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Nijmegen, Het Valkhof

In 777 Charlemagne celebrated Easter on his newly built palatine on the Valkhof hill in the old Roman town of Nijmegen. Its successor, the Valkhof castle, was demolished in 1796 by its owner, the Province of Gelderland. By buying the two chapels the City Council saved them from demolishing. The hill was transformed into a city park and has been classified as a listed monument since 1973.

  • Personalities

Personalities

Charlemagne

Charlemagne (742-814) was King of the Franks and crowned Emperor by the Pope in 800. Charlemagne had no fixed residence, but travelled around his empire. He constructed a royal palace at the location of the former Roman fortification at the Valkhof, the remains of which were probably still visible at the time. He visited Nijmegen at least four times. On March 30, 777, he celebrated Easter at the Valkhof. In the wall tower near the retaining wall beneath the Chapel of St Nicholas Carolingian masonry has been reused. Fig. 44

Fig. 44: Statue of Charlemagne on the Keizer Karelplein in Nijmegen, made by Albert Termote in 1962. Credit: Willemnabuurs, Wikimedia Commons

Fig. 44: Statue of Charlemagne on the Keizer Karelplein in Nijmegen, made by Albert Termote in 1962. Credit: Willemnabuurs, Wikimedia Commons

Theophano

Theophano (circa 960-991) was a Byzantine princess and niece of the Byzantine emperor John I Tzimiskes. In 972 she married the Emperor Otto II. Upon her husband’s death in 983 she held regency on behalf of the three year old Otto III, who was born near Nijmegen. Theophano was criticized for her decadence, which manifested in her bathing once a day and introducing luxurious garments and jewellery into Germany. She also introduced the fork to Western Europe. Through her prudent policies she managed to safeguard her young son’s interests. She visited the Valkhof regularly and died there in 991. Otto III honored her memory with a chapel, dedicated to St Nicolas, one of her favourite saints.24 Fig. 45 Fig. 46

Fig. 45: Theophano, mosaic by Pelagia Angelopoulou, 1991, St Pantaleonkirche Köln. Credit: Herman Koldeweijn

Fig. 45: Theophano, mosaic by Pelagia Angelopoulou, 1991, St Pantaleonkirche Köln. Credit: Herman Koldeweijn

Fig. 46: Wedding certificate of Theophano and Otto II. Credit: Niedersächsisches Staatsarchiv 6 Urk. 11, Wikimedia commons

Fig. 46: Wedding certificate of Theophano and Otto II. Credit: Niedersächsisches Staatsarchiv 6 Urk. 11, Wikimedia commons

Frederick I Barbarossa

The German King Frederick I Barbarossa (1122-1190) was crowned Holy Roman Emperor in 1255. In the same year he decided to restore several derelict Carolingian palaces to their former glory. Among these was Nijmegen, that had been destroyed by the Duke of Lorraine in 1047. Those parts of the palace that were still standing, such as the Chapel of St Nicholas, were repaired and incorporated into the new castle. The Emperor had an inscription carved out in a Roman column. In the text, Frederick praised himself as the restorer of the palace of Julius Caesar. The reference to Caesar at a reused Roman column symbolized the continuity of the empire, from the Roman emperors in a direct line to the Hohenstaufen dynasty. In 1165 Frederick’s son, the future Emperor Henry IV, was born at the Valkhof. Fig. 35

Fig. 35: Frederic I Barbarossa and his sons King Henry VI and Duke Frederick VI. Medieval illustration from the Chronic of the Guelphs, Weingarten Abbey, 1179-1191. Credit: World History Archive

Fig. 35: Frederic I Barbarossa and his sons King Henry VI and Duke Frederick VI. Medieval illustration from the Chronic of the Guelphs, Weingarten Abbey, 1179-1191. Credit: World History Archive

Johan David Zocher

Johan David Zocher Sr. (1763-1817), originally from Strasbourg, worked as a professional landscaper. After the demolition of the Valkhof Castle the City of Nijmegen commissioned Zocher to design a park on the former castle grounds. In 1797 a design was presented in English landscape gardening style. A ring of poplars marked the outline of the castle. The two buildings that survived were integrated in the design and were meant to inspire the walkers to melancholy musings about the great past of the place. Fig. 47

Fig. 47: Design of the new Valkhofpark by Johan David Zocher. Credit: Regional Archives Nijmegen

Fig. 47: Design of the new Valkhofpark by Johan David Zocher. Credit: Regional Archives Nijmegen

Jan Jacob Weve

Jan Jacob Weve (1852-1942) was municipal architect in Nijmegen from 1881 to 1920. He designed several new buildings and monuments, which can still be found in the city. He also restored a variety of old buildings in Nijmegen, such as St Stevens church, the town hall and the ‘Waag’, where products were weighed before they could be traded in the city. In 1910-1911 and 1920, because of his historical interest, Weve conducted extended archaeological research on the Valkhof Hill.25 Fig. 48 Fig. 49

Fig. 48: Jan J. Weve 1942. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Fig. 48: Jan J. Weve 1942. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Fig. 49: Footbridge with entry gate from the Kelfkensbos to the Valkhof, design by Jan J. Weve. 1886. Credit: Havang (nl) Wikimedia Commons

Fig. 49: Footbridge with entry gate from the Kelfkensbos to the Valkhof, design by Jan J. Weve. 1886. Credit: Havang (nl) Wikimedia Commons

References

24 Davids, Adelbert (ed.), The empress Theophano. Byzantium and the West at the turn of the first millennium, Cambridge, 2002

25 Weve, Jan J., De Valkhofburcht te Nijmegen. Een alsnog-uitgave van het manuscript uit 1925 (redactie J.M.T. Nooy), Nijmegen, 1980

Charlemagne Theophano Frederick I Barbarossa Johan David Zocher Jan Jacob Weve

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