View Full Version : Traditional Germanic Wooden Houses?

Friday, October 21st, 2005, 10:08 PM
Do all traditional wooden houses in Germanic countries look like these Norwegian houses?




Any pictures?

Friday, October 21st, 2005, 10:23 PM
From Bavaria and the Black Forest:






Saturday, October 22nd, 2005, 12:27 AM
From Bavaria and the Black Forest:

Yeah, thanks.

They're of different style, very high-roofed.

Anything from Sweden, Denmark or Northern Germany?

Monday, February 4th, 2008, 07:34 PM
Some plans and reconstructions of Germanic houses which include turf houses, West Frisian farms, Norse/Viking longhouses, Saxon style houses.

Sunday, March 30th, 2008, 03:27 PM

The Germans lived together in small villages, and if those grew too big a number of people moved away to build a new village so big cities were rare in Germania, according to Tacitus the Germans only had one big city near the river Rhine that was called Asciburgium; according to Germanic legends this city was founded by the hero Ulysses, and an altar to him and his father Laertes was placed inside the city.
Asciburgium is probably a Latinized version of "Askiburg" and Ulysses may have been the god Frey or the hero Siegfried, who was in some legends considered to be the prince of Xanten, one of the oldest cities of modern Germany that also lies near the Rhine, the exact location of Asciburgium is believed to have been the modern city of Moers-Asberg southeast of Xanten.

Much information we have about Germanic settlements is derived from Roman historians, but even more valuable information has been obtained by our modern archeologists who dig up the most interesting objects, a good example is mentioned in this Dutch newsarticle that was published in the "Gelders Dagblad" on February 05, 2003:

"Rubbish dump from Iron Age found
From one of our reporters.
Beek - Archeologists have dug up remains from the Iron Age in Beek.

Never before have traces of old settlements been found in a Limburgian creekvalley. According to archeologists it is a 'rubbish- and dumpzone', a rubbish dump from the Iron Age. The finding indicates that in the Iron Age (800 to 12BC) the rubbish was dumped in or along a creek. Provincial archeologist Béatrice de Fraiture: 'We are actually looking into the biological trashcan of our ancestors. We also found two bronze clothing pins and pieces of glass from a bracelet. Because of the jewellry we immediately knew what time we were dealing with.'"

The Germans mainly used wood and reed for building their houses, they sometimes made the foundations of stone and used twigs, clay, and other materials to make the walls wind- and waterproof.
In his "Germania" Tacitus writes the following:


"It is a well-known fact that the peoples of Germany never live in cities and will not even have their houses adjoin one another. They dwell apart, dotted about here and there, wherever a spring, plain, or grove takes their fancy.
Their villages are not laid out in the Roman style, with buildings adjacent and connected. Every man leaves an open space round his house, perhaps as a precaution against the risk of fire, perhaps because they are inexpert builders. They do not even make use of stones or walltiles; for all purposes they employ rough-hewn timber, ugly and unattractive-looking. Some parts, however, they carefully smear over with a clay of such purity and brilliance that it looks like painting or coloured design. They also have the habit of hollowing out underground caves, which they cover with masses of manure and use both as refuges from the winter and as storehouses for produce. Such shelters temper the keenness of the frosts; and if an invader comes, he ravages the open country, while these hidden excavations are either not known to exist, or else escape detection simply because they cannot be found without a search."

The Romans saw the Germanic way of building as "inferiour" to theirs because of the absence of stone in most Germanic buildings, this however, had a practical reason since stone could not be found in abundance in northern Europe while the Meditteranian area had a much greater supply of stone.
The other obvious reason to use wood was the huge amount of forests in northern Europe, stone was scarce but wood never ran out, and since many Germanic tribes had a semi-nomadic lifestyle they needed houses that were easy to build.
In a later period the Scandinavians and Anglo-Saxons were still known for building wooden houses, recent excavations at the city of York in England confirmed this.


York was founded by Scandinavian settlers as "Jorvik", for most of the houses that were built there they either used timber, or the daub-and-wattle technique; the daub-and-wattle technique was common in Germanic buildings, I've visited several open air museums where most of the reconstructed buildings were created using this technique.

The daub and wattle technique:
Daub-and-wattle consisted of vertical stalks made of twigs, reed, sticks, and/or other hard flexible material; the Germans then horizontally plaited smaller versions of those stalks around the vertical ones which created a strong but flexible wall.
The next step was mostly closing the slits and holes in it with clay or other material to make sure no water or wind could get through, this was also an excellent isolation against the cold.
On the roof of the building a framework was created and reed (or straw) was laid over it, reed was used for a very long time in house building, the first rooftiles that the Germans used were introduced in the early Middle Ages.


The Germans used no chimneys; they just made a hole above the fireplace to allow smoke to get out, this does not mean however, that it was always cold in their houses; the walls made of wood and clay and the roof made of reed isolated the house which caused heat from the fire place to stay in the house; this was much needed in the cold northern European climate.
In some areas small stables were created within the house, most poor people lived in the house together with their livestock.
The size of the houses differed; poor people had small houses with one room and a fireplace in the center, richer people had bigger houses with multiple rooms and comfortable beds with pillows and furs.
The Germans also built longhouses, though those were mainly built by the more rich people or as a public building, this type of house was used a lot by the Scandinavians.


The Scandinavian houses found in York had beds against the walls made of raised earth and wooden planks, which could also be used to sit on; richer houses also had tables, chairs, and benches, decorative tapestries on the walls and sometimes a decorated door and door posts.
"Sitting chests" were also used a lot; these were big heavy chests that could also be used to sit upon to save space.
Illumination was mainly provided by the sunlight that penetrated the door and window openings, when it became too dark oil lamps and candles could be used.
Most houses had some empty space around them and in crowded villages sometimes a fence, this was mainly done to prevent fires from speading throughout the village though the use of fences indicates that privacy reasons also played a part.


The "owlsboard":
The owlsboard is a decorative style that was frequently used in Germanic buildings, in Dutch it is called an "uilenbord" and in Frisian an "űleboerd", There isn't an English word for this decoration style for as far as I know so I'll just use the literal translation of the Dutch and Frisian word.
Owlsboards were positioned at the ends of the roof ridge to protect the weak spots there and to prevent the rain from getting in, sometimes a flyhole was created on the owlsboard to attract owls or other birds of prey; they were much appreciated guests because they hunted for mice.
They were often decorated with swans who had a symbolical meaning since they were associated with the sun and the god Njord, there were also other symbols on it like the sunwheel and the suncross.
Owlsboards are still used today on monumental houses and as tourist attractions.

Other housefront signs:


Housefront signs were used in many countries, I have already described the owlsboard but there were many more types that can be found scattered over northern Europe, the custom of placing frontsigns on houses has continued for many centuries and is still used today in many countries; many old heathen symbols are still used in most of the modern signs though they are often combined with Christian symbols.
To the right you can see two pictures of frontsigns, both are Saxon frontsigns that are mainly used in the eastern part of the Netherlands and in northwestern Germany;
The one to the left consists of two crossing horseheads which is a symbol of the Saxon identity and dominance, they are also believed to represent the famous brothers Hengest and Horsa who invaded England.
The one to the right consists of three symbols, that are from bottom to top; a heathen moon symbol, a heathen "sonnenrad" (sunwheel), and a Christian cross.
More information about housefront signs can be found under symbols (http://forums.skadi.net/redirector.php?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.geoc ities.com%2Freginheim%2Fsymbols.html) in the site menu.

The "thunderbroom":
The thunderbroom (or "donderbezem" in Dutch) was a bundle of birch twigs that was hung on the facade of a building to shield it against storm and lighting strikes, nowadays the people sometimes make a stone figure of it that is integrated into the bricks of the house.
The thunderbroom was dedicated to the god Thunar, whose protection it granted, though stone axe-heads were also used for this purpose, in the Alps there are still areas where the people hang hammer-shaped symbols on their houses and I've heard similar things about areas in Scandinavia.

Building styles:
In every region Germanic building styles developed in a different way, but they all had the same characteristics; some of this characteristics can still be seen in our modern buildings, though they are disappearing rapidly.
The average Germanic house was long and had a huge roof that dominated the exterior of the house, good examples are the Scandinavian longhouse and the Saxon hallehuus ("hall-house"); the hallehuus was already used in the 4th century BC and has been developed and improved until this day.
The original hallehuus consisted of a single big hall with a fireplace in the middle where humans and their cattle lived together under one roof, this type was also called a "lös hoes" (lös or los means "open" and hoes, huus, or hús means "house" in Saxon dialects), later the farm was divided into sections and eventually multiple buildings were created that were used as living-house, stable, and for other purposes.
Some Saxon house-types also had flattened rooftips called "wolfsend", a word I don't even have to translate because it is exactly the same in English, another sign that the English (Anglo-Saxons) are descendants of the Saxons in mainland Europe.


Reconstruction of a Germanic farm found in the Netherlands; notice the "Landweer" defence around it (see: fortresses (http://forums.skadi.net/redirector.php?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.geoc ities.com%2Freginheim%2Ffortresses.html) ).


Ground plan of a typical Germanic house.


Reconstruction of a West Frisian farm from the Bronze Age that was found in the Netherlands, although this is a Pre-Germanic house from 1600BC you can clearly see the similarities with later Germanic houses.


Reconstruction of a 12th century turf house at Stöng in Iceland.


Reconstruction of a Norse longhouse that was found at Fyrkat in Denmark.


Reconstruction of a Norse longhouse that was found at Trelleborg in Denmark.

A Saxon style "Lös hoes" farm, this type is still very common in the Dutch provinces Twente and Gelderland.


Modern Saxon "Hallehuus" farm in Uddel, the Netherlands, notice the wolfsends.

The inside of a Norse town house that was found in York, England.