An unexpected tale for Good Friday: The House on Lake Minnetonka That Never Existed

Today is Good Friday, and also the start of Passover; the slight divergence in the calculations this year makes for an unusual coincidence.   Good Friday is a bank holiday today, so there is peace and quiet here.  It is good to remember what the Lord did for us this day.

I thought that I would point you to an article that somehow seems appropriate to the season.  It comes from a rather unusual place, the “Captain Capitalism” blog.  The Captain is not a Christian, I should add.

The article is called The House on Lake Minnetonka That Never Existed.  It’s long, but it’s worth the read.

Many years ago, when the Captain was but a wee corporal, he was attending the University of Minnesota-Minneapolis.  Close to the campus was “the lakes.” “The lakes” included four lakes that were chained together and formed the “crown jewel” of the Minneapolis parks system.  These lakes were:

Cedar Lake
Lake of the Isles
Lake Calhoun, and
Lake Harriet.

These lakes served as the hub of nearly all outdoor summer activity in Minneapolis and to this day remain the most popular part of the Twin Cities to be during summer.  But of the four lakes “Lake of the Isles” was the most prestigious.  Here the “old money” captains of industry built their Minneapolis mansions in the 1880’s and 1900’s, and thus Lake of the Isles is perimetered by beautiful mansions and even some modern day ones as well.

Because of its proximity to the campus me and my friends would regularly bike and run around this lake.  Not only for the beauty of the lake, but the architecture of the houses that surrounded it.  And even though one would prefer to run around this lake during summer, one of my fonder memories of the Twin Cities was running around Lake of the Isles at night during winter.

Even though it may have been -5 outside, I still enjoyed running around Lake of the Isles because it gave me my goal, my inspiration, and my incentive to work hard and study hard in school.  I did not come from wealth, but at night (and not in a creepy, stalker type sense) many of the mansions would have their lights on allowing me to kind of peer into these homes and wonder about what life was like on the inside.

What was it like to have a nice warm home and not sleep in a basement?
What was it like to have so much wealth you didn’t have to worry about student loans?
Is that a wall oven I see?  Is the wife of that home making dinner?  Gosh, a home cooked meal would be great.
And forget dinner, I bet those people have nothing to worry about. They’re RICH.  They got it made.

It also helped that while running during winter it was usually Christmas time, allowing my mind to further wander and dream, speculating about awesome Christmas gifts, nuclear family meals, perhaps sitting down and watching the Charlie Brown Christmas Special.  And adding to this spectacle was that (at least in the 90’s) nearly every house would put up an impressive display of Christmas lights.  I may had been the only fool running around Lake of the Isles at 10PM in -5 degree weather, but it was and remains today one of my fondest memories….More

Recommended.

A fresco of the interior of Old St Peter’s by Filippo Gagliardi in San Martino ai Monti in Rome

Via Twitter I learned today of the existence of a fresco in the church of San Martino ai Monti in Rome, which depicts the interior of Old St Peter’s.  Here’s a somewhat muddy picture of it that I found on the web:

San Martino ai Monti: fresco of Old St Peter’s basilica, by Filippo Gagliardi (1648)

A better:

The following inset was on Google Image search, from a now vanished site:

Initially I was rather excited by this.  But, alas, it is a reconstruction. Two articles by Ann B. Sutherland in 1964 make clear that the work was done by Filippo Gagliardi.[1]

The payments to Filippo Gagliardi are simpler. Although the Filippo entertained in 1647 may not be Gagliardi, he must have been working in the church by December 1648, and had finished his fresco of the interior of Old St Peter’s by July of 1649.

Sutherland adds in footnote 131 that “There is a painting by Filippo Gagliardi, signed and dated 1640, of an Interior View of St Peter’s, in the Prado.”  Clearly the artist had made a habit of this particular theme.

But Gagliardi never saw Old St Peter’s.  Work to demolish it began in 1506, and much of the east end of the old church was quickly destroyed.  The new basilica was itself fully complete in 1626 when Gagliardi was only 20.  So his work is based on other depictions that he had seen.

Pity!

  1. [1]Ann B. Sutherland, “The Decoration of San Martino ai Monti – I”, The Burlington Magazine vol. 106, No. 731 (Feb., 1964), pp. 58-67+69.  JSTOR; Ann B. Sutherland, “The Decoration of San Martino ai Monti – I”, The Burlington Magazine 106, No. 732 (Mar., 1964), pp. 114-120. JSTOR.  See p.115.

Lidar on the Roman fort at Felixstowe

A kind correspondent, David Blocker, has looked at the Lidar images that I posted, of the ruins of “Walton Castle”, the Saxon Shore Roman fort lying submerged near Felixstowe in Suffolk, and annotated them.  The results are fascinating:

Lidar image, cropped.

Then with annotation:

As a reminder, the rough sketch map drawn by the diver Jeff Errington:

He adds:

The lidar image of the Felixstowe area reveals the ruins of the Roman fort.

The lidar image roughly corresponds to the sketch made by the scuba club in the 1970’s.  There appears to be a shallow underwater channel between the beach and the offshore mound with the ruins, the groynes do not appear to be effective at retaining sand.

The lidar image hints at an under water structure  between the Walton fort ruin and the scour channel.  It is undoubtedly something that was built before the 1700s when the area was inundated.  If it did not appear on maps or drawings of that time it was probably already buried under sand, it might be a road or walls from the Roman or Norman period.   Where it extends closest to shore is approximately where the scuba club found a pile of red bricks.  What I have labelled as “scour channel” might be the Roman era streambed.  It would not be unreasonable to assume that there were out-buildings or a village near the fort walls.

Fascinating!  I wish that I knew more about the Lidar world; undoubtedly the datasets created for flood planning contained very detailed aerial images, if one could but extract them.

An interesting request: get books without paying for them!?

Like every blogger, I get a certain amount of mail.  Most of it is nice and interesting.  I’ve not had any death threats at all!

Then there is the item that reached me recently via the Chieftain Publishing website, where I advertise the two volumes that I published.  I don’t get much email from that site, because the publishing is pretty much done now.

Anyway, here is what I received.

Created On: 7 April 2019 at 08:47
From: John Rishel <Johnrishel4@gmail.com>
X-Mailer: PHPMailer 5.2.22
Subject: Crucial help to obtaining your Awesome books

I hope u all are better than well and exceeding thank you to read the following with prayerful consideration.
I recently found a couple incredible looking books by you all–Origen on Ezekiel. And Eusebius on Gospel Problems and solitions.
If was able to work would get them asap, however since some yrs ago when I’m an intense car accident when a reckless driver going well over fifty blindsided my passenger side of car…my severe spinal trauma has kept me still injured and not working. Cause of financial issues was forced to live with my mom…with limited six security $ I get of course goes to help mom pay rent and other.
Ever please if there is Any POSSIBLE way you all could EVER generously donate those books, the fruit born would increase into eternity.
Each of the authors are clearly God’s All Stars.
If you could only allow one to give, Origen on Ezekiel would be epic.
I know you all are young publisher starting out and I’m sure more than busy, though I hope and pray you all night be help !e in such a way, that would be lifechanging…Cause your amazing gift would be the Only way I could study these vital works!!!😊
Thx ever so again for ur time and prayerful consideration in these matters of interest.
Please take it Easy and better than best!!!
Sincerely

John Rishel
3217 SAint James Place
Mckinney, Texas. 75070. USA

May the Triume Almighty so Richly bless, protect and direct you all at Chieftain Publishing!!😇

Sadly I have been unable to find the time to reply to this.  I did look up the address in google, and it is a very nice house with an estimated value of $250,000.   Looking up the address in whitepages.com reveals a John Rishel living there, who is in his 70s, and a John Ashbrook Rishel IV in his 40s, and a Judith Rishel in her 70s, and a Xiaochun Zhao.  Searchbug.com lists four people living there; John, Katie, Leigh Ann and Xiaochun.  Who are these people, one wonders?

Yet … the author has never even googled for my “awesome books”, or he would find them freely available online in PDF form.  Nor has he realised that I blog about them here.  All he knows is that there is a website for “Chieftain Publishing” which sells a couple of expensive books. His nearly illiterate email tells us that he is not qualified to use these books!  Most of the email is clearly boiler-plate.

It looks very much to me as if Mr Rishel – or Mr Zhao? – has just searched for small publishing companies, and fired off a mass begging email to them all.   Since he obviously just wants stuff, and has no interest in the books themselves, I can only suppose that the books would then be sold for cash on eBay, or something like that.

I post his email, in case anyone else is getting them.  Clearly a scam.

A silver “votive plaque” of the 2-3rd century AD, attributed to “Mithras”

A twitter post drew my attention to an interesting item held in the British Museum since 1899.  Their catalogue page is here.  It is described as a “silver votive plaque with a figure of the god Mithras”.  Here are the pictures:

British Museum 1899,1201.3

And a zoomed in version:

Viewed up close, this is not Mithras.  Nothing about him reflects Mithraic iconography.  He is not even wearing a phrygian cap.  To me the figure looks like Attis; but I am unclear what the items that he is holding are – a dish and some sort of ball or fruit?  There seems to be an altar by his right foot, with a bird of some sort moving in front of it.

The plaque was bequeathed to the museum by Sir Arthur Wollaston Franks  in 1899.

The item is apparently catalogued in “Walters, H B, Catalogue of the Silver Plate (Greek, Etruscan And Roman) in the British Museum, London, BMP, 1921”, according to the excellent British Museum site – easily the best website of its kind known to me – and this turns out to be online at Archive.org here.  The catalogue entry is on p.59, where we read:

229. Tablet, similar. Form as the preceding. On the broad end of the leaf is a figure in relief of Mithras to the front, holding a patera in r. hand and a pine-cone in l. ; he has thick straight hair falling each side of the face, sleeved chiton and another garment over it, chlamys falling over the chest in front and caught up on the l. arm, and high boots. At his r. side is a cock to l., and behind it a small altar on which a fire burns. On the leaf are rows of raised dots.

Ht. 26 cm. Similarly acquired. Brit. Mus. Guide to Exhibition of Greek and Roman Life, p. 54, fig. 45.

The preceding two items clarify this description somewhat; they are from the same source, and are also silver votive tablets, showing Sol – definitely -, and what we are told is Luna, although why is not clear.  Both plaques have raised dots along the edge.

But the note to the “Sol” plaque adds the words: “With this were found other votive discs, now melted down.”  Of course these items come from Ottoman Turkey.  One is reminded of the way in which some of the gold found at Troy by Schliemann was stolen, and sold to a goldsmith, who melted them down and made some random Turkish-style jewellery from the metal.  So it looks as if Sir A. W. Franks purchased the items from local peasants who had uncovered them.  Whether they belong together we cannot tell.

I don’t know much about the collector, so I do not know if some travelogue exists somewhere, that explains how he acquired them.  We must just be grateful that he rescued them from the inevitable fate of precious metal in barbarous countries, and that we can look at them today.

 

From my diary

I was able to sit at my computer this evening for the first time and work a little on the translation of chapter 11 of the Vita of St George.  So I am clearly improving.  But I still can’t really walk, or leave the house, and I must keep my foot elevated most of the time.  So it will be a while yet.  Another chapter (12) of the vita has come in, in very rough draft, so I will have to look at that some time.

I received an email yesterday from Suffolk Record Office, suggesting strongly that the report on the sub-aqua survey of Felixstowe / Walton Roman fort has been lost.  It looks as if the archivist only looked at a catalogue, however, so there is still hope that it may just be  mislaid and might be found on examination.  This will have to wait until I am mobile again, however.

A rather large number of items have arrived in the last week or so which I have placed in my “things to blog about” folder.  One day perhaps I will get to them!

The tomb of Aelia Arisuth in Libya

A few days ago a kind correspondent sent me details of the tomb of Aelia Arisuth, 8km west of Tripoli in Libya, which I have added to my digest of Mithras photographs.  It’s listed in the CIMRM as CIMRM 113.  The tomb contains two tomb niches, one for Aelia Arisuth herself, and one for her husband, Aelius Magnus, son of Juratanus.  General results from Google attribute the tomb to the 4th century AD.

The niche for Aelia Arisuth herself includes a painting of the lady, and spectacular decoration:

Tomb of Aelia Arisuth

The presence of two torch-bearers raised a question as to whether this was a Mithraic monument.  The tomb of Aelius Magnus includes the inscription “qui leo iacet”, and his wife “quae lea iacet”, both referring to “lion”, a grade of Mithraic initiate.  All the same there is nothing specifically Mithraic about this.

Sadly the revolution in Libya has damaged the monument.  The left torchbearer had a head before Col. Gadaffi was overthrown, as we can see in this older photograph:

Pre-war photograph

There are few photographs online.  I’ve not been there myself, although I visited Libya twice under the old regime as a tourist, so it was clearly not on the tourist trail, such as it was.

The lower register depicts two spinae, the columns at the end of a race-track, and chariots in between.

I was able to find a zoomed in picture of Aelia Arisuth herself, which must have been taken from life.

A fascinating monument.

From my diary

I have now discovered why I was unable to locate the 1969 survey report by Jeff Errington, reporting on the dives to the submerged Roman fort at Felixstowe.  The article from 2000 said that it was at Ipswich Museum.  But an email from one of the article authors, Tom Plunkett, reveals that a mass of files were transferred away in 1999, out of Ipswich Museum and into the Ipswich Record Office.  This included the ‘Parish’ files, referred to in the article.

The Ipswich Museum ‘Parish’ files are or were simply a collection of manilla envelopes, used as a filing system.  There was one envelope for each geographical parish (hence the name).  As stray material appeared, it was filed by location in the appropriate envelope.  The contents of the files were never catalogued.  The Errington report should be in the “Felixstowe” or “Walton” envelopes.

The transfer took place at a time of cutbacks, when the Museum dispensed with the services of an archaeologist, and was undertaken to ensure that the material was not simply thrown away.

This morning I travelled down to Ipswich Record Office, and registered there as a user, not without inexplicable difficulty.  I was advised to write to the archivist, however, Louise Kennedy, which I have done.  No doubt there will be a large box full of this stuff, which I shall have to sort through, but that will be a nice way to spend a few hours.  I do have the time.

One impediment, however, is that I shall be going into hospital on Monday 1st April to have a trivial but annoying problem with my foot surgically attended to.   It’s being done under general anaesthetic, so there is a small risk. The surgeon told me that I will be out of action afterwards for three weeks.  Let us hope that I shall be able to use my PC!

Finding “Great Long Dole” – maps of the fort area, old and new

The old Victoria History of the County of Suffolk, on the landscape near Felixstowe Roman fort, refers to a close known as “Great Long Dole”, which apparently bore that name in 1907.  This gave no results in Google.  Fortunately the old Ordinance Survey maps are online (although for some peculiar reason the new ones are not).  This provides illuminating information, including the location of said “Long Dole”.

Here is the survey from 1880, published 1886:

1880 map of the area around the fort

And here is the 1938 survey, published ca. 1949:

1938 Ordinance Survey map of the area near Walton Castle

Great Long Dole is no longer marked – the name must have become obsolete – but Brackenbury Barracks have appeared, and the Cliff Road.  Note also the stream, running onto the beach, near the castle ruins.  This must be the source for the “Dip”, where the stream cuts through the soft sand to reach the sea.

Via GeoHack I find other maps – I’m not used to the world of maps, of course, so I am getting whatever I can – and especially this from Defra:

Defra “magic map” for 51.972879; 1.379413

The barracks have vanished – this seems to be a contemporary map – and the whole area is now covered with houses.  But the outfall of the spring is still marked.  It’s now in a pipe running under the road.  But this spring is probably the water source for the garrison.  The location of the Roman fort need not be attended to, tho.  I believe that in fact they are about 30 metres offshore from that outfall!

I’ve also wondered whether aerial photography might show the ruins.  Surely it might!

Likewise… what about Lidar?  There are downloadable datasets, I know; although, mysteriously, I could find no online browser to see the data.  The nearest that I got was this, where the resolution is rubbish.  Yet Lidar datasets are available down to less than 1 metre, this I know.

Lidar image of the area

Is there something, just in front of the sea-front buildings?  Maybe there is; but at that resolution, where a house is just a block, who can tell?

Lidar is beyond my knowledge.  Googling is not producing anything very useful, although I did find this.  I might have a go at this a bit later.

The Errington sub-aqua expedition to “Walton castle”, 1969 – the press clippings

The ruins of the Roman fort of the Saxon shore at Felixstowe, known as “Walton Castle”, were examined in 1969 by a team of divers from the Ipswich branch of the British Sub-Aqua club, led by Jeff Errington.[1]  Ipswich museum liason was Elizabeth Owles, although I have yet to locate the survey report filed with the museum.

This morning I met Jeff Errington (now aged 75) at his business, Dive Line, in Ipswich.  He lent me two clippings from local newspapers.  I attach images as a PDF below, but I thought that I would transcribe these here.

Usefully the articles confirm that “the Dip” is in fact a ravine cut in the soft sand by a freshwater stream, and now brought under the cliff road by a pipe discharging on the beach.  The angle of the ruins is correct – the walls run even closer to the beach than might be supposed.

The first, shorter article, was in the East Anglian Daily Times on December 15, 1969; the other in more detail was in the Mercury, on December 19, 1969, page 8.  The latter included a sketch map of  the site, based upon a drawing by Jeff Errington.

    *    *    *     *    *    *    *

From the East Anglian Daily Times:

Divers stand in the sea near a bastion of Walton castle, which the sea has engulfed but not entirely destroyed.

Submerged Roman fort yields up some of its secrets

By Don Black

Long submerged in the sea off Felixstowe,  a Roman castle has yielded up some of its secrets to a team of amateur divers.

Yesterday, when a low tide exposed great chunks of a corner bastion, they concluded their first season of survey dives.

The divers have found that at least two walls still extend unimagined distances from the tumbled bastion—after 17 centuries of assault by armed men, stone robbers, cliff falls and the pluck and knock of powerful waves.

Yesterday’s high wind, gusting to gale force, whipped the sea against the masonry with such strength that further serious study is having to be put off until next year.

Walton Castle, as the place was known, will be explored as far as the ramparts that stood, on its seaward side, the first, to fall to erosion of the soft cliff on which it stood.

Fifteen dives

Ipswich branch of the British Sub-Aqua Club has made 15 fully recorded dives to the ruins since May, – its members working in an average depth of 12ft., with visibility ranging from eight foot to nil.
light under the sea may still perhaps be found the ghosts of men and shadows of the sunken stronghold.

‘‘Seaward of Felixstowe Ferry, the Roman castle of Walton once stood guardian against the raiding ships of the Saxon. These walls, bound

with mortar no less hard than the stone itself, were proof against the storms of a thousand years.

“In Walton castle, in 1338, Edward III lodged royally just before he sailed for France in the campaign of Crecy. Above the scarred walls, even then ancient, the banners floated, and under shelter of the castle lay its own harbour, Wadgate haven, crowded no doubt with the barrelled masts of medieval shipping.

“The sea has overwhelmed everything. Not a trace remains; Walton has vanished.” If the research done at Walton castle is anything to go by, the Ipswich team can produce results of scientific value from the sport they enjoy most.

Miss Elizabeth Owles, archaeological assistant at Ipswich Museum, examines a slab of bonding tile brought up by the divers. Now encrusted with barnacles and weed, it used to lie between courses of septaria.

 

    *    *    *     *    *    *    *

From the Mercury:

Roman castle fortifications discovered by divers

Long submerged in the sea off Felixstowe, a Roman castle has yielded up some of its secrets to a team of amateur divers.

On Sunday, when a low tide exposed great chunks of a corner bastion, they concluded their first season of survey dives.

The divers have found that at least two walls still extend unimagined distances from the tumbled bastion—after 17 centuries of assault by armed men, stone robbers, cliff falls and the pluck and knock of powerful waves.

Sunday’s high winds, gust-ing to gale force, whipped the sea against the masonry of Walton Castle with such strength that further serious study is having to be put off until next year.

Ipswich branch . of the British Sub-Aqua Club has made 15 fully recorded dives to the ruins since May, its members working in an average depth of 12ft. with visibility ranging from eight feet to nil.

They have discovered that one wall runs for about 90 yards almost parallel with the shore, and that the other wall extends more than 40 yards out to sea.

The divers plotted their finds on a large sketch map. When this was showed to Walton’s historian, 89-year-old Mr. Samuel Wall, he declared: “This is wonderful. I was under the impression that the greater part of the masonry, septaria, was dredged away in the 1860’s to make cement.

Miss Elizabeth Owles, archaeological assistant at Ipswich Museum, has been advising the club on what to look for and how to record any finds.

“Underwater archaeology is incredibly difficult in this country,” she said. “Virtually nothing reliable is known about Walton Castle and any hard facts from the divers are most welcome.

“Old books and prints on the subject are open to suspicion. Perhaps the divers will find the position of the main gate . . .”

Miss Owles believes the map shows the walls running a little too tidily.

To help the divers identify Roman masonry, as opposed to natural formations, Ipswich Museum told them to look for layers of red brick. After removing a large amount of marine growth their search was successful.

“We have many more measurements to take and we want to bring out loose pieces of wall, if possible a good cross-section of bricks and stone” said the club’s diving officer, Mr. Geoff Errington (26).

They may do that by attaching five-gallon cans to the masonry and letting the incoming tide provide the lift.

When they made their first dive, they found that the wall running seawards appeared to be about nine feet thick and four feet to five feet high. Later, several points were seen where the brick runs in two bands of three layers.

Weed clings to the higher parts and there are crabs and the occasional lobster living among the ruins.

Many pieces of masonry lie throughout the area. These have been far too numerous to plot and are evidently scattered far out to sea and to the north of the main ruins.

Walton was built in the 3rd century AD, with Burgh Castle, two in a chain of forts from the Wash to the Solent that were intended to protect Roman Britain from Saxon invaders.

Both Suffolk strongholds were later used by the Normans, who built keeps inside the walls. But these additions have disappeared, that at Walton having been dismantled by King Henry II in about 1174 when he put down a barons’ rebellion.

The advancing sea completed his destructive work in the early part of the 18th century.

While firm evidence of the fort’s layout and history is limited, romantic writing on the subject abounds almost as much as that about Dunwich or Lyonesse.

“Suffolk Sea Borders,” published in 1926, includes this account of the approaches to the Deben estuary:

“LOST ATLANTIS”

“If entering the haven from the southward, a ship must sail over the dim ruin of a lost Atlantis. In the purple twilight under the sea may still perhaps be found the ghosts of men and shadows of the sunken stronghold.

“Seaward of Felixstowe Ferry, the Roman castle of Walton once stood guardian against the raiding ships of the Saxon. These walls, bound with mortar no less hard than the stone itself, were proof against the storms of a thousand years.

“In Walton castle, in 1338, Edward III lodged royally just before he sailed for France in the campaign of Crecy. Above the scarred walls, even then ancient, the banners floated, and under shelter of the castle lay its own harbour, Wadgate Haven, crowded no doubt with the barrelled masts of medieval shipping.

“The sea has overwhelmed everything. Not a trace remains; Walton has vanished.”

The sea on Sunday was surprisingly warm, 40 degrees F, the same temperature as the divers find in water-filled gravel pits in summer.

But they were glad to leave the turbulent conditions at Felixstowe for their normal Sunday training session at Fore Street baths, Ipswich.

Some of the diving team that has explored the ruins: (left to right): Geoff Errington, Simon Tallowin, P.-c. Arthur Clements, Arthur Cook, Police Sergeant Donovan Stubley and Gerald Dodson, who lives in Langer Road, Felixstowe.
An artist’s impression of Walton castle remains, as discovered so far, based on a survey started this year by amateur divers. Rubble lies thickly in the angle of the submerged walls. A toilet block newly provided by Felixstowe Urban Council and an outfall pipe are illustrated as the best available reference point on the shore. Contrary to appearances, they are not connected; the pipe carries a freshwater stream that once served the Roman garrison
Miss Elizabeth Owles, archaeological assistant at Ipswich Museum, examines a slab of bonding tile brought up by the divers. Now encrusted with barnacles and weed, it used to lie between courses of septaria

    *    *    *     *    *    *    *

Jeff told me that the pictures of the divers were all posed; it was far too rough to dive that day.  All but three of the divers are now dead.  Also he added that the sea-level was lower than he had ever seen it, which explains the very visible remains.  The rocks that break the surface are those in the corner of the fort, where the ruins stand 8 feet tall.

Here is the raw article images.  I do have higher resolution scans, but these are entirely readable.

My sincere thanks to Jeff Errington for meeting with me, and his great kindness in loaning me the clippings and telling me about this fascinating episode!

Jeff Errington, Dive Line Ltd, March 25, 2019.
  1. [1]His name is spelled “Jeff” on his company website, so I have done the same.