In the 15th century, someone decorated the prison with images of dolphins.

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(ORDO NEWS) — Scientists from the UK suggest that the guards performed the carvings on the walls of the ancient castle.

Specialists from English Heritage are restoring strange carvings on the walls of one of the rooms of Carlisle Castle in the north-west of England. This is part of the overall restoration project of the architectural monument: for a long time it simply collapsed, the roof leaked for centuries, so that the inner walls suffered from dampness.

In a small room located between two prison cells, someone carved drawings on the stones. All of them date back to the 15th century. The drawings are varied: dolphins, horses, a wild boar, mermaids, a leopard and a dragon are depicted, as well as a satirical story popular in the Middle Ages – a fox preaching to chickens.

In the 15th century someone decorated the prison with images of dolphins 2

Restorer Alex Carrington manually clears away walls covered in age-old deposits and water-damaged in places. Experts suggest that the drawings on the stones were carved by bored prison guards.

This is an interesting hypothesis, but there is nothing to confirm it yet. If it is true, then the guards were people not only bored, but also very painstaking, and also artistically gifted.

True, it is not entirely clear how the less educated class of a rather deaf English (and sometimes Scottish) province knew, for example, about dolphins.

The drawing of a fox and chickens, although reflecting a common plot hinting at the fact that you should not trust people in power, is still quite complicated. It is also not clear why the jailers should depict scenes from the life of a knight or deer hunting – activities that are extremely far from them.

Perhaps the only thing that speaks in favor of the assumption of guard artists is that in several places animals are carved in stone, which act as symbols of local powerful families, lords. But it cannot be said that this is conclusive evidence.

In the 15th century someone decorated the prison with images of dolphins 3

In general, Carlisle is not a prison at all, as it may seem from the above. It is located a few kilometers from Hadrian’s Wall, once there was a Roman fort called Luguvalium.

Judging by the results of dendrochronology, it was built in the second half of the 1st century AD, that is, it was a real frontier outpost. And his fate, as befits a border outpost, is difficult: archaeologists believe that they have found traces of at least three complete destructions (and burnings) of the fort.

After the construction of Hadrian’s Wall, it became easier: a cavalry ala settled in Luguvalium, which supported the VI Victorious Legion in the event of an attack from the north. When the Romans left Britain, the fort was destroyed by the Scots.

They considered the area around them to be their own and now they themselves tried to defend it from raids. It did not always work out: in the 9th century, the Danes burned the city.

At the very end of the 11th century, William II , the son of William the Conqueror, fully appreciated the charm of neighboring relations with Scotland, slightly moved the border and ordered the construction of a Norman-style wooden fortress on the ruins of a Roman fort .

And in the XII century, Henry I built a stone castle and surrounded the city with a wall. The donjon (main tower), which can still be seen today, belongs to this period.

After the death of Henry around Carlisle became especially hot. The fact is that the king died without resolving the issue of succession to the end. As often happens in such cases, it all ended in civil war in the Anglo-Norman state.

While they fought for the crown in the south, they did not waste time in the north either: the Scots decided that this was the right moment to regain the territory of Cumberland, and besieged Carlisle. During the following centuries (until the union of 1707) the city and the castle changed hands several times.

Interestingly, neither the English nor the Scottish authorities could restore order in the vicinity of Carlisle: robberies were the norm for the local population. When the Scots occupied the city, they robbed the English, and vice versa.

Things got to the point that in 1525 the Bishop of Glasgow cursed the city and all its inhabitants precisely for the way of life. That is, initially he was going to curse only those who were engaged in robberies, but then he added their wives, children, parents and other relatives to the list. It is unlikely that any of the inhabitants escaped the curse.

It is clear that the prison cells were an urgent need for Carlisle Castle. But did the guards there get bored to such an extent that they had fun with stone carving? Perhaps another prisoner was temporarily placed in the room between the cells – and now he was already decorating the walls.

Moreover, some prisoners of Carlisle Castle were quite noble and educated: even the Scottish Queen Mary was kept there for several months.


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