On my way back to my apartment a week or so ago, I noticed something I’d never seen before.
A small metal plaque hung inconspiculously on the gate of a completely fenced private home, just steps from the little bridge that crossed over the creek separating the huge apartment complex from the private homes.
Before I tell you what the little sign said I want to remind you about what it must be like to live in a very old, historic place and country. You see reminders everywhere.
A big, old-fashioned former home here, now probably a four-family apartment, proudly displays its date of construction – 1903 – with this century’s 2003. Wow. More than one hundred years old.
The hotel where I am staying until it’s time to head for the airport has a guest-packet in each of its seven rooms. The title, “Hotel Raben, Tradition seit (since) 1358.”
And who can forget the signing by the Three Forest Cantons in 1291 on the Rutli Meadow of the Ewige Bund, Eternal Union, written in Latin. The cantons y were Uri, Nidwalden and Schwyz.
A nearby town just celebrated, with big festivities and concerts, the 750th year of its founding.
Farther east, St. Gallen, just concluded its founding by the Irish monk, St. Gallus, which probably meant something like “The Gaul,” or the “Guy from Gaul,” in 612!!!
That was in the Dark Ages, 1400 years ago. The remnants of the Roman Empire were nearly forgotten, languages were drifting away from Latin, except for the Church and minor rulers who developed all over what was becoming Europe.
Though we don’t learn much about those times, many Europeans do, because for them, history didn’t stop. It only stopped for academia.
Professors and universities had to wait a several hundred more years before societies had accumulated enough wealth to allow teachers to start teaching again without having to produce their own food and shelter.
The monks and clerics were the keepers of the flame of knowledge until then. Many convents and monasteries produced their own food, clothing, shelter and medicine in those days.
These religious institutions were often founded and protected by the upper classes, i.e., warriors and kings and minor nobility. Peasants helped with the heavy work. Since nobody (that I know of) had watches and time tables, life was probably pretty calm, except when plagues or kings and their armies went abroad looking for victims.
That reminds me of my favorite Hagar the Horrible cartoon. Hagar is loafing around looking bored. He gets a bright idea. “Hey! I haven’t seen old King Harald for a long time. I think I’ll go and invade England!”
You are still wondering about the plaque on the gate? Here is what it said:
On this spot