneself feared.” [Götzen-Dämmerung, oder: Wie man mit dem Hammer philosophiert, "The Twilight of the Idols, or: How one Philosophizes with a Hammer" (Leipzig, 1889) - “What I Owe to the Ancients” 4]

The struggle of man against himself, the struggle within, has no conclusion. It continues perennially. We never overcome ourselves, for we cannot. That is the tragic fate of man.
How do these sculptures reflect this? And what is it about our traditional perception and understanding of the ancient Greeks that they do not reflect? In other words, how is Nietzsche correct?

The traditional perception of the ancient Greeks, which Nietzsche describes as a ‘niaiserie allemande,’ but which might just as well be a British or an American ‘niaiserie,’ a scholar’s silliness, is that which Winckelmann described as the ‘noble simplicity and quiet grandeur,’ (‘Edle Einfachkeit und Stille Größe.’) of ancient Greek Art, in reference to the marble sculptures of the Classical and Hellenistic periods: It is the perception conveyed by the famous instances of such Classical sculpture, such as the Apollo of the Belvedere (below), the Laocoön, or the refined aristocratic youths of Praxiteles.

The Apollo of the Belvedere

This refined detachment and imperious aloofness are totally absent from the sculptures of the treasury of Siphnos. There is no quiet grandeur in these figures. Here, we are instead in face of a tragic drama unfolding, of a struggle that has no beginning and no end, as it is the struggle against the elemental components of our humanity. Hence the forcefulness, the raw power, of the figures and their movements in the Treasure House of the Siphnians: in the dynamic of the conflict as it unfolds in the narrative of the northern frieze, for example, or in the implicit tension of the figures in the ‘Judgment of Paris’ scene in the eastern frieze; in the ferocity of the lion’s head, with its jaws fastened on the giant’s leg; the horror of the Medusa head on the shield of Agamemnon, which stares outward, towards us, as if warning us that the conflict engulfs us too as we walk by, and thereby infuses us with the stoneniness of fear. The gods and goddesses that watch the battle on the field of Troy are tensed with jealousy, as Eris presides over the consequences of her deed, - Eris, the Fury, hovering above the banquet of the gods. Isn’t that the impression conveyed by those raised arms of the women, reaching for each other’s shoulders, holding each other down? Or the tense right arms of Apollo and Zeus?

Eastern Frieze: Artemisa, Aphrodite, Apollo and Zeus on his throne (fragment)


The sculptures at Delphi belie our concept of the ancient Greeks as calm philosophers and wise statesmen, the images of Plato and of Solon, and instead show us a perpetual war to the death. This is the tragic perspective of the Greeks in the Lyrical Age, the age of Archaic Art, tragic because unavoidable.

The ancient Greeks carved themselves in marble, creating thus what they took to be an ideal and imperishable image of themselves and of the tragic fate of humanity. In his Philosophy of History, Hegel interprets the Greek Spirit as “Individuality conditioned by Beauty.” He discovers the origin of this individuality in the relationship between the Greeks and Nature:

“. . . Greek Spirit was excited to wonder at the Natural in Nature. It does not maintain the position of stupid indifference to it as something existing, and there an end of it; but regards it as something in the first instance foreign, in which, however, it has a presentiment of confidence, and the belief that it bears something within it which is friendly to the human spirit.” (Philosophy of History, Dover, 1956, at 234).

Their eagerness to know the meaning of Nature and find therein that which is “friendly” to the human spirit or, in other words, to find themselves in Nature, is reflected, according to Hegel, in “the comprehensive idea of Pan.”

“To the Greeks Pan did not represent the objective Whole, but that indefinite neutral ground which involves the element of the subjective; he embodies that thrill which pervades us in the silence of the forests; . . . (a “panic terror” is the common expression for the groundless fright).” (234-35).

In their identification with Nature, which Hegel calls “the Indefinite,” the Greeks felt that they could communicate with it, and with this understanding gained, present in Art an explanation, both of Nature and of humanity’s nature.

“In what has been stated we have, on the one hand, the Indefinite, which, however, holds communication with man; on the other hand the fact, that such communication is only a subjective imagining – an explanation furnished by the percipient himself.” (235).

“Greek freedom of thought is excited by an alien existence; but it is free because it transforms and virtually reproduces the stimulus by its own operation.” (238)

Hegel argued that it was Poesy (manteia) and Art that introduced the spiritual into the Natural among the Greeks, and thus they discovered the subjective within the body as well as in all of Nature. But the development of the Greek character, of Greek “freedom” is therefore not based on a universal morality in the form of duties based on reason or authority, but rather in a willful self-fashioning of the body’s own humors:

“In Man, the side of his subjective existence which he owes to Nature, is the Heart, the Disposition, Passion, and Variety of Temperament: this side is then developed in a spiritual direction to free Individuality; so that the character is not placed in a relation to universally valid moral authorities, assuming the form of duties, but the Moral appears as a nature peculiar to the individual –an exertion of will, the result of disposition and individual constitution.”

Which is why Hegel believes that this marks the emergence of individuality in world history. But it is individuality that only expresses itself in the form of Art. The freedom which the Greeks did not yet know in their actual social and political existence, - theirs was after all a slave-owning society-, they were nonetheless able to intuit as an element in Nature, and so they carved it in stone:

Hegel lecturing in Berlin (1820's)


“This stamps the Greek character as that of Individuality conditioned by Beauty, which is produced by Spirit, transforming the merely Natural into an expression of its own being. The activity of Spirit does not yet possess in itself the material and organ of expression, but needs the excitement of Nature and the matter which Nature supplies: it is not free, self-determining Spirituality, but mere naturalness formed to Spirituality –Spiritual Individuality. The Greek Spirit is the plastic artist, forming the stone into a work of art. In this formative process the stone does not remain mere stone – the form being only super-induced from without; but it is made an expression of the Spiritual, even contrary to its nature, and thus transformed. Conversely, the artist needs for his spiritual conceptions, stone, colors, sensuous forms to express his idea. Without such an element he can no more be conscious of the idea himself, than give it an objective form for the contemplation of others; since it cannot in Thought alone become an object to him. . . . In Greek Beauty the sensuous is only a sign, an expression, an envelope, in which Spirit manifests itself.” (238-39) [Emphases are all Hegel's]

Nietzsche paints a tragic portrait of the ‘psychology’ of the Greeks, emphasizing their ‘realism’ and the cleverness of their instinct for power and self-protection. Hegel, plotting the development of the idea of freedom in world history, a very different preoccupation than Nietzsche’s, concludes that the Greek spirit expressed itself fundamentally in their art, and thereby the Greeks achieved the only freedom that was possible for them in their time. My suggestion regarding the matter at hand is based on both these observations: that the stone remnants of the Treasure House of Siphnos are a representation of the spirit of the Greeks, whose interpretation of life was tragic. The tragic perception of life, which is affirmative of life and of this world, takes on the inevitability of struggle, of war, of envy and fear, as inescapable and ever-recurring aspects of human life. This perception is reflected in Greek Archaic Art as in a mirror of their self, of the self of the artist as well as that of the perceivers and worshippers. The Archaic is the truly tragic art of the Greeks, and it is visible in the friezes of the Treasure House of Siphnos.

Illustration of the Sculptures

I describe the sculptures from the Siphnian Treasury in the following order: 1) The frontal aspect of the Treasure House and its portico; 2) the east pediment, there being no remains of the west pediment, and the friezes grouped by their style, the Attic northern and eastern friezes (3 and 4), and the Ionian western and southern friezes (5 and 6).

1. The front of the Treasury

Reconstruction of the front of the treasury shows the columns as karyatids in the form of korai (maidens). The front faced towards the West.

2. The East Pediment

The theme of the eastern pediment, the only one that has been preserved, and which was in the rear of the building, is the quarrel between Apollo and Hercules about the possession of the prophetic tripod. The tripod was where Pythia, the priestess of Apollo, sat when she delivered the oracle. When Pythia refused to provide a response to Hercules’ query, due to the latter’s having yet failed to atone for the murder of Iphitus, Hercules carried off the tripod, intending to establish an oracle of his own. In the middle of the scene, there is Artemis holding back the furious Apollo who wants to take the tripod from Hercules, the latter having shouldered it, is moving away. Standing between the two and trying to appease them is Athena (or Zeus?). The east pediment measures 19 by 2 ½ feet. There are bystanders on both sides of Apollo and Hercules, and the sculptor has not made much effort to vary their poses, so that the composition is monotonous and the figures are fitted into the field by the unhappy expedient of reducing their height away from the center. The sculptor was hampered by the existence of a back wall that reaches halfway up the pediment and required the carving of the lower parts of some of the central figures in relief, while their upper parts stand free, which is not very artful.

East Pediment: central group. Apollo holds on to the tripod as Hercules carries it off, while Athena (or Zeus?) stands between them in an effort to appease them.

East Pediment: The struggle between Hercules and Apollo over the holy tripod

How apposite here is Nietzsche’s statement about the psychological ‘theater’ of the Greeks? “. . . [O]ne employed festivals and arts for no other purpose than to feel oneself dominant, to show oneself dominant: they are the means for making oneself feared.” The story of Apollo and Hercules’ fight over the holy tripod, represented in the eastern pediment, is a story about Hercules wanting to make himself feared so as to reverse the condemnation that hovered over him because of his un-atoned murder of Iphitus. By stealing the tripod from Delphi in order to create his own oracle, Hercules intended to proclaim his truth as the only truth. The Delphic Oracle, which was the voice of Apollo, - the truth of Apollo -, had refused him because he was adjudged guilty of murder, as a criminal. So Hercules wanted to set up a rival oracle that would absolve him, and hence marched off with the tripod. He would absolve himself. Hercules was a great hero to the Greeks.

A good question is, which god or goddess is represented as standing between Apollo and Hercules and trying to appease them? The speculation is that the figure in the center of the pediment is either Zeus (Power and Law) or Athena (Knowledge and Reason). Taking this choice as the correct one in this case, should Authority or Wisdom moderate a fight? Which would the artist have chosen? And recall that the pediment is what you see above you when you approach the temple.

3. The Northern Frieze

The northern frieze depicts the war between the Olympian gods and the Giants, the Gigantomachia. At the left end, Hephaestus in his blacksmith’s shop filling his furnace bags with air, while in front of him two goddesses are fighting with two giants. Further ahead the goddess Cybele (behind her Hercules or Dionysus at grips with a giant) in a chariot drawn by two lions which are tearing a giant to pieces.

The goddess Cybele was known among the Greeks as Μήτηρ (Mētēr "Mother") or Μήτηρ Ὀρεία ("Mountain-Mother"), or, with a particular Anatolian sacred mountain in mind, Idaea, inasmuch as she was supposed to have been born on Mount Ida in Anatolia, near Troy. In most mythology her story is Phrygian. Her Ancient Greek title, Potnia Theron, alludes to her Neolithic roots as the ‘Mistress of the Animals.’She is associated with her lion throne and her chariot drawn by lions.

Northern Frieze: Cybele’s chariot was pulled by two lions: one of the lions is tearing a giant to pieces.

In front of Cybele’s chariot, to the right of the frieze, Apollo and Artemis (at their feet the giant Ephialtas is already dead and a little farther right the giant Astartas is just falling), are shooting with their arrows at three shielded giants and the giant Cantharus flees in terror from Cybele’s lions. Further on Zeus (not preserved) on his chariot is attacked by two giants. In the foreground, Hera bends to finish off a fallen giant; on her right, Athena has stricken down Verectas and is fighting with Laertas while Astartas is dying. A little further Ares is struggling with Viatas and Enatas, one of whom is picking up a stone to throw at the god. Immediately after, Hermes with raised sword is attacking two giants. On their right, part of Poseidon’s body is preserved. At the extremity of the frieze, an unidentified god is fighting with two giants.

The figure with the crest of his helmet supported by a cantharus is not Dionysus, but a giant. The peculiar shape of the support is explained by the fact that all the helmets worn by the giants are of fantastic design. This giant was one of the antagonists of Cybele and is fleeing in terror from her lions. Cybele, in the frieze, is identified by a hole for an earring, and cannot be Dionysus, as was originally thought. In addition there is the charioteer of Zeus, who cannot be identified

Northern Frieze: Apollo and Artemis (at their feet the giant Ephialtas is already dead) are shooting with their arrows at three shielded giants (not visible here) as the giant Cantharus flees in terror from Cybele’s lions.


Northern Frieze: Apollo and Artemis and Cantharos running from Cybele’s lions.


Northern Frieze: On the left, Hera bends down to finish off a fallen giant; on her right, Athena has stricken down Verectas and is fighting with Laertas while Astartas is dying. Further left, Ares is struggling with Viatas and Enatas, one of whom is picking up a stone to throw at the god.

Northern Frieze: In the foreground, Hera stoops to finish off a fallen giant; on her right, Athena.

Northern Frieze: Ares is struggling with Viatas and Enatas, one of whom is picking up a stone to throw at the god.

As the northern side of the treasury looked upon the Sacred Way, the ascending pilgrims walking by would admire the unfolding of the action from left to right as the narrative unfolds in the frieze.

Reconstruction of the northern side of the treasury, facing the Sacred Way.

4. The Eastern Frieze

The eastern frieze, whose subject is the Trojan War, is divided into two sections. The first part of the left-hand section shows a council of the gods watching from Olympus the battle taking place outside the walls of Troy and depicted in the right hand section of the frieze. The gods are divided into two groups, the protectors of the Trojans, and the protectors of the Greeks, respectively. On the left are shown the gods favoring the Trojans, turned towards their protégés. First Ares, wearing his armor as befits the god of war, sitting at one end. Next to him Aphrodite (or Leto), Artemis, Apollo, turned towards his sister, and finally Zeus on a magnificent throne. In front of Zeus there was Thetis, Achilles’ mother, as a suppliant, parts of her fingers touching the knees of Zeus in supplication are preserved. A little further and turned to the left, like the Greeks, were the gods favoring them: Poseidon, of whom nothing remains, Athena, Hera and Demeter. The scene depicts a well-known episode of the war, when Zeus, implored by Thetis, temporarily turned against the Greeks until the injustice done to her son Achilles by Agamemnon in taking from him the girl Briseis had been restored.

Eastern Frieze: Artemisa, Aphrodite, Apollo and Zeus on his throne (fragment)

Eastern Frieze: Aphrodite, Artemisa, Apollo

Eastern Frieze: From left to right: Ares, Aphrodite, Artemisa, Apollo and Zeus on his throne (fragment)

Eastern Frieze: From left to right: Athena, Hera, and Demeter (or Thetis?)

In the second section of the eastern frieze, the battle going on outside the walls of Troy is shown. On the left are the Trojans: first a Trojan four-horse chariot with the charioteer Glaucus, then Aeneas and Hector. On the right are the Greeks. Menelaus holding a shield decorated with a Gorgon head. Ajax, a Greek four-horse chariot with the charioteer Automedon, and finally, alone, at the end, Nestor the wise adviser of the Greeks, urging them by his attitude to the action that will bring them victory. On the ground is a dead warrior.

Eastern Frieze: A Trojan four-horse chariot with the charioteer Glaucus looking towards Aeneas and Hector, in the foreground.

Eastern Frieze: A Trojan four-horse chariot with the charioteer Glaucus looking away.

Eastern Frieze: Menelaus holding a shield decorated with the Gorgon head of Medusa.

5. Western Frieze

This frieze tells the story of the “Judgment of Paris.” Eris, the goddess of discord, not having been invited to the wedding of Peleus and Theits for obvious reasons, revenged the insult by throwing among the guests an apple inscribed: “For the most beautiful.” This caused a quarrel between Aphrodite, Athena and Hera, who each claimed the prize, and to end the strife, Zeus asked Paris, the young prince of Troy, to decide between them. Paris awarded the apple to Aphrodite. In the frieze, which unrolls in the way of a triptych, Hermes is shown at the left-hand end as a charioteer in the winged four-horse chariot of Athena, who winged herself, is hurriedly getting on the carriage. The male figure behind her is Hephaestus or Poseidon. Next the victorious Aphrodite is shown, getting off her chariot while trying to put a necklace around her neck. The admirable ingenuity and originality of the artist in presenting this theme and working out the details will be found again in the southern frieze. Though severely damaged, Aphrodite is still one of the loveliest figures in the whole sculptural decoration of the treasury of Siphnos. The right hand part of the frieze has not been preserved, but it can be assumed with certainty that it included a third chariot, and Hera.

Western Frieze: Aphrodite stepping off her chariot while trying to put a necklace around her neck

6. Southern Frieze

It has proved very difficult to ascertain the meaning of the southern frieze, or on the correct sequence of its preserved parts. Likely themes are the abduction of the daughters of Leucippus, king of Messenia, by the Dioscuri, Castor and Pollux, or Hippodamia, daughter of the king of Elis, Oenomaos, being carried off by Pelops, with Oenomaos starting to chase them. The parts preserved show first an abduction scene, and on the left a woman going away. In the middle there is an altar with a four-horse chariot (quadriga) in front of it, and finally two young horsemen followed by another four-horse chariot. The movement the postures and the shapes of the horses are admirably depicted and are unique in the archaic art of the Greeks.

Southern Frieze: The quadriga before an altar

“Zeus reaches, as soon as thought, his ends:
Zeus, who can catch the winged eagle
And overtake the dolphin in the sea.
He can bring down any whose heart is high,
And to others he will give un-aging splendor.”

Pindar, Pythian Ode II (Bowra trans., Penguin 1969)

Friday, October 29, 2010


"Umfangend umfangen!"
"Embracing, embraced"
"A mí hacia mí, . . . "

Ganymede with the Eagle (Thorvaldsen)

GANYMED (1774)
[English and Spanish translation below]
[Bonus: Auden's and Rembrandt's Ganymede, below]

"Wie im Morgenglanze
Du rings mich anglühst,
Frühling, Geliebter!
Mit tausendfacher Liebeswonne
Sich an mein Herz drängt
Deiner ewigen Wärme
Heilig Gefühl,
Unendliche Schöne!

Daß ich dich fassen möcht
In diesen Arm!

Ach, an deinem Busen
Lieg ich, schmachte,
Und deine Blumen, dein Gras
Drängen sich an mein Herz.
Du kühlst den brennenden
Durst meines Busens,
Lieblicher Morgenwind!
Ruft drein die Nachtigall
Liebend nach mir aus dem Nebeltal.

Ich komm, ich komme!
Wohin? Ach, wohin?

Hinauf! Hinauf strebts.
Es schweben die Wolken
Abwärts, die Wolken
Neigen sich der sehnenden Liebe.
Mir! Mir!
In euerm Schoße
Umfangend umfangen!
Aufwärts an deinen Busen,
Alliebender Vater!"

s abducting Ganymede (Olympia)


"How, in the light of morning,
Round me thou glowest,
Spring, thou beloved one!
With thousand-varying loving bliss
The sacred emotions
Born of thy warmth eternal
Press 'gainst my bosom,
Thou endlessly fair one!

Could I but hold thee clasp'd
Within mine arms!

Ah! upon thy bosom
Lay I, pining,
And then thy flowers, thy grass,
Were pressing against my heart.
Thou coolest the burning
Thirst of my bosom,
Beauteous morning breeze!
The nightingale then calls me
Sweetly from out of the misty vale.

I come, I come!
Whither? Ah, whither?

Up, up, lies my course.
While downward the clouds
Are hovering, the clouds
Are bending to meet yearning love.
For me,
Within thine arms
Embracing, embraced!
Upwards into thy bosom,
Oh Father all-loving!"

Ganymede and the Eagle


"En tu luz matinal como me envuelves,
¡oh primavera amada!
Con todas las delicias del amor,

entra en mi pecho
tu sacro ardor de eterna llamarada;
¡oh infinita Belleza:
si pudiese estrecharte entre mis brazos!

Recostado en tu pecho languidecemi corazón; de musgos y de flores
dulcemente oprimido, desfallece.
Tú apaciguas mi sed abrasadora,
¡oh brisa matinal y acariciante!
mientras el ruiseñor enamorado me llama entre la niebla vacilante.

Ya voy, ya voy, y ¿adónde?
¡Ay! ¿Adónde? Hacia arriba, ¡siempre arriba!
Flotan, flotan las nubes o descienden
y abren paso al amor de ímpetu fiero.
A mí hacia mí, contra tu ser, ¡arriba!

¡En abrazo sin par, arriba, arriba!
Contra tu corazón, ¡oh dulce padre,
oh inmenso padre del amor fecundo!"

Traducción de Guillermo Valencia

Zeus and Ganymede (Getty)


Ganymede, by W. H. Auden

"He looked in all His wisdom from the throne
Down on that humble boy who kept the sheep,
And sent a dove; the dove returned alone:
Youth liked the music, but soon fell asleep.

But He had planned such future for the youth:

Surely, His duty now was to compel.
For later he would come to love the truth,
And own his gratitude. His eagle fell.

It did not work. His conversation bored
The boy who yawned and whistled and made faces,
And wriggled free from f
atherly embraces;

But with the eagle he was always willing
To go where it suggested, and adored
And learnt from it so many ways of killing."

Rembrandt, The Rape of Ganymed
e (1635)

In Greek mythology, Ganymede, or Ganymedes, is a divine hero whose homeland was Troy. He was a prince, son of Tros of Dardania and Callirrhoe. He was a very attractive boy, which explains why Zeus, perhaps in the form of an eagle, abducted him and carried him off to Olympus, to become a cup-bearer to the gods, and, in Classical and Hellenistic Greece, as his eromenos, or passive sexual partner. The word “catamite,” (boy kept by a pederast) is derived from his name. Ganymede was abducted by Zeus from Mount Ida in Phrygia, where he was tending a flock of sheep. He was a growing boy, and not a querulous infant, as depicted by Rembrandt. Ganymede’s father was mollified by a gift of horses, which is mentioned in the Iliad by Diomedes, who is eager to capture them: “They are of the stock that great Jove gave to Tros in payment for his son Ganymede, and are the finest that live and move under the sun.”Plato states in his Laws that the myth of Ganymede had been invented by the Cretans to account for “pleasure against nature.” In the terracotta Late Archaic statuette at Olympia (above), Ganymede holds a cockerel in his left arm, a gift from Zeus. Zeus also gave Tros the horses, assuring the latter that the boy was now immortal and would hold a distinguished position on Olympus as cup-bearer for the gods. The theme of the father is recurrent in many of the Greek coming-of-age myths of male love, suggesting that the pederastic relationships symbolized by these stories took place under the supervision of the father.

Ganymede rolling a hoop and bearing aloft a cockerel— a love gift from Zeus, illustrated in pursuit, on obverse of vase. Attic red-figure krater, 500–490 BCE (Louvre)

Whereas Auden in his poem sets the Ganymede story within the very realistic context of the mythical event, exploring the sentiments of the boy in response to his seduction, eventual abduction, kidnap and rape, Goethe has done something totally different to the mythical persona of Ganymede. He has turned him into a mood, or an emotion, where Zeus and Ganymede become one. To identify this emotion is rather difficult. It is in some ways reminiscent of the character of Cherubino in Mozart’s Nozze di Figaro (“Parlo d’amor con me!” 'I speak of love to myself'). The embrace of Spring and of Nature would suggest libidinal arousal, a diffuse form of sexual desire, whose outcome is the rise towards the ‘Alliebender Vater,’ the All-loving Father. But is it the desire of Ganymede, or that of Zeus that is being expressed? The emotion is so diffuse that it is unclear whether the first two stanzas of the poem are “spoken” by Ganymede or by Zeus. In its conclusion, it is again unclear whether Zeus seeks to embrace Ganymede or Ganymede Zeus. Who is embraced? Who is embracing? As in the love song of Cherubino, it is a form of narcissistic love that is conveyed by this poem.
In his biography of Goethe, Nicholas Boyle remarks on this reciprocity and interdependence of feeling in the mutual self-positioning of Zeus and Ganymede that appears to surface in the poem. But rather than see it as the mirroring image of Narcissus in the reflecting pool, he regards it as a commentary on the later Romantic preoccupation with the relationship between Nature and the Soul: “Nature (whatever that may be) reaches out to embrace the soul only with the same energy, and no more, with which the soul drives itself into the arms of Nature. As Ganymede’s yearning drives him up into the heavens, so the clouds of heaven sink downwards in acknowledgment of this power of love.” Boyle rejects the notion that Zeus and Ganymed become one in the poem, which is a corollary, as he argues, of the idea that the poem is a pantheistic conception based on Goethe's reading of Spinoza. Goethe himself claims that he did not read Spinoza until the 1780's, more than a decade after he wrote Ganymed, which corroborates Boyle's assertion. (Goethe, The Poet and the Age: Volume 1 – The Poetry of Desire, [Oxford, 1991] p. 160). Rather, says Boyle, it is a Leibnitzian conception, where the individual soul, as Monad, is totally sovereign but reflects within itself the entire cosmos around it.



Römische Elegien (1790-1795)

"Euch, o Grazien, legt die wenigen Blätter ein Dichter
Auf den reinen Altar . . . "

Goethe in the 1780's

Jean-Leon Gerome, The Cock Fight (1846)
Bacchus and Venus

ömische Elegie XI
[English and Spanish translation below]

"Euch, o Grazien, legt die wenigen Blätter ein Dichter
Auf den reinen Altar, Knospen der Rose dazu,
Und er tut es getrost. Der Künstler freuet sich seiner
Werkstatt, wenn sie um ihn immer ein Pantheon scheint.
Jupiter senket die göttliche Stirn, und Juno erhebt sie;
Phöbus schreitet hervor, schüttelt das lockige Haupt;
Trocken schaut Minerva herab und Hermes, der leichte,
Wendet zur Seite den Blick, schalkisch und zärtlich zugleich.
Aber nach Bacchus, dem weichen, dem träumenden, hebet Cythere
Blicke der süßen Begier, selbst in dem Marmor noch feucht.
Seiner Umarmung gedenket sie gern und scheinet zu fragen:
Sollte der herrliche Sohn uns an der Seite nicht stehn?"

Bacchus and Cythera (Venus)
[Rubens, oil on canvas, 1613]

Roman Elegy XI.

THESE few leaves, O ye Graces, a bard presents in your honor,
On your altar so pure, adding sweet rosebuds as well,
And he does it with hope. The artist is glad in his workshop,
When a Pantheon it seems round him forever to bring.
Jupiter knits his godlike brow,—hers, Juno uplifteth;
Phœbus strides on before, shaking his curly-lock’d head;
Calmly and dryly Minerva looks down, and Hermes, the light one,
Turneth his glances aside, roguish and tender at once.
But towards Bacchus, the yielding, the dreaming, raiseth Cythera
Looks both longing and sweet, e’en in the marble yet moist.
Of his embraces she thinks with delight, and seems to be asking:
“Should not our glorious son take up his place by our side?”

Priapus, son of Bacchus and Venus
"our glorious son"
Priapo, hijo de Baco y de Venus
"el hijo esplendido"

Elegia Romana XI

"Para ustedes, oh Gracias, un poeta coloca

algunas hojas sobre el altar puro, y capullos de rosas,

y lo hace confiado. El artista se complace

en su estudio, aunque siempre le parezca un panteón.

Júpiter baja la frente, Juno la levanta.

Febo avanza y sacude su cabeza rizada.

Adusta, observa Minerva, y Hermes, el ligero,

mira de reojo, pícaro y tierno a la vez.

Pero es hacia Baco, el blando, el soñador, hacia quien

eleva la vista Citeres con dulce deseo,

que tiembla incluso en el mármol.

Recuerda sus abrazos con gusto y parece preguntar:

"¿Por qué no está a nuestro lado el hijo espléndido?"

The three Graces (Euphrosyne, Aglealea, Thalia)
Antonio Canova (Hermitage, 1814-17)



Römische Elegien (1790-1795)

"Freue dich also, Lebendger, . . . "

J.H.W. Tischbein, Goethe at the window of his lodgings in Rome (1787)

Römische Elegie X
[English and Spanish translation below]

"Alexander und Cäsar und Heinrich und Friedrich, die Großen,
Gäben die Hälfte mir gern ihres erworbenen Ruhms,
Könnt ich auf eine Nacht dies Lager jedem vergönnen;
Aber die Armen, sie hält strenge des Orkus Gewalt.
Freue dich also, Lebendger, der lieberwärmeten Stätte,
Ehe den fliehenden Fuß schauerlich Lethe dir netzt."

Lethe (Forgetfulness)
Gustave Dore, Illustration for Dante's "Purgatorio"
Dante submerged in the River Lethe

Roman Elegy X

"ALEXANDER, and Cæsar, and Henry, and Frederick, the mighty,
On me would gladly bestow half of the glory they earn’d,
Could I but grant unto each one night on the couch where I’m lying;
But they, by Orcus’s night, sternly, alas! are held down.
Therefore rejoice, O thou living one, bless’d in thy love-lighted homestead,
Ere the dark Lethe’s sad wave wetteth thy fugitive foot."

Alexander, Delos (Louvre)

Elegia Romana X

"Alejandro, César, Enrique y Federico, los grandes,
me darían felices la mitad de la fama que conquistaron,
porque les cediera a cada uno una noche de mi cama.
Pero, pobres, los tiene presos el duro poder del Orco.
Regocíjate pues, tú, viviente, en el cálido sitio del amor,
antes que el lúgubre Leteo atrape tu pie fugitivo."



Römische Elegien (1790-1795)

"Unsre Zufriedenheit bringt keine Gefährde der Welt."

Goethe in Rome (Tischbein, oil on canvas, 1787)

Römische Elegie XII
[English and Spanish translation below]

"Hörest du, Liebchen, das muntre Geschrei den Flaminischen Weg her?
Schnitter sind es; sie ziehn wieder nach Hause zurück,
Weit hinweg. Sie haben des Römers Ernte vollendet,
Der für Ceres den Kranz selber zu flechten verschmäht.
Keine Feste sind mehr der großen Göttin gewidmet,
Die, statt Eicheln, zur Kost goldenen Weizen verlieh.
Laß uns beide das Fest im stillen freudig begehen!
Sind zwei Liebende doch sich ein versammeltes Volk.
Hast du wohl je gehört von jener mystischen Feier,
Die von Eleusis hieher frühe dem Sieger gefolgt?
Griechen stifteten sie, und immer riefen nur Griechen,
Selbst in den Mauern Roms: »Kommt zur geheiligten Nacht!«
Fern entwich der Profane; da bebte der wartende Neuling,
Den ein weißes Gewand, Zeichen der Reinheit, umgab.
Wunderlich irrte darauf der Eingeführte durch Kreise
Seltner Gestalten; im Traum schien er zu wallen: denn hier
Wanden sich Schlangen am Boden umher, verschlossene Kästchen,
Reich mit Ähren umkränzt, trugen hier Mädchen vorbei,
Vielbedeutend gebärdeten sich die Priester und summten;
Ungeduldig und bang harrte der Lehrling auf Licht.
Erst nach mancherlei Proben und Prüfungen ward ihm enthüllet,
Was der geheiligte Kreis seltsam in Bildern verbarg.
Und was war das Geheimnis? als daß Demeter, die große,
Sich gefällig einmal auch einem Helden bequemt,
Als sie Jasion einst, dem rüstigen König der Kreter,
Ihres unsterblichen Leibs holdes Verborgne gegönnt.
Das war Kreta beglückt! das Hochzeitsbette der Göttin
Schwoll von Ähren, und reich drückte den Acker die Saat.
Aber die übrige Welt verschmachtete; denn es versäumte
Über der Liebe Genuß Ceres den schönen Beruf.
Voll Erstaunen vernahm der Eingeweihte das Märchen,
Winkte der Liebsten — Verstehst du nun, Geliebte, den Wink?
Jene buschige Myrte beschattet ein heiliges Plätzchen!
Unsre Zufriedenheit bringt keine Gefährde der Welt."


Roman Elegy XII

"Do you hear, beloved: that shouting in the Via Flaminia?
It is the reapers, on their way back to their country and their homes
Far from here, having finished the harvest for them, for the Romans,
Who disdain to wind garlands for Ceres themselves.
Festivals now no more are devoted to her, the great goddess,
Giver of golden corn, rather than acorns, for fare.
Let the two of us honor that feast-day, rejoicing in private.
Lovers, at least to themselves, being a nation conjoined.
Have you heard, perhaps, of that mystical celebration
Which from Eleusis once followed a victor to Rome?
Hellenes founded the rite; and henceforth it has always been Hellenes,
Even in Rome, who called out: “Come into sanctified night!”
Those profane crept away: the expectant novice, though, trembled,
Wrapped in a garment whose white signified pureness unstained.
Weirdly then the initiate wandered around, within circles
Formed of strange shapes, in a dream seemed to be moving: for here
Serpents wriggled about, a procession of serious virgins
Carried caskets all locked, garnished with ears of ripe corn.
While, impatient and awed, novices waited for light.
Not before many trials and tests were they finally granted
Clues to the hallowed round’s secret and curious signs.
What did the mystery mean, then? No more than this, that Demeter,
Great though she was, did once yield to a hero’s desires,
When to Iasion long since, a vigorous king of the Cretans,
All her body’s occult, inmost delights she vouchsafed.
Overjoyed was all Crete then. The marriage bed of the goddess
Swelled with new growth, and the corn lushly weighed down all the fields,
Yet the rest of the world suffered famine; because in her transports
Ceres completely forgot cares her high calling imposed.
Full of amazement each novice heard the incredible story,
Winked at his lover. – Do you understand, beloved, that wink?
It’s a hallowed small place that bushy-leafed myrtle-tree shadows!
Our contentedness harms no one, endangers no world."

Ceres (Watteau, oil on canvas, 1712)

Elegia Romana XII

¿Escuchas, amada, la alegre gritería en la Vía Flaminia?
Son segadores, regresan al hogar lejano.
Han terminado
la cosecha del romano,
quien ya ni la propia corona
de Ceres quiere tejer;
ya no celebra fiesta alguna
en honor de la gran diosa,
ella, que por alimento,
en lugar de bellotas, concede dorado trigo.
¡Celebremos ambos la fiesta en silencioso regocijo!
Pues dos amantes son toda una multitud.
¿Has oído alguna vez de esa feria mística
que seguía
en la antigüedad al vencedor desde Eleusis?
Los griegos la fundaron, y siempre eran únicamente los griegos,
aun dentro de los muros de Roma,

quienes gritaban: "¡Vengan a la noche sagrada!"
El profano se alejaba; temblaba de expectación el neófito,
en su túnica blanca, símbolo de pureza.
Maravillado iba errante el iniciado
entre círculos
de raras figuras, le parecía deambular en sueños;
por el suelo, en torno, se arrastraban las serpientes;
las doncellas portaban cerrados cofrecillos coronados con muchas espigas.
Los sacerdotes hacían gestos
y zumbidos de muchos significados.
y temeroso suspiraba el neófito por la Luz.
Sólo después de muchas pruebas y exámenes
a descifrar el significado de las pinturas extrañas en el círculo santo.
Y lo que era el secreto:

la gran Démeter, se enamoró alguna vez de un héroe.
Y le entregó a Yasión, el rey vigoroso de Creta,
la gracia oculta de su cuerpo inmortal.
¡Oh Creta
¡Oh, el lecho nupcial de la diosa,
rebosante de espigas!
se volvieron fértiles
los campos de la ciudad.
Pero el resto del mundo
por no rendir precioso culto a la bella
y placentera Ceres.
Lleno de asombro el iniciado
escuchaba el mito
e hizo un guiño a la amada:
"¿Lo entiendes ahora?
¡Esos mirtos frondosos
ocultan un lugar sagrado!
Nuestra felicidad no le hace
ningún daño al mundo."

Via Flaminia, in an Eighteenth Century print.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


V. The Kranichfelds

The family of my mother’s mother was also an immigrant family, but it is hard to think of my great-grandfather Ernst Krannichfeldt (1868-1941) as an immigrant, because he arrived in Buenos Aires in his own private yacht.

Ernst Krannichfeldt (1868-1941)

Although from a family that traces its background to the Crusaders of the German Middle Ages, he was actually born in the province of Rio Grande do Sul, in Brazil. His father, Friedrich Ernst Krannichfeldt, or Kranichfeld, was born in Hamburg in 1826. He was German Consul in Brazil and a banker in Rio Grande. During one of his trips back to Germany, he married a much younger woman, Johanna Clementine Reinstädter (1845-1906) and with her had two children, both born in Brazil, Oscar, and Ernst, my great-grandfather. Oscar became the founder of the present European branch of the family, and Ernst, of that of the Argentinean family of which I am a part.

Friedrich Kranichfeld committed suicide at the age of forty three, in 1869, as a result of the failure of his Brazilian bank. Johanna went back to Köln, her native city, and raised the two boys there with the help of her Reinstädter relatives.

As I say above, the Kranichfelds are an ancient Thuringian family whose genealogy can be traced without difficulty to the twelfth century. The name literally signifies “the field of Cranes.” Their name derives from a lordship situated in the valley of the river Ilm, south of the city of Weimar in Central Germany and surrounded by the forested hills of Thuringia. The town of Kranichfeld is crowned by a medieval castle, the Upper Lordship (Oberschloss), which is now a ruin.

Kranichfeld, Oberschloss

The first ancestor of whom I have notice was Wolfer I von Kranichfeld, who died in the year 1140. In that year, the patronym is first recorded by mention of his two sons, Wolfer II and Siegfried, in a deed of gift (Schenkungsurkunde) found among the ruins of the monastery of Georgenthal (Kloster Georgenthal). In 1172, the family split in two between Wolfer III and his brother, Ludger I, at which time the latter founded the Lower Lordship (Niederburg), adjacent to the town of Kranichfeld, and still extant, but both branches retained the same heraldry: argent, a crane, vigilant, or, with the devise “Vigilia (for the crane vigilant, standing on one leg and holding a stone) et labore.”

Kranichfeld coat of arms

Kranichfeld, Nieder
burg or Unter Schloss

Thuringia had come under the rule of the Merovingian kings in the sixth century, and became a frontier, or a march, against the Saxons, who were not fully subdued and conquered by the Franks until the time of Charlemagne, at the beginning of the ninth century. After their conquest by the Merovingian Franks, the Thuringii were governed by appointed Frankish duces (dukes) and comites (counts), which remained the basic administrative structure of the region until well into the Carolingian period. However, rebellion among the Thuringii was endemic. By the late seventh century, they had established themselves as an independent state once again under their chieftain Radulf, and certain parts of their realm, particularly in the unstable region along the river Unstrut, came under the rule of the Saxons. Constant warfare had weakened royal power, while the aristocracy of the duces had made great gains and procured enormous concessions from the kings in return for their support. These concessions saw the very considerable power of the weakened Merovingian kings parceled out and retained by the leading comites and duces. The northern frontier of Thuringia, on the Unstrut and Saale rivers, bordering on the Saxon plain in the north, was hence an area of great instability. Its central location in Germania, or Austrasie, as that part of the Carolingian empire came to be known, was the reason it became the point d'appui of Boniface's Christianizing mission work. Christianity spread through Thuringia, and from thence east, during the eighth century.

The Frankish conquerors, spreading out far and wide from their homeland between the Meuse and the Moselle, sought to obliterate the independence of the conquered peoples. But in the eastern, or German provinces, there was no suitable administrative machinery, such as in the west, which could be taken over and adapted to Frankish needs and interests; here, new counts (comites) were appointed by the conquering army, and these Frankish counts were themselves the agents through whom a new framework of administration had for the fist time to be established. The very circumstances in which they were appointed differentiated these counts from their peers in the West. The count was a royal commissioner appointed to enforce and maintain Frankish rule over a conquered people; his essential task was to watch over the interests of his master, the Frankish king, and his functions were primarily political. This new layer of administration gradually replaced a popular form of self government, in which an elected thunginus (or ‘thing-man’ ‘Dings-mann’) directed the affairs of the Gau, a system that had persisted for some generations after the Frankish conquest.

Frankish Counts

It is among this class of comites, counts and vassals of the Frankish king (vassi dominici) that I believe the Kranichfeld family, and its dominions on the Ilm river, have their origin. The Ilm is a tributary of the Saale, and the Saale meets the Unstrut river near Naumburg, about 94 miles north-east of Weimar. This corner of Thuringia, therefore, was the heartland of the unstable frontier with the Saxons since the original Merovingian conquest, and it is reasonable to infer that the knights (Freiherren und Ritter) von Kranichfeld were originally Frankish counts appointed by the conquerors to supervise and control the border region.

The deed of gift (Schenkungsurkunde) found among the ruins of the monastery of Georgenthal (Kloster Georgenthal), south of the city of Gotha, first records the names of two Kranichfelds, which appear as witnesses. A notice in an old Ilmenau newspaper reads as follows:

In einer Schenkungsurkunde des Klosters Georgental treten die Herren “Volrad und Siegfried von Cranechfelt” als Zeugen auf. Mit grosser Wahrscheinlichkeit sind sie ursprünglich fränkische Kolonisatoren gewesen, die ihren Namen den damals in der Ilmaue rastende Kranichen entlehnten.” [In a deed of gift from the monastery of Georgenthal, there appear the Lords “Volrad and Siegfried von Cranechfelt” as witnesses. With great likelihood these are originally Frankish colonizers whose names were borrowed from the resting cranes of the river Ilm].

Ruins of Kloster Georgenthal in the Thüringer Wald

This notice is undated, but it is quite likely that these two witnesses mentioned in the deed of gift, Volrad and Siegfried, are the brothers of Wolfer II: Volrad I (who died unmarried in 1166) and Siegfried, whose name is recorded in 1140 and 1152, Knight and Lord of Kranichfeld, all sons of Wolfer I.

The sons of Wolfer II von Kranichfeld, Wolfer III (died in 1218) and Ludger I (died 1186), divided the township in two. This quarrel between Ludger and Wolfer, which is recorded historically, is probably the reason why records were kept henceforth of the birth and death dates of the family, as the consequences of their division affected the lives and property titles of the community thereafter. In turn, this division in the Kranichfeld realm coincided roughly with the demise of Thuringia as an independent realm. By the marriage, in 1194, of Jutta, daughter of Landgraf Hermann von Thüringen, to Dietrich von Wettin, Markgraf von Meissen, Thuringia became a part of the ruling dynasty of Saxony, the House of Wettin, until the twentieth century. The Thuringian duchy of pre-Carolingian times had never been revived, although some beginnings of Thuringian autonomy were evident at the end of the ninth century. The last mention of a dux Thuringorum occurred in 908; thereafter Thuringia tended increasingly to be absorbed into the sphere of Saxony. But the region officially became entitled to the Saxon kings only after this marriage.

In the interim, the family of Kranichfeld held on to their estates as lords of Ober Kranichfeld and Unter Kranichfeld throughout the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. The record indicates that many of these lords became bishops, others provosts and canons of Halberstadt and Naumburg, and some of the female members of the family were abbesses or prioresses at the monasteries of Quedlinburg, Ilmenau and Paulinzella, the latter now in ruins. Thus, Cunigundis von Kranichfeld, sister of Meinhard I von Kranichfeld, Bishop of Halberstadt (1245-1259), was abbess of Quedlinburg until her death in 1231, and the sister of Meinhard II, who was himself provost of Halberstadt cathedral (d. 1290), Gutta von Kranichfeld, was also abbess of Quedlinburg until her death in 1310. Volrad IV von Kranichfeld was also Bishop of Halberstadt, from 1260 to 1292.

Cunigundis von Kranichfeld, Abbess of Quedlinburg
Seal of the Abbess, in the Archives of the Quedlinburg Abbey.

Jutta von Kranichfeld, Abbess of Quedlinburg
Seal of the Abbess, in the Archives of the Quedlinburg Abbey.

Volrad IV von Kranichfeld, Bishop of Halberstadt (1260 to 1292)

Meinhard I von Kranichfeld, Bishop of Halberstadt (1245-1259)

The main line of the Kranichfeld family lost its patrimony and became extinct by the middle of the fourteenth century. The record indicates there was turmoil in the region throughout the century. Starting in 1335, the Kranichfelds were at war with the city of Erfurt. Volrad IX von Kranichfeld, the last lord of Kranichfeld of the main line, was besieged in his castle, and the town of Kranichfeld was burned to the ground. On his death in 1389, the estates of both the Upper and the Lower Lordship, previously reunited under Volrad VIII, came through his granddaughter and sole heir, Margaretha, into the possession of Burgrave Albert III von Kirchberg, who, in turn, would later dispose of the Upper Lordship in 1451 and 1453 to his relative, count Heinrich von Reuss (Younger Line), lord of Plauen in Vogtland. But prior to his death, Volrad IX had to pawn his part of the lordship for “1,000 threescore Prague pence” to pay for the dowry of his sister Sophia von Kirchberg, and was forced into financial straits. The land was pawned to the Counts von Schwarzburg. Thereafter, the main line became extinct and the family moved to Erfurt, where they became retainers of the Counts von Schwarzburg-Sondershausen, a dynasty that ruled the region as an independent state until World War I.

In the Kranichfeld genealogy that I have in my possession, the story of Volrad IX, the last lord of Kranichfeld, is told a little differently. There it says that Volrad pawned the estate to the Counts von Schwarzburg for “1,000 Schock Groschen” (an ancient German currency) due to the fact that he had become senile (“offenbar altersschwach!”).

Frans van Cranevelt (1485-1564) (Stone medal, Leiden, Rijkmuseum)

Recently (1997), a collection of letters, dated 1519-1522, from Sir Thomas More, Chancellor of England, to our ancestor from a Netherlands branch of the family, Frans van Cranevelt, or Craneveldius, (1485-1564), was found and published in Louvain. [Morus ad Craneveldium - More to Cranevelt: New Badouin Letters, Leuven University Press, 1997]. This has made it possible to trace the subsequent history of the titleless members of the family. The titleless name of Kranichfeld (Cranichfeld, Krannichfeldt) is documented at the city of Erfurt until the eighteenth century, cp. Katalog der fürstlich Stolberg-Stolberg’schen Leichenpredigten-Sammlung, Bd. II, Leipzig, 1928 [-30]. S. 550. There is a xerox copy of a MS pedigree at Kranichfeld Upper Castle, drawn up in 1866 (with later additions up to 1883) by Theodor Kranichfeld in a neat late 19th century hand and compiled from the archives of the lords of Kranichfeld, from a pedigree “ab Anno 1275” said (in the MS) to have been first compiled by Wilhelm Heinrich Kranichfeld (b. 1575; d. 1630), vide his Funeral Oration (Library at Gotha). Wilhelm Heinrich was a great-great-great-grandson of that Guenther von Kranichfeld who (like his father Volrad [X]) had to serve as eques (Ritter) void of his ancestral lordship. See also Otto Dobenecker, Regesta diplomatica neenon epistolaria historiae Thuringiae, 4 vols., Jena, 1895-1939, passim.

After the death of Volrad IX, known as “the last lord of Kranichfeld of the main line,” in 1389, his son Volrad X (died 1310) and his grandson Günther (died in 1353), void of their patrimony (“des väterlichen Erbes bar Kranichfeld MS.), had to devote themselves to military service as equites, or Knights. At this point, the MS pedigree no longer shows the names of brothers or sisters. However, the editors of the Baudouin Letters of More to Craneveldt have traced the lineage of the Netherlands branch of the family to the Knight Volrad X von Kranichfeld, who died in 1353, or to a possible brother of his, Johann von Kranichfeld who served as a knight of the Empress Margaretha of Wittelsbach. After the death in 1313 of the Roman emperor Henry VII, the Luxembourg faction in the college of electors voted in Ludwig IV “the Bavarian” (1314-1347, of the house of Wittelsbach) as anti-king, while the Hapsburg faction promoted Friedrich the Fair (1314-1330, of Hapsburg) as anti-king. Struggles for the succession followed, eventually settled by Ludwig’s victory at Mühldorf-am-Inn in 1322. In order to stabilize his domestic power, the King enfeoffed his son Ludwig V to the holding of Brandenburg and married him in 1342 to the heiress of the Tyrol. In 1340, Ludwig IV inherited Lower Bavaria. Married for a second time, in 1324, to Margaretha, daughter of count Willem III of Holland, Friesland, Zeeland and Hainaut, Ludwig the Bavarian also obtained his wife’s paternal legacy in the Netherlands and enfeoffed her to her inheritance. When Margaretha returned to her native country in March 1346, after her husband’s death, it is recorded that a Johann von Kranichfeld followed her there, settled in the Netherlands, and founded the Netherlandish branch of the Van Cranevelts.

From Ritter Günther von Kranichfeld, born in 1353, to the next recorded Kranichfeld in the titleless line of the MS pedigree, Benedictus I, who was born in 1400, there is a gap of fifty years. But more significantly, Benedictus is no longer described as a Knight, but as Ratsherr (Councilman) of the cities of Gotha and Erfurt. From the beginning of the fifteenth century onward, the titleless members of the Kranichfeld family have been closely associated with the government of towns, cities and lands generally under the hegemony of the Counts von Schwarzburg-Sondershausen, particularly the cities of Gotha, Erfurt and Arnstadt. Thus, Benedictus Kranichfeld Senior (b. 1400) was Ratsherr (Councilman) for the cities of Gotha and Erfurt; Benedictus Junior (b. 1436) was Ratsherr and Bürgermeister (Mayor) of Gotha; Johannes Junior (b. 1467), Ratsbaumeister (Councilman and Master-Builder) for the city of Erfurt; Petrus (b. 1498) was Ratsherr and Bürgermeister (Mayor) of the city of Arnstadt. This Petrus became an Evangelical Protestant in 1529 and was responsible for driving out the monks of the city of Arnstadt in 1539. Later, Sebastian Kranichfeld was Ratsherr (Councilman) and Kämmerer (Chamberlain) of the Monastery at Paulinzella, also within the dominions of the Counts von Schwarzburg-Sondershausen.

Monastery ruins at Paulinzella in Thüringen

Paulinzella, where Sebastian Kranichfeld was Kämmerer in the 1590’s

Rudolph Kranichfeld (1574-1637), who was born only ten years after the death of the humanist intellectual Frans van Cranevelt, is the first one in the family MS pedigree who is described as Handelsherr (Tradesman) doing business in the city of Erfurt. Thereafter, and throughout the seventeenth century, the family seems to have remained rooted primarily in Erfurt, and drawn to secular vocations, such as Consuls, Businessmen, and Public Notaries. Thus Wolfgang Rudolph (b. 1620) was Consulent, Notarius Publicus and Juris Practicus in the city of Erfurt; Hieronimus Rudolph (b. 1667) was a tradesman (Handelsherr) in Erfurt; Johann Cristoph (b. 1713) was also a tradesman (Handelsherr) in Erfurt, where he died in 1756. His son, Friederich Rudolph, was to be the first Hohenfeldner Kranichfeld, and the first recorded Minister of the Lutheran Church in the family. He was also a contemporary of Goethe.

Pastor Friedrich Rudolph Kranichfeld (1756-1805)

Frau Pastor Kranichfeld, Hohenfelden, 1836

Friedrich Rudolph Kranichfeld is a direct ancestor. He was born in Erfurt in 1756 and died in Hohenfelden in 1805. He was a Pfarrer (Minister of the Lutheran Church) at Hohenfelden, a small town located only a few miles north-west of Kranichfeld, in the Thüringer Wald region of Sachse-Weimar. The old school-house and the parish house of Hohenfelden are now a local museum.

Altes Pfarrhaus Hohenfelden

But the intriguing interlude of the Kranichfelds in the Hohenfelden Pfarrhof was not to last very long. Friedrich Johann Anton Kranichfeld, third son of Friedrich Rudolph, was born in Hohenfelden in 1788, but died in Hamburg in 1860, the Hamburg where Schopenhauer worked for a while as a businessman in his father's trading house, in the early 1800's. Friedrich Johann was also a tradesman (Handelsherr) in Hamburg, and was probably connected to the South American interests of that port city. He was first married to Natalie Jacobi (1806-1823),

Natalie Kranichfeld, geborene Jacobi (1806-1823)

a native of the small town of Hettstedt [Lichtstedt?] near Rudolstadt, also in the vicinity of Hohenfelden, in the Thüringer Wald. Natalie, whose beautiful portrait is in the possession of Frank Sperling in Noordwijk, did not survive her honeymoon, and died at the age of seventeen as a result of pneumonia. It is said that she caught cold at a ball during the couple’s honeymoon. Friedrich Johann then married Frederike Henriette Kirchheim (1802-1860), and had seven children by her.

Their second son, Friedrich Ernst Kranichfeld, was born in Hamburg in 1826 and died in Rio Grande do Sul, by his own hand, on August 29, 1869. He was German Consul in the Province and owned a Bank there. When his business went bankrupt, he committed suicide, leaving two sons behind, Johann Friedrich Oscar (b. October 7, 1865, died September 6, 1931 in Berlin), who was the founder of the European branch of our family, and my great-grandfather, Ernst Ludwig Maria, who was born on January 12, 1868 and died in Buenos Aires on May 17, 1941.

The young Friedrich Ernst Kranichfeld (1826-1869)

German immigration to Brazil began in 1824, shortly after Brazil won independence from Portugal -- as a result of Brazilian Emperor Dom Pedro I's (1798-1834) need to populate uninhabited regions of the huge country. Such regions were being disputed with neighboring countries, Argentina and Paraguay. Uruguay was just becoming independent. Those countries were by then former Spanish colonies, as all of South America was becoming independent, and all of them were interested in receiving European knowledge, expertise and labor.

Some Brazilian states received higher inflows of Germans than others. Such was the case in Rio Grande do Sul, where the first wave of immigrants was settled in the 1820s. In 1827, a group of Germans migrated to Brazil from the region of Trier. This was the first official German migration to Brazil. Part of this group (mainly Catholic married men) came to the farm called "Fazenda Guarei," which is today a small town in the state of São Paulo called Guarei. These Germans are considered the founders of Guarei. A second wave went to Santa Catarina in the 1850s, but also to Rio de Janeiro, in smaller number, mainly to a city called Petropolis, where the Emperor Dom Pedro II's summer house (nowadays the Imperial Museum) was located. Other German immigration waves occurred in the 1890s, as well as after the First and Second World War. The latter emigres were not necessarily only refugees, but also people who were tired of the war. They had different destinations: to the states of Sao Paulo, to Paraná, and to the other Brazilian states.

Graf Zeppelin over Porto Alegre, 1934

In the wake of the agriculturalist immigrants, mostly farmers and men of rural stock, came the professionals and businessmen to serve the burgeoning foreign communities. The waves of immigrants headed to Brazil were organized by shipping companies which were part of the recruiting and organizing process by which these men and women were transported and placed in the foreign locations. The bulk of the Brazilian immigration originated in the port of Hamburg, and it therefore quite likely that the idea to start a business career in Porto Alegre, in the province of Rio Grande do Sul, awakened in the mind of Friedrich Ernst Kranichfeld from a consciousness of the activities that were taking place all around him at the harbor, in this busy migratory movement towards the South American continent. Upon arrival in Porto Alegre, he would start out on a venture of business and professional activities and relationships that resulted in his becoming German Consul in the city, and a local banker of repute.

Friedrich Ernst Kranichfeld (1826-1869)

An English traveler, on a trip from Rio Grande do Sul to Porto Alegre by steam-boat on the Lagoa dos Patos, relates, in 1873: “Our passengers on board are mostly Germans, for Porto Alegre is in a manner a German settlement, the first colony having been fixed there in 1825, and now there are 60,000 Germans in the province. They never think of returning to Europe, but become, like the Irish in North America or Buenos Ayres, permanent settlers in their adopted home. Still they preserve the warmest recollections of the Fatherland, and in language, sentiment, and traditions are as true to their native country as if only travelers in a strange land. As the sun was setting behind the Pelotas range, one of the passengers struck up the ‘Wacht am Rhein,’ and the broad waters of the lake echoed to the chorus –

Fest steht und treu
Die Wacht am Rhein.

Memories of the Fatherland, traditions of the Rhine, stories from the recent battle-fields whiled away the hours of twilight, and the ‘young May moon’ was far on her midnight course ere we retired to sleep. Before sunrise I was again on deck to see the panorama of Itapoa, where the estuary of Guayiba communicates with the great lake. . . . The city [of Porto Alegre] has double the population of Rio Grande, probably 40,000 inhabitants, several fine shops, a splendid theatre, treasury, town hall, arsenal, college, &c. The Brazilian and Portuguese hospitals, German clubs, cathedral, plazas &c. are also very fine. The water supply is admirable; fountains play in the streets, and every house has a pipe-water service, by mains brought six miles from the mountains, and laid down in 1805 by a French contractor. . . . Delightful country-houses surround the city . . . . The wonder of the province are the German colonies, . . . [which] have converted virgin forests into waving corn-fields, interspersed with neat farm-houses and all the appliances of agricultural life . . . [In Porto Alegre] there are three newspapers published in German, and the advancement of the country is mainly due to these industrious settlers. Even the negroes often talk German; in fact it is a German principality in the heart of the Brazilian Empire.” Michael George Mulhall, Rio Grande do Sul and Its German Colonies, London, 1873, pp. 52-53 and 57.

Friedrich Ernst Kranichfeld changed his name to Krannichfeldt. He married Johanna Clementine Reinstädter, who was born in Köln in 1845 and died in Berlin in 1906. After the death of her husband in Rio Grande, she returned to Germany with her two young boys, Johann Friedrich Oscar (born October 7, 1865, died September 6, 1931 in Berlin), who was the founder of the European branch of our family, and my great-grandfather, Ernst Ludwig Maria, who was born on January 12, 1868 and died in Buenos Aires on May 17, 1941.

Johanna Clementine Reinstädter with her boys, Oscar (left) and Ernst.

Ernst Ludwig Kranichfeld is the founder of the Kranichfeld family in Argentina, my maternal grandmother’s father, and the last of the immigrants whose histories I have related in this first part of this Chronicle. Below is a photograph of his family taken in the Berlin Tiergarten on the occasion of their visit to Germany in 1914.

The Argentinean Kranichfelds in Berlin, in 1914. My grandmother is the first one on the left. To her left are her sister Ester and her mother, Clara Devitt de Kranichfeld, and father, Ernst, on the far right of the photo. The two boys in front are Ernesto, on the left, and Alfredo on the right.