Chapter 10: Season's opening

We, Johann Ernst, Duke of Saxe-Eisenach and Jülich-Kleve-Berg, Hereditary Governor of West Thuringia County, SoTF, USE, want to make known that the first official presentation of the Wartburg reconstruction project will be held in the opening meeting of this year's Spring Session of the Parliament of the County.

If weather allows, this will be on

May 15/5, 1634

Visitors may attend, but as the space in the assembly room of the Parliament in the Stadtschloss in Eisenach is limited, tickets will be given out on a first-come-first-served basis by the office of the County Government on written request.

Given Eisenach,                     Aprilis 15/5, Anno Domini 1634

 

Assembly Hall of the Parliament, Stadtschloss, Eisenach, Thuringia May 15, 1634

          Johannes Götzius, MPWT, was annoyed. Very annoyed. It seemed wrong that the duke, the "Hereditary Governor," announced the Wartburg project before consulting the General Superintendent of Eisenach. It was something of a relapse into the feudal habits of the Middle Ages. The reconstruction of the Wartburg, one of the major symbols of the Reformation, should be significantly directed by the Lutheran church.

          The duke had too many contacts with these Americans, showed many too many of their "democratic" and sectarian customs. The master carpenter for the project was a Catholic from Bavaria. The master mason a Calvinist from the Palatinate. That was not right. He should have given these positions to the Lutheran subjects of his own principality.

          So the first thing for the Spring Session was to adopt a law to force the duke to use only Lutheran citizens of the duchy for leading posts. The other members of the Parliament—or MPWTs as they were called, "Mitglieder des Parlaments von West-Thüringen"—from the consistory would certainly support this. And Götzius could certainly get the craftsmen on his side, since they made up the biggest part of the untitled delegates. So the majority of votes should be safe.

****

          Georg Burggraf von Kirchberg, Herr zu Farrenroda, MPWT, was annoyed. Very annoyed. It seemed wrong that the duke, the "Hereditary Governor," announced the Wartburg project before consulting the nobles in his realm and especially in the Parliament. It had something of a "forelapse" into the absolutistic habits of the eighteenth century the burgrave had read about. Not that this new model of sovereignty didn't seem appropriate for the future. But, at the moment, the nobles still had something to say in this duchy. Especially when it came to funding of large projects. Georg could already see a new tax hike on the horizon.

          But that could still be avoided. And the new time and the new constitution gave the nobles an even better handle to do this within the Parliament.

          So the first thing for the Spring Session was to adopt a law to force the duke into not raising a new tax for the project, so they could prevent him from issuing a proclamation. And afterward, the nobles could negotiate with him on how he could get that money, in exchange for increased privileges. If they could manage to get some of the commoners in the Parliament, especially the well-off craftsmen and burghers of Eisenach and Gotha on their side, all would go well. So the majority of votes should be safe.

****

          Meister Reinhard Steinmetz, MPWT, was annoyed. Very annoyed. Since the duke had finally announced his project—in Reinhard's opinion much too late—members of all the other factions of the Parliament had appeared in his shop.

          Superintendent Götzius had been first, like nearly always, with his young Substitut Caspar Rebhan in tow. He had babbled something of foreign invasions into the project, especially from the Catholics and Calvinists. Reinhard was too polite to call him the words that had entered his mind at that moment. Instead, he had tried to explain the concept of external consultants to him.

          The fact that Frau von Pasqualini had used her Grantville connections to get a master mason into the project, a mason who already had two years of experience in building with concrete, not only saved them the money and the time to take courses in Grantville. It also enabled the Eisenach masters to get their journeymen and apprentices the same education, free of charge.

          After this project, they would be the only ones, apart from Grantville and perhaps Magdeburg, with such knowhow.

          Moreover, these specialists were far from being the leading craftsmen. Frau von Pasqualini had emphasized that they didn't have the authority to give orders to any of the other masters or their journeymen, apart from their specialist field. Directing the casting of a concrete pillar, yes. Telling the masters when to appear on site, no.

          And the fact that Ande, Xaver and Jörg were extremely likeable guys added an enormous amount to their reputation. When they appeared with their wagons, their families and—especially—a barrel of Eisenacher Bräu to celebrate their debuts, everything was clear. And their women's involvement in the chronically shorthanded kitchen had pushed the lunch variety in the small village to new zeniths.

          Whether they were Catholics, Calvinists, Jews, or Turks had no meaning on a construction site.

          So why should Reinhard support a law to forbid something the duke didn't even intend? All the other untitled MPWTs Reinhard had contacted in the meantime supported him wholeheartedly.

          He had no choice but to let Götzius talk, and shared an uneasy smile with Caspar Rebhan.

****

          Soon afterward the burgrave of Kirchberg made his appearance. He was the one who had contracted craftsmen from Hesse for the rebuilding of his water castle in Farrenroda. Back then, he had rejected the Eisenachers as "too expensive," but Reinhard heard that one of the new walls had already collapsed, when the water around the castle had risen too much in early spring.

          So why should Reinhard support this arrogant noble? Even if the duke intended a new tax. And that was not likely. Reinhard had delivered his cost estimate for a barrel vault and the outcome was that the new building method would take only a fraction of the time and the necessary people, even if the materials might be much more expensive compared to piling up stones.

          Since the Catholic monastery in Gerode funded the new factory for producing Eichsfeld-Zement with money from the prince-archbishop of Mainz, the calculated prices for concrete dropped substantially. Even with the additional cost of building a cast-iron-coated wooden horse-railway from the lime quarry of Deuna to the factory and to Eisenach.

          At the moment, Reinhard had no intention of worsening the connections to the Catholics. As long as Xaver did not force the others to make the sign of a cross after the grace—and that was really not likely—Reinhard could bear his unintelligible dialect. And his occasional temper tantrums.

          Reinhard had to smile. The word "Saupreiss" had entered the common vocabulary of all craftsmen at the Wartburg immediately.

          The times were changing, but nobles didn't change. Most of them at least. And von Kirchberg was a role model for this. Reinhard had needed much more self-restraint to stay polite than with Götzius. In the end, he had started to recapitulate the drying times for concrete pillars in dependency of the ambient temperature and the dimensions, while the burgrave was still speaking of the new absolutism Duke Johann Ernst was bringing into his realm.

          And as Reinhard now saw these two Saupreissn approach him from different directions, his good mood rapidly deteriorated. Only the bell can save me now—Gottseidank!

          Exactly that happened. The big bell rang. The meeting was about to begin.

****

          After all MPWTs and guests had taken seats, the bell rang for the second time. Everybody rose, and Philip Berck and his two assessors appeared in the side entrance. The former chancellor of the duke's government had been appointed president of the Parliament, and he and the two old lawyers who had already worked with him in the negotiations of the duchy split in 1596, made their slow way to their elevated places.

          The standing orders of the Parliament commanded everybody in the room to stand in complete silence until the president allowed them to take seats. Some of the younger MPWTs already wanted to change that, but the others had no problem to be given one or two—or more, depending on the current state of Berck's gout—minutes to gather themselves.

          When the old men had reached their places, Berck nodded into the direction of Götzius. The Superintendent walked two steps into the middle and turned.

          "In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen. Oh Lord, we ask for wisdom and . . ."

          After more rogations came the relieving "Amen," and finally Berck's sign to be seated.

          The old sage cleared his throat. "Gentlemen—and ladies in the visitors' rows—welcome to the opening meeting of the fifth regular session of the first Parliament of the County of West Thuringia.

          "Since you all attend today on the basis of the invitation the hereditary governor sent out last month, it will pose no surprise to you that today's meeting will be in its total reserved for the presentation and discussion of the Wartburg project."

          Berck cleared his throat again. "I have been informed that the presentation itself will take about one hour. We will have a short break afterward, and then the first round of questions and answers reserved for the members of Parliament. The lunch break will be at noon, and we shall meet again at two in the afternoon. We will then have, at most, three more hours for the visitors to ask questions. These must be formulated, written, and delivered to the Parliament's servants during the break before the respective hour.

          "I," the old man raised his professional voice, "will immediately expel any visitor who starts an argument or behaves inappropriately during the meeting. Furthermore, I want to remind the members that I'm allowed to do the same to them for excessively annoying behavior. So I hereby declare that continuing argument after the first official warning will be considered as excessively annoying behavior today.

          "Your Excellency, you may begin."

          Johann Ernst, Herzog von Sachsen-Eisenach und Jülich-Kleve-Berg, Erbgouverneur des Kreises West-Thüringen im Land Thüringen-Franken der Vereinigten Staaten von Europa, rose and walked at a measured step to the speaker's desk in front of Berck's raised seat.

          He put down the sheets of paper he had held and laboriously put on his reading spectacles. Looking over the rim, he turned. "Mr. President," turned back and smiled, "Members of the Parliament, ladies and gentlemen. I'm proud to present a project this world has not seen since the erection of the pyramids."

          He nodded to the main entrance. Both wings of the door were opened by the servants, and then a large table appeared soundlessly, as if drawn by an invisible hand. A big white sheet covered the table and all the contraptions it contained.

          Johann could not suppress a grin while the table made its way to the center of the room. They had worked the whole of the last two weeks on that surprise. Fortunately, Xaver had owned four original up-time rubber furniture rollers, which could be put under the table's legs to make it move noiselessly. And Jörg had installed an electric motor and a big wet cell to power it. They practiced the whole day long before they managed to move it straight. Some vases in the long corridor of the Stadtschloss had been in enormous danger.

          Nearly every person in the room, the twenty-five members of the Parliament, the seventy-five visitors, and most of the servants at the entrances craned their necks. Some envoys of the archbishop of Mainz even made the sign of the cross. Then, grinning, Jörg appeared in his best Sunday suit, holding a box before his belly, strapped around his neck, with several large buttons in different colors on it.

          The people in the first rows, who could see the floor between the table and Jörg, were able to notice a bundle of wires connecting his box to the table. But to the others it appeared as a wonder.

          When the table eventually reached the free space in front of the speaker's desk, Jörg pushed a button and it stopped. Four servants approached and positioned themselves to the four corners of the table. Then, on a new nod from the governor, they lifted the white sheet and pulled it away.

          They revealed a wooden model of the Wartburg, ten feet long, and three feet across.

          "This," Johann continued. "Is the appearance of the Wartburg in summer 1632, before Eisenach was attacked by the Spaniards, and the Americans had to lure them into the Wartburg."

          He waited, until every person in this room had taken seat again.

          "Then the night came." Someone switched off all electric lights in the assembly hall. "And with the dawn came the fire." Johann took a deep breath and delivered a quick silent prayer. In two of the fifty tries they had made, this effect had failed.

          In the darkness, Jörg pushed a button and an electric spark ignited a fuse cord. It took only a couple of seconds, then with a whoosh, the whole castle burnt with a single flame.

          The nitrocellulose from Brennerei und Chemiefabrik Schwarza had not been cheap, but the company had accepted it as a challenge to provide it in time for the presentation. They had used more pulp to suppress the explosion and deliver only a fast flame.

          And it worked. Despite their appearance, the roofs and upper parts of most of the model's buildings had been made from thin brown paper and not from wood. They had glued gunpowder to the outer walls of the buildings, which now also burned and blackened them.

          When the lights went on again, all the spectators could see the wreckage. Most of the buildings were completely or partially damaged; only the southern tower stood uninjured. Some servants appeared with small bellows and brooms to push the smoke and ash away.

          "What we can see now," Johann grinned relieved, "is the condition the up-timers call a write-off. Nearly all newer buildings were made of half-timber and completely burnt. The only standing parts are the Bergfried—"

          Jörg now had a long thin rod in his hand and pointed to the mentioned buildings.

          "—and the Palas, both burnt, and only the walls standing, and the southern tower, totally spared by the inferno.

          "If we wanted to erect another medieval castle, the damage would not be total. The castles back then were occasionally burnt and the three old buildings that withstood this fire here have been the core for a rebuild of the Wartburg several times.

          "Aber wir brauchen keine Burg." Johann thundered each word of the sentence "But we don't need a castle," slowly over the heads of the audience.

          Loudly he continued: "USE General Frank Jackson is quoted with the words 'A castle is a castle is a castle. Just a robbers' den, far as I'm concerned.' I would not subscribe to this in regard to the Wartburg but, all things considered, he is right. From a soldier's point of view, especially from a Spaniard's, castles have turned from safe shelter to deadly mousetraps."

          Then softer to Jörg: "No, we don't want to demonstrate this. Leave the poor mouse in its box."

          The audience, which had been caught off-guard by the loud sentence, now burst into laughter. Johann had rehearsed his speech with Peter Altmann, the professional speaker, several times.

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