Short History of Suevia (Swabia)
Compiled by Harald Pleiner
Swabia (German Schwaben, Latin Suevia), with its (former) capital at Augsburg, was a medieval duchy in the lands now forming southwestern Germany. Its territories covered the area now occupied by Baden-Württemberg (including the Black Forest) and parts of western Bavaria (to the Lech River) and northern Switzerland. It owes its importance to its strategic position between the upper reaches of two of Europe's most important rivers, the Danube and the Rhine. The region was first known to the Romans as Alemannia because at the time its settlers were the Germanic tribe of Alamans (or Alemanni). When the Romans began to conquer the area, it was incorporated as part of the Agri Decumates. It later received its present name from later German migrants, the Suevi, who became amalgamated with the Alemanni in the 5th century AD. For a detailed description of the Roman occupation of southwestern Germany and its ending see B. Hummel's page.
These Suevi are probably actually best thought of as a collective group of a number of German tribes (including the Marcomanni and Lombards), which are mentioned in the 1st century BC by Gaius Julius Caesar as dwelling east of the Rhine River. The Roman historian Cornelius Tacitus (1st century AD) described them as inhabiting all of central Germany. One group of Suevi, allied with the Vandals and the Alans, swept down on the Iberian Peninsula in AD 407, conquered it from the Hispano-Romans living there, and apportioned out the territory. As a result, by 411 the Suevi were established in present-day northern Portugal and Galicia, and by 452, in Castile. They adopted Catholic Christianity and ruled until 469 when they were subjugated by the Visigoths, who had been co-opted by the rulers at Rome. The Suevi, and Alemanni, who remained in Germany are the ancestors of the medieval Swabians. The name is also spelled Suebi.
AD 500 - 1000
Around AD 500, Alemannia came under the control of the waxing Frankish Empire. But its ruling house, the Merovingians, were not strong and by 689 Swabia was virtually independent. It was brought back under control in the 730's and 740's by Charles Martel, founder of the Carolingian Dynasty, who deposed the hereditary dukes of Swabia and subdivided it to be ruled by counts reporting directly to him. This situation continued until the 9th century and the dissolution of the Empire under the grandsons of Charles the Great (Karl der Große, Charlemagne). Between 900-11, largely because the central royal authority failed to stem the tide of invading Magyars (Hungarians) and Normans, the Alemannians were able to become an independent "stem-duchy", organized around the people of an historic tribe like those of the Bavarians, Franks, Saxons and Thuringians.
As in all the duchies, the dukes were those who proved they could meet the military demands of those anarchic times. The first duke's family were known by the sobriquet dux Raetianorum, i.e. defenders of the Alpine passes of Switzerland, reflecting their role as military leaders and organizers. During this period, Swabia controlled not only parts of Switzerland, but lands west of the Rhine River, i.e. including the Alsace (where the Alemannic-based Alsatian dialect is still alive).
Alemannia's forces raised its commander, Erchanger, to the dukedom in 915, after his forces defeated the German king Conrad I. When Erchanger was defeated and executed in 917, he was replaced by Burchard II, who had strong enough backing to actually have made a play for the monarchy. Instead, he decided to accept the choice of Henry I of Saxony made by the dying King Conrad I. In 919, Burchard was faced with the challenge of invasion by Rudolf I, king of Burgundy. Alemannia successfully repulsed the invaders and the peace that followed was sealed by the marriage of Rudolf and Burchard's daughter. The two formed an alliance and began expeditions to conquest in Italy about 922. When four years later Burchard died during one of them, his ally Rudolf pressed his claim to Alemannia through marriage. However, Henry was unwilling to see Alemannia alienated from the kingdom and instead appointed as duke, Hermann, cousin of Eberhard who hailed from Franconia. Hermann showed his gratitude in 919 by saving the fortunes of the king during the Saxon Revolt. But his installation had inaugurated a regular trend between 926 and 1080, only one duke was Alemannic, all the rest were either Franks or Saxons.
Meanwhile, to assuage Rudolf's ambitions, the town of Basel (Basle, Bâle) was severed from Swabia and given to Burgundy. In gratitude, Rudolf presented Henry with an artifact recovered from Italy - the Holy Lance, an important symbol of the inheritance of Constantine. But Swabia, as it now began to be called, still managed to be sovereign enough to pursue its own foreign policy. Liudolf became duke in 949, succeeding Hermann by marrying his daughter. In 951, Liudolf crossed the Alps, ostensibly to champion Adelaide of Burgundy, but in reality to take advantage of Italian weakness to expand his realm. He was pre-empted in this when the king, Otto I, himself invaded the region, secured the crown of Lombardy and married Adelaide. The duke, who was Otto's son, transformed his disappointment into first a conspiracy in 952 and in 953 an open revolt which could not be quashed until 955. Only following this did Otto feel strong and secure enough to go to Rome and become the first German king to be crowned by the pope as a nominal emperor. Another of the Burchards took over in 954. After Burchard died, Otto II appointed Liudolf's son Otto to succeed him.
AD 1000 - 1500
Swabia showed its strength yet again in 1027 when Duke Ernst of Swabia revolted against Conrad III. The king countered by allying with the counts in Swabia and thus quickly ended the episode. By 1039, Swabia was one of four duchies in the king's hands. From 1077-1080, Germany was roiled by the Investiture Contest, a competition between king and pope, which left local lords unchecked and free to engage in a massive land and property grab, especially regarding monasteries. The duke of Swabia, Rudolf, was even elected the anti-king during this time, but never gained widespread acceptance.
Following the Contest, true feudalism sprang up in the form of castle building all over Swabia and the rest of Germany. One of the most prominent was its duke, Frederick of Staufen, or Hohenstaufen. The Hohenstaufen family were very powerful and provided Swabia with its most illustrious dukes. Thus when King Henry IV was seeking supporters during the civil wars, Frederick was a natural choice to marry his daughter. When Henry's dynastic line failed in 1138, Frederick actually vaulted to the kingship, which the family held until 1250 (see Frederick II). Meanwhile, Frederick, now called Friedrich I Barbarossa, continued to build up Swabia to strengthen his position against the still-powerful dukes such as Henry the Lion, a practice which brought him into some conflict with the Bertolds.
After the Staufens, the Bertolds were the most prominent family of castle builders in Swabia. This family drew their early power and tax base from their control of monasteries, which they founded in the hitherto-uninhabited Black Forest. Once developed by monks, it began to be colonized and towns laid out, including Freiburg-im-Breisgau, founded by Conrad Bertold in 1120. By then, the castle had become so important that their owners began to name themselves after them, so it is as Conrad von Zähringen that Conrad appears in the records.
But as the castles went up, the duchies went down under this wave of particularism. After the Hohenstaufens fell out of power, Swabia was given to King Conrad III's son. After his death, it returned to the crown and was put in control of ministerials, a non-noble class of civil servants. The idea was that such men would be more tractable and less likely to alienate the fief from the crown out of their own greed. It is perhaps a recognition of the lesser power of the ministeriales that at the same time, the Zähringen family was also restricted in 1169 in terms of their activities in Burgundy. When the Hohenstaufen line entirely failed in 1268, it signaled the breakup of Swabia as a political unit as various portions were snapped up by families which were to play important roles in Germany's future: Zähringen, Habsburg and Hohenzollern.
Eventually, the margraves of Baden, located along the Rhine River and those of Württemberg, centered at Stuttgart (also Stuegart, Stuggart, a Swabian word meaning "Stuten garten" or Mare's Corral) became dominant. The idea of Swabia was not lost, however, and in 1376, 14 cities, for their own protection, organized themselves into the Swabian League of Cities. The League grew to eventually include over 32 cities from Basle in the west to Regensburg in the east, from Constance in the south to Nürnberg (Nuremberg) in the North. In 1488, a new grouping, now simply styled "Swabian League" was formed by these cities, the larger principalities and even individual knights, for the purpose of maintaining internal stability. When in the 16th century, the Holy Roman Empire began to organize around the Kreis, literally, "circle", these states called themselves the Swabian Kreis. The Kreis, more properly the Reichskreis or Imperial Circle, was an area similar to an English county within the larger whole. (The term originally originally referred to a a lined-off place were a battle was to take place. Within such a ring, different rules applied as compared with the outside of the ring.) The Kreis designated the Swabian Kreis comprised all of the inheritor Swabian states.
Soon after it completes its descent from the Alps, the Rhine River broadens and forms Lake Constance before continuing its 820-mile route to the North Sea. Measuring 40 miles in length and 8.5 miles in width, Lake Constance covers 220 square miles, making it central Europe’s second largest freshwater lake. Lake Constance, which also is known as Bodensee, is bordered by three countries: Austria, Germany, and Switzerland.
About 2.2 million people live in the watershed of Lake Constance, which extends over 4,825 square miles. To the south rise the Swiss and Austrian Alps. To the north are the rolling hills of southern Germany.
Like the Mono Basin in California, the watershed of Lake Constance has experienced the birth of mountains, the sculpting grind of glaciers, volcanic eruptions, as well as the flood of waters from glaciers melting in a warming atmosphere. About 5,000 years ago, the glaciers of the Rhine withdrew, leaving behind rolling hills of rubble. As the climate continued to warm, forests spread.
The shallow waters and marshes along the perimeter of Lake Constance play a critical role in the lives of the 250,000 waterfowl and shorebirds that winter or nest there. In the shallow water zone that makes up only 14 percent of the lake’s surface, these birds find the water plants, mussels, and other organisms that they depend upon for food. The annual drop in the lake’s level also exposes lake bottom in which ducks forage for food during the fall.
Remaining reed marshes offer nesting and roosting areas for several threatened species of birds, including the common snipe (Gallinago gallinago). These areas not only provide critical habitat for threatened animals but also clean water running from the land before it enters the lake. In protected areas landward of the water there blossom such plants as Siberian lilies (Iris sibirica) and many kinds of orchids, as well as some threatened species such as the Lake Constance forget-me-not.
Some threatened species of birds, such as the cormorant (Phallacrocorax carbo) and several species of ducks, overwinter or rest at Lake Constance on their migration from Siberia and Scandinavia to Asia. Several species of grebe and loon, such as the arctic loon (Gavia arctica) overwinter in greater numbers at Lake Constance than anywhere else in Germany.
The shores of the lake were settled as long ago as 8,000 years. Early lakedwellers erected houses on stilts at the water’s edge. By the 17th and 18th centuries, the region had become famous for its fruit orchards and vineyards. Many people also made a living from fishing, and some continue to do so. More than 30 species of fish inhabit the lake.
|The Benedictine Abbey of Reichenau||
In 724 the monastery was founded on the Reichenau Island in Lake Constance by the itinerant bishop Pirmin - apparently with the support of, among others, the Franconian major-domo Karl Martell. The Benedictine monk settled there with 40 fellow-believers, however moved on again after only three years. His successors developed a flourishing monastery from this basic group among the Carolingians, which produced important abbots with connections to the highest sovereigns of the age.
The monastery became an important stimulator for European civilization and grew to the religious and spiritual-cultural center of Europe. It was here, for example, that the famous monastery plan of St. Gall was drafted, a catalog of rules for monastery construction and one of the most important documents of Western monasticism. The monastery's abbots acted as government officials at the Court, as the educators of princes, diplomats and envoys of the Emperor.
The most important abbots of the monastery include Waldo, who traveled through Italy for Karl the Great, Heito I (806-822), Bishop of Basel and friend to Karl the Great and Wahlafried Strabo (838/842-849), a scholar and poet, who was also a teacher at the Court in Aachen. A herb garden, which grows on the same site as Wahlafried's own herb garden once grew in 840, still reminds us of him today.
In the 10th and 11th century the Abbey was the seat of a famous school of book illustration, the works of which can still be found today in the world's major libraries. The monks produced magnificent manuscripts with miniatures and splendid initials for influential customers such as Emperor Otto III ad Heinrich II. For this they used gold, silver, purple and for the bindings precious metals and ivory.
Of the Reichenau monastery library it was known throughout Europe in the early and high Middle Ages that it held hundreds of volumes. Today the State Library (Landesbibliothek) in Karlsruhe preserves what remains of these precious books, including 270 parchment manuscripts.
Pirmin's simple wooden church building already became a new abbey church in the early 9th century, of which parts of the nave and the side walls of the chancel have been preserved until today. In the centuries that followed, the existing cross basilica was often changed, rebuilt and enlarged. The early church from 816 always partially remained part of the house of God. Numerous monastery and administrative buildings and courtyards were built on the thriving monastery island and still mark the appearance of the island in the lake to this day.
During the "Golden Age" of Reichenau Island, numerous relics were collected. These precious objects are still kept in their splendid shrines in the treasure vault of the abbey church. On holidays they are carried across the island in festive processions. The most important relics include those of the evangelist Mark, the pitcher from the wedding at Kana and the Holy Blood relic.
Despite the high cultural and scientific level of the "reichen au" (rich meadowland), a decline came in the 11th century and the abbey was reduced to poverty. The causes of this decal include not only the increasing secularization of the abbots and "monastery lords", but also the devastating fire in 1235. Beginning in 1540 the Bishop of Constance, an old rival of the Reichenau abbots, was simultaneously the Lord of Reichenau. In 1803 the monastery fell to the State with the secularization movement and the abbey was disbanded.
|The Island of Mainau||
Around 3000 BC
The settlement consisting of six houses, which was discovered at the southern shores of the Mainau during the thirties of the last century, belong to this time of early settlement in the region of Lake Constance.
The land inhabited by the Rhaetian people around Lake Constance becomes Roman, including Mainau island. At that time there was a watch tower built on the island.
5th/6th century AD
The strategically important Isle of Mainau becomes an Alemannic dukedom and later a part of a Frankish royal property, administered from Bodman. (In our saga the island passed to the mortal family of the magus Cygnus of Bonisagus in 699.)
The Mainau is given to the powerful monastery of the Reichenau as a present, together with several strips of land on Southern side of the Bodanrück. (In our time-line this wasn't the case... Mainau remained part of the territory controlled by the "manor" that eventually became the covenant of Domus Cygna.)
In a high-handed act, Arnold von Langenstein, resident of the Reichenau, gives away the Mainau to the Teutonic Order. (In our saga, Mainau is still a part of the Domus Cygna's land in 1300. It is also occupied by the sidhe noble Ealamm and his make-shift "court".)