Saturday, 18 May 2013

Temple of Arkona

The temple fortress of Arkona, today called Jaromarsburg, was the religious centre of the Slavic Rani in the Early Middle Ages.

The temple was dedicated to the deity Svantevit, who was depicted with four heads. The temple housed an important horse oracle in Slavic times, where the behaviour of a white stallion could decide peace or war. Today, only about a quarter of the old fortress is left, as the chalk-promontory it was built on is slowly eroded by the Baltic. Rescue excavations are in progress.

The Temple of Arkona was the main sacred site of polabian Slavic tribes (called Rans or Lutici) located on the island of Rujana (Ruegen). The temple was the centre of Svantevit (four-headed god) worshippers. There was a larger-than-life wooden statue of Svantevit in the main sanctuary. Also a sacred white horse was kept in Arkona. Only head priest could ride this horse and the legends say that Svantevit himself rode it in the nights. This horse was used also for zoomancy : the hoof he first cross the crossed spears gave the priests indicia on the result of upcoming war. It was a bad sign when horse died. The head priest of Arkona was in higher position than the slavic prince and was accompanied by suite of thee hundered horsemen.

It is said that the priests shouldn't breathe when cleaned the temple so they always had to go out to draw a deep breath and than come back to continue in cleaning.

The old danish chronicle wrote: " ... very nice wooden temple, favoured not only spectacular rites but also for the statue of god inside. Ring fence outside was decoraded by rich woodcarvings containing also various paintings. There was only gate opened to coming people. The sanctuary was surrounded by double barrier - the outer one was carrying the roof while inner one with four pillars instead of walls shined bz suspension courtains. In the sanctuary there was giant idol with four heads and four napes. It has shaved bears and cutted hair as the creator wanted to imitate the customs of Rani-people. In right hand the statue had a horn from different metals, every year filled with wine during ceremonies to predict the wealth for upcoming year. The left hand was nestled on waist and the pedestal was part of the floor. Nearby there were reins and saddle and other signs of gods' power. The most fascinating was the sword of unussual size decoraded with both scabbard and blade by silver inlaided"

In 1168 was Ruegen conquered by danish christian king Waldermar First the Great and Arkona was destroyed by order of arch-bishop Absolon. The statue of Svantevit cut to pieces and burned in front of views of humiliated slavic people. Afterthat the forced christianisation was applied on the whole island. By this was old slavic religion perished since Arkona was the only remaining place of slavic belief.

There are two old lighthouse at the cape, one constructed in 1827, the other one in 1902. The former is one of the oldest still existing lighthouses of the Baltic Sea. It was constructed by the famous architect Karl FriedrichSchinkel.

In 1927, the cape's name was given to a German liner, the SS Kap Arkona.
Prior to the German reunification, Arkona was often considered the most northern point in the German Democratic republic. However, the site Gellort is located about one kilometre northwest.


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