Kurt Gerlach, “Early German land surveys”

Translated from “Frühdeutsche Landmessungen”,
Germanien, 1940, 259–269 & 302–311.

This is the first of Gerlach’s articles on early German surveying. He describes a communications network, mostly in Bohemia and neighbouring parts of Germany, that links places with the same name and is based on a unit of 11 km.

Germanien was at this time the organ of the Nazi Ahnenerbe (Ancestral Heritage), so articles sometimes had a political bias. Here, Gerlach has a paragraph suggesting that his communications network proves that Bohemia is really German – with the implied conclusion that Hitler’s occupation of Czechoslovakia is justified.

Frühdeutsche Landmessungen German flag

Early German Land Surveys

By Kurt Gerlach

Introductory note. The still very controversial question of the “orientation” of points in the landscape can be brought closer to a resolution only by continuous provision and critical evaluation of reliable research material. The stimulating ideas of Wilhelm Teudt, the investigations of Werner Müller (in his book Kreis und Kreuz) and H. J. Moser’s work, which we published recently, on Germanic relays of sound signals, have supplied many uncontestable facts. The investigation below brings several surprising new points of view into the debate; we are convinced that it will lead to fruitful discussions. Despite initial reservations, we shall not presume to underestimate the ability of our ancestors to measure out even wider areas. Professionals will have to give their opinion on the questions that are broached here.


If one joins together on the map certain places with identical names in the borderland of Saxony and Bohemia, two surprising facts can be established: 1. Their distances apart are multiples of a basic unit of 11 km; 2. When produced, the lines joining them all pass through a certain central point near Babina, south of the Matzenstein in the Bohemian highlands, south of Velké Březno (Grosspriesen) near Ústí nad Labem. The question is whether this phenomenon is the result of chance or design.

Map of Bohemia and neighbouring parts of Germany Historically speaking, this system of orientations has a peculiar layout. It is centred on the part of Bohemia where, today as in former times, the ancient Markwald forest gives way to open country that has been inhabited down through the ages, where the Kelchberg and Geltschberg bear prehistoric earthworks, and nearby in Suletice stone-age implements have been found. Yet the rays of this great bundle of alinements run out over the vast Markwald forest (at one time as much as 90 km wide) and are not marked by inhabited sites until they reach its northern half, which was redefined in 1241 when the boundary was drawn between Bohemia and the diocese of Meissen. The middle of the system is particularly well-marked by a group of three lines. With its main alinements it separates the March of Meissen from the Margravate of the Upper Lausitz, whose boundary lies along the river Pulsnitz (Königsbrück). The longest ray (Schönborn–Schönborn), when produced, includes the road into the March of Brandenburg and, continued in a straight line, meets Berlin.


The Lausitz region belonged to Bohemia, except for a short interval, until 1635. Duke Vratislav II of Bohemia, a loyal supporter of Emperor Heinrich IV, was rewarded in 1086 by being made King of Bohemia and received the Lausitz as a feudal holding which he gave to his son-in-law Wiprecht von Groitzsch as a dowry. The town church at Děčín (Tetschen) is said to have been swept away on 28th September 1059 by a tremendous flood of the Elbe. It was a daughter church of the church at Königstein, which in 1059 cannot yet have borne this name. Documentary evidence for the name Königstein first appears in the boundary record of 7th May 1241, when King Vaclav I was here in the Elbe Valley with an army of 40,000 men to protect the Bohemian lowlands against the onslaught of the Mongols. However, the stone fortifications seem to have been started in the first half of the twelfth century, so that it remains uncertain when and by whom the name Königstein was given. Certainly Vratislav II, directly after his promotion to king, built a castle and a bridge in front of the old Kryritsch on the Pulsnitz, and converted the village into a town, which was also provided with a church – the town of Königsbrück. Assuming that both places took their name from the king of Bohemia, Königsbrück as early as 1086, Königstein at some time unknown, it is not surprising to find them belonging to the same owner, albeit briefly, at a later period. In 1402, when Dohna was destroyed, Jeschke von Dohna sent his children, under the protection of his vassal Waldau, to Königsbrück, while taking refuge himself in Königstein, which was mortgaged to him (Ref. 23).


As regards Schönfeld near Dresden, it is known that in the fourteenth century it belonged to “the Syverde von Schönfeld living at Radeberg” (Ref. 48). But Radeberg belonged to those Schönfelds who held the village of Schönfeld near Grossenhain. “Wachau and Radeberg are said to have been owned by Melchior of Schönfeld (near Grossenhain) in 1260” (Ref. 16). The von Schönfelds are “one of the oldest noble families, one of whom, Peppo v. S., is named as early as 1119 as a witness to a document of Michaelsfeld abbey. The family rapidly spread over a wide area and acquired an extraordinary number of properties.”

Thus both places named Schönfeld had the same original owner. At a later period it is the von Sahla family who own both places. In 1540 Schönfeld near Dresden belonged to the steward’s widow Anna von Saale. In the church at Schönfeld near Grossenhain there are memorials to several von Sahlas of the house of Schönfeld, including Georg von der Sahla who died in 1417. The von Sahlas are said to have lived in Schönfeld since the fourteenth century (Ref. 48). According to Schumann, Schönborn, half an hour east of Grossenhain, belonged as a feudal holding to the estate “Schönfeld hinterer teil” and was thus in the possession of the von Schönfelds. It may be noted that Schönfeld near Leipzig once belonged to the famous Dr Georg Krakau, who at the same time also owned Schönfeld near Dresden. Thus one could almost conclude that the village of Schönborn near Ruhland once belonged to the same owner, since it is a second example of the name Schönborn on the Schönfeld–Schönfeld line, and lies as far from the Schönborn near Schönfeld as the two Schönfelds lie from each other (33 km).

Arnsdorf: western ray

The line from Arnsdorf near Radeberg to Arnsdorf near Ruhland has the same length as that from Königstein to Königsbrück. Arnsdorf near Radeberg is still absent from the Meissen diocesan register of 1346, hence at that time had no church; later it had a chapel attached to Wallroda. In Arnsdorf near Ruhland a toll was levied at the bridge in 1824 “from travellers on the road from Dresden through Radeberg”, in return for which the villagers had to maintain the bridge there. “On the marriage of Mechtilde, daughter of Margrave Konrad II, to Albert II of Brandenburg, Ruhland was added to the March of Brandenburg, but after the death of the Elector Waldemar, to Bohemia” (Ref. 48).

Arnsdorf–Arnstein: central ray

There is more information available about Arnsdorf near Wilthen, which lies 22 km from the Arnstein in the Elbsandstein range, 33 km from Arnsdorf (Arnoltice) on the Rosenberg, and 55 km from the meeting-point of our alinements near Babina. It was probably an estate whose produce went to the bishop of Meissen. Otto Schmole, discussing the history of Arnsdorf, states that according to old traditions the manor house was formerly a monastery, or farmhouse belonging to a monastery, at the foot of the Picho. “In fact at the site in question there are the remains of masonry, and a hundred years ago the ruins of a chapel were still visible. In 1439 the bishop lent Matthias Sommerfeld of Budissin money on Arnsdorf and Schlungwitz. The village consisted originally of only four homesteads, which until recently enjoyed certain privileges over those built later. St Mary’s well on the inside of the estate wall was, until after 1900, sought out by pilgrims going from Schirgiswalde to Rosenthal. Likewise the pilgrims from near the monastery (Marienstern) made a detour through Arnsdorf when they went to Lobendava on St Ann’s day. On the hill (345 m) stood the chapel; the pilgrims halted for a while at the foot of the hill and prayed” (Ref. 7). A remarkable ancient contract required the occupier of Arnsdorf manor to call personally to collect the bishop’s tithe for Krobnitz. This does not refer to an uninhabited border region, but the village of Krobnitz near Görlitz.

Thus Arnsdorf near Wilthen seems to have had a certain Christian or perhaps pre-Christian importance as a place of pilgrimage. So also the Arnstein cliff above the Kirnitzschtal in the Elbsandstein range seems to have been singled out among the formerly inhabited crags, for a chapel once stood there. In 1804 Pastor Gitzinger of Neustadt noticed “many engraved figures and symbols” preserved in the rock, and even today one can find engraved in the rock various crosses (Knights Hospitaller), coats of arms, pictures of knights and sketches of buildings. On the ascent to the cliff there is a carved face, whose style suggests a very early date. In 1891, when the road through the valley was being widened, a carved wheel was blasted away at the foot of the Arnstein along with the surface of the cliff (Ref. 26). Two such wheels can be found well-preserved in Schauenstein castle, formerly owned by the family Birke von der Duba, near Vysoká Lípa. Equal-armed cross inside a circle Wheel with eight spokes The line from Arnsdorf near Wilthen to the Arnstein continues over the Buschmühle mill beneath the Arnstein and the village of Arnsdorf near Rosendorf (the Arnsberg there lies 11 km from the Arnstein), then over the village of Buschmühle, 22 km from the Buschmühle near the Arnstein, to Babina. Traversing the lordship of Děčín the last section of this line crosses over the Quaderberg, where great quantities of prehistoric potsherds have been found, the Kolmer Scheibe, which has also yielded finds of potsherds, and the Sperlingstein, which the knights of Techlovice held from 1402 to 1412. Among the first lords of Děčín was Jacob Birke von Dauba, who rebuilt Děčín after the great flood of 1059. In 1004 Dukes Jaromir and Udalrich presented Berka Howora von Duba and Leipa, who had been raised into the Bohemian nobility by Emperor Heinrich in 1003, with “the entire territory beyond the Elbe as far as the Wendish and Lausitz mountains” (Ref. 8). The family Birke von der Duba were later in possession of the whole Elbsandstein range, and thus in particular the Arnstein, though for a time this seems to have been mortgaged by them to the lords of Wartenberg (Ref. 26). The lords of Wartenberg later held the manor of Děčín. Shortly after 1400 Johann von Wartenberg bought the estate of Warte near Velké Březno (Grosspriesen) from Albrecht von Duba, afterwards regional commander of the Teutonic Knights in Bohemia. Before the Hussite wars, in which it was probably destroyed, the castle of Warta ruled over the villages of Grosspriesen, Kleinpriesen, Wittine, Welchen, Sulz (Suletice), Presey, Malschen Budowe, Waltirsche, Wittal and Pschira. These places occupy the region west and northwest of our central point as far as the Elbe. To the castle of Sperlingstein, whose upper part was called Heidenschloss, belonged Techlovice, Pschira, Ober- and Nieder-Welhotten, Hardte, Hostitz mit Schmordau, Scheras and Rittersdorf (Ref. 19, Ref. 8). In 1427 the Sperlingstein belonged to Anna von Wartenberg, the wife of Sigmund von Wartenberg auf Tetschen.

Every Easter a procession of knights rode from Děčín via Losdorf to Heidenstein (ecclesiastically part of Arnsdorf). “It is thought that this might even go back into pagan prehistory” (Ref. 37). Thus we see the southernmost part of our metrological alinement marked out by the villages of the lordship of Sperlingstein, although there is no trace of it in the Bohemian tableland (Ref. 8) – apart from Děčín where traces of prehistoric inhabitants, in the form of potsherds or earthworks, indicate the route.


For Nieder-Ottenhain, which is 33 km from the Ottenberg near the Rosenberg, we have the following report in the old “Sächsische Kirchengalerie”: “To Ober-Ottenhain belongs also the hamlet of Sonnenberg, on the Sonnenberg hill, about a league to the south. The group of rocks situated on this hill affords a pleasant panoramic view over the district, and bears the name Jüddenhaus or Jürddenhaus, which perhaps derives from the cave-like recess on the eastern side. Old traditions say that on this site there was a temple or place of sacrifice to Wodan, Wodin, or Odyn, and this probably accounts for the name of the village. … According to old traditions the original inhabitants of the village lived on the Sonnenberg.”

Arnsdorf: eastern ray

No information is available about the Ottenberg east of the Rosenberg south of Rennersdorf, nor about Arnsdorf near Cvikov and Arnsdorf near Frydlant, which lie 44 km apart on yet another line from Babina.


The ancient settlements on the above-mentioned Sonnenberg indicate a similar meaning for two other Sonnenbergs over on the western side of the Elbe, one southeast of Glashütte and the other south of Blankenstein west of Wilsdruff, at a distance of 33 km apart. It is remarkable that the line joining them passes, if not over the peak, at any rate over the shoulder of a third Sonnenberg, situated east of Dippoldiswalde in such a way that it is 22 km from its northwestern namesake and 11 km from the southeastern. The most southeasterly of these three Sonnenbergs (and they are the only ones shown west of the Elbe on the official 1:100,000 map) lies on the boundary finally established by King Václav II between the diocese of Meissen and Bohemia; the distance from its summit to the basepoint, (near Babina in the Bohemian highlands) of the line joining the three Sonnenbergs measures 44 km, so that the length of the whole line amounts to 77 km. The line runs over the Luchberg and also the village of Schönwald (Krasný Les). On 12th January 1663 Count Nicholas von Schönfeld, lord of Schönwald, died in Prague and was buried near Maria Schnee (Ref. 30). This Count Schönfeld has no connexion with our family; he came from Lothringen and his family were originally called Serin Champ. According to written records the first lords of Schönwald were the von Thelers, who also owned Edle Krone, through which passes the line joining the two Sonnenbergs (Ref. 30). Schönwald castle lies 22 km from the old fortress above Pirna, said to have been named “Sonnenstein” by Margrave Wilhelm in 1402. The line Sonnenstein–Schönwald marks the western boundary of the township of Königstein. Schönwald is 33 km from Edle Krone.


In 1437, during the siege of the Jungfrauburg (Panna) south of Babina, Hans von Schönfeld was summoned along with Tidze Gorenczk, lord of Königstein, by Sigmund von Wartenberg auf Tetschen. Also the town of Königsbrück is not without significance for the Schönfeld family. “In 1335 the towns of the Upper Lausitz sent a large force to Königsbrück and burned down the house of the Schönfelds” (Ref. 35).

Thus we find the Schönfelds occupying three sites on our great wheel. In Königsbrück and Radeberg they come into contact with the Counts von Dohna. On another spoke of the wheel the von Wartenbergs are neighbours of the Birke von der Duba family, though the Birkes were there first. On a third spoke we find the von Thelers in two places, admittedly rather late. Here again the distance between associated settlements amounts to about 33 kilometres.

Ostro: northern ray

The village of Ostro near Kamenz lies 33 km from Ostro near Schandau. The line joining these runs north–south and passes though the basepoint of the other alinements near Babina. Ostro near Kamenz ias two ancient earthworks, one of which contained potsherds of the Billendorf era, the other of the early Middle Ages (Ref. 39).

Ostro: southern ray

Concerning Ostro monastery near Schandau, Klemm says: “Here a transfer certainly seems to have taken place, no doubt from Ostrov on the river Sázava. This second Benedictine monastery in Bohemia lay on an island where the Sázava flows into the Vltava” (Ref. 20). The line from the first Benedictine monastery in Bohemia (St George for nuns, St Margaret for monks, near Prague) to the second, Ostrov, is again the north–south line and is 22 km long. If extended northwards, over St George’s on the Prague citadel, it meets at 44 km from St George’s “the towering church of Chcebuz” and the hill called Ostrov. “In 993 Duke Boleslav II gave the church at Chcebuz, two farms with plenty of land, and the hill Ostrov to the Benedictine monastery of St Margaret in Prague, a favourite foundation of St Vojtěch” (Ref. 2).

The connexion between these metrologically related sites is thus clear, and since the name Ostrov is here used for a hill it must have another meaning than “island”, for also Ostro near Schandau does not lie on an island but at the top of a hill. It is remarkable that these four occurrences of the name Ostro twice establish the north-south axis.

East German church foundations

Further north also, ecclesiastical relationships seem to be indicated by fixed units of length between significant points. In 732 the monasteries of Fritzlar and Amöneberg were founded by Boniface. They lie 44 km apart. According to Schuchhardt (Ref. 47) Amöneberg was already inhabited by the Celts in the La Tène period, while on the site of the Büraburg near Fritzlar, the cathedral town, there was a pagan holy place. Tradition tells that Boniface had already founded a monastery at Leipzig in 728, which apart from the one at Rochlitz was the first in this country (Ref. 27). The old city centres of Leipzig and Rochlitz are 44 km apart. In 1227 the bishop of Meissen borrowed 168 silver marks from the cathedral chapter in order to buy Stolpen castle (Ref. 26). Meissen and Stolpen are 44 km apart. In return the chapter received the villages of Loschwitz near Dresden and Reppnitz near Scharfenberg, which lie 22 km apart.

Bohemian church foundations

Historical records are quite clear about ecclesiastical foundations in Bohemia. The first monasteries in Bohemia were St George’s on the citadel in Prague, founded by Boleslav II; Břevnov near Prague, also founded by Boleslav and occupied by Italians; and Ostrov, again founded by Boleslav at the somewhat later date of 999, on an island at the mouth of the Sázava, and to which an abbot was appointed from the Bavarian monastery Niederalteich (Ref. 33). The citadel of Prague and Ostro lie 22 km apart. The monastery at Ostro sent out hermits. Beneath the farm at Sedlec, on the river Lodenice, a chapel of St John was founded in a hollow in the cliff. Duke Bretislav presented the site to the monsstery. It lies not only 22 km from Ostrov, but also 22 km from Břevnov near Prague. Further, the same monks built the hermit a chapel of St John on Mount Veliš. The villagers of Otročiněves were made custodians of the chapel. Otročiněves lies 11 km from the first chapel of St John near Sedlec (Ref. 24). In 1140 Vladislav II built a Premonstratensian monastery on Mount Strahov close by Břevnov. Then in 1144 Queen Gertrud founded the nunnery at Doksany, which was connected with the Strahov monastery through its provost. In 1197 Teplá monastery was founded. Almost at the same time as Teplá, the nunnery at Chotěšov southwest of Plzeň came into being. Teplá and Chotěšov are sited 44 km apart. Thus double foundations, by the same person or at the same time, have a 44-km separation. Around 1040 Duke Břetislav I founded a seminary in Stará Boleslav, the residence of the ruling family, and a collegiate monastery on the site of the ancient regional capital Melnik. Melnik and Stará Boleslav lie 22 km apart. Under Duke Bretislav, ruler from 1034, the monastery of Sázava was also completed. Church Slavonic was introduced there by the first abbot, Procopius. “L. Winters assumes that Procopius, before retiring again into solitude, had resigned from the monastery at Břevnov” (Ref. 33). The distance from Břevnov to Sázava measures 44 km. St Peter’s church, founded by Spytihnev in Budeč (now a hamlet of Kovary parish, Zakolany district, northwest of Prague), where the young Václav (Wenceslas) received instruction in Latin, is 11 km from the midpoint of the former citadel layout in Prague, the “ancient pre-Christian sacred place” (Ref. 35). The victory of Soběslav over the German King Lothar, in the Chlumec Pass in 1126, was won by the aid of St Vojtěch’s banner, which was fastened to the lance of St Václav and carried in front by the chaplain Vitus. It was fetched by order of Soběslav from the village church at Vrbčany where it was preserved. The distance from Vrbčany church to the citadel and sacred site in Prague is 44 km (Ref. 33). Duke Bořivoj is alleged to have founded the churches of St Clement on the citadel at Hradec on the left bank of the Vltava, a league and a half from Prague, and on the Vyšehrad. However, these churches were in existence before his time. These churches of St Clement are 11 km apart. In Grieben (Ref. 12) the church at Hradec is called the oldest known church in Bohemia, and its date of construction is given as 871.

Bohemian regional capitals

As with religious centres, so with politically important places that are interrelated: it appears that before building a survey was carried out. Ancient Czech traditions provide examples. Among the ancient districts which the Slavs most likely found already established on their arrival, Bretholz (Ref. 3) makes particular mention of the Bilina district (capital Stadice), which was merged with the adjoining districts to the south and with the Prague district to form a single province. This political union is traditionally ascribed to the Duchess Libuše, who found her husband Přemysl by a hazel bush in the fields. Stadice is 66 km from Prague. A second group of five districts, already united into a province, lay west of Prague around its capital Žatec. Žatec also lies 66 km from Prague. Moreover, Žatec lies 44 km from Stadice. Čech, founder of the nation, is said to be buried on St George’s Hill (Říp) near Roudenice, where also the first armed regional diet in Bohemia was held (Ref. 41). St George’s hill lies 33 km from Prague.


If then the practice of landscape surveying did go back into pre-Slavonic times, we should not be surprised to discover a Germanic measure in the basic 11-km unit. The old Germanic “raste” measured 440 m, the Gallic league 2220 m, the Gallo-Germanic foot 333 mm, and the pilework ell 444 mm. The Sumerian double-hour or league, danna, (Akkadian buru) contained 1800 gar, or 21600 Nippur cubits of 51·80 cm, and was therefore 11·1888 km (Ref. 6). The one-hour unit or “ure” is still used in Holland and equals 5·565 km. A league of 10·692 km still exists in Sweden, and the Norwegians have a league of 11·299 km (Ref. 4). The “Grand Dictionnaire Universel du XIXme Siecle” records under “Lieue” the following league units, which can be related to the recurrent basic unit of 11 km: “Lieue d’Angleterre 5·569339 km – Lieue de 25 au degre, c’est-à-dire de 4·444 km – Lieue de 20 au degre, c’est-à-dire de 5·555 km”.

Marco Polo, writing on contemporary China (13th century), reports that starting from Beijing foot-messengers and couriers went regularly to all parts of the empire, wore girdles with little bells, and reached the next staging post after about 4 km. In Franconia also, royal envoys travelled as couriers, continually changing horses at predetermined points. In Germany the professions and government authorities, and even universities, etc, had their own messenger corps (Ref. 43, Ref. 46).

Thus it does not seem impossible that a double-hour or league was reckoned in early Germany at about 11 km and served as a basic measure. If so, traces of the old metrology should still survive in places, albeit obscurely, and such indeed seems to be the case. A. Paudler wrote an article (Ref. 30) based on information from his brother, who took part in a pilgrimage from Kamenice to Svatá Hora, the holy mountain near Příbram. The departure from Kamenice was on the Friday before Whitsun at about 3 pm. They went as far as Police where they stayed the night in peasants’ houses or anywhere else suitable. The distance from Kamenice to Police measures (in a straight line) 11 km. “In the morning, ie on Whit Saturday, the procession moved off via Valteřice to Kravaře, where the pilgrims went to early mass. From here the procession went via Blizevedly to Sukorady, where they took their midday rest” (20 km). From Sukorady the way led through Brocno Heath. In Brocno vespers were heard. From there they went to Libecov “where however we could not stay the night. Even at the farm it was impossible because they had no straw. Finally we took up our quarters in the barn.” So after all it is possible to stay the night in Libecov. From Police to here is exactly 33 km as the crow flies. A. Paudler remarks that the route leads almost in a straight line from Šluknov via Kamenice to Prague, for which reason it was greatly favoured by lottery messengers and express runners. Let us give an example of the achievements of such runners. The messenger of the Grand Duchess of Tuscany ran in a single day from Zákupy to Prague and back, and still found time to enjoy himself at a wedding party on his return (Ref. 37). The distance from Zákupy to Prague as the crow flies is exactly 66 km, but on the ground 10·5 leagues: so about 150 km was covered in one day. King John rode so quickly that in 1331 he and ten knights reached Paris from Prague in ten days (Ref. 30). This is well over 100 km for each day’s journey on horseback.

Long-distance communication in Bohemia

The probability that our network, defined by repetition of placenames and the use of a common unit of length, was used for sending information and as a long-distance “diplomatic service”, becomes very high when we consider that vestiges of ancient communication systems have survived into our own day, particularly in the north Bohemian border district. In 1804 an optical telegraph was set up on the Rosenberg (Ref. 37). From the Rosenberg one can see the towers of the Frauenkirche and the Schlosskirche in Dresden. In 1712 an “alarm pole” was erected on the Rosenberg, with a look-out cabin in the tops of tall trees. The same was done on the Wolfsberg. “From this look-out cabin one could see far into the distance in all directions. If anything unusual was noticed, an express message was to be sent to the nearest main office. At night the watchmen maintained a beacon fire near the alarm pole.” There were similar alarm poles on other peaks, eg on the Jested, where it was still to be seen in 1820 “when it was quite black”. “In 1757 pitch poles were placed on all the hills towards Saxony, to be kindled on the approach of the Prussians” (Ref. 37). We may add that our army still used the “Fanal” (lantern) in the World War. Again, on the Dylen near Cheb there was a fire telegraph. Blankenstein castle was linked to Schreckenstein castle near Ústí by beacon signal, likewise Děčín castle with Blankenstein (Ref. 8); the Tollenstein with Schönbuch and Rohnau and Oybin (Ref. 32); Oybin with Rohnau castle and the Landeskrone near Görlitz. An echo of the former techniques was the nuisance of the “number beaters” in Bohemia in the last century. Before the message with the winning lottery numbers reached the border districts, the numbers drawn were communicated from Prague via Bezdez, Raleko, Lemberk, Hochwald and Toepfer to Zittau. The Lausche was also an important station for the “number beaters”. The numbers were indicated by long poles and observed through a telescope (Ref. 30).

Post-medieval instances

Recent examples of straight-line surveying are to be found in the neighbourhood of our system. Professor J. Humelius of Leipzig, who died in 1562, drew a map of Dresden Heath in which eight radial roads meet at a central point, the “Helle” of the Saugarten. Map of Dresden Heath with 8-ray compass rose The longest stretch of road, which runs dead straight from Radeberg in the Loessnitz as far as Rennersdorf near Stollen, measures 25 km. On the main radii are set transverse ribs at 45 degrees (Ref. 21). Mathias Oeder also shows this radial system, parts of which survive to this day, on his 1572 map of Dresden Heath (Ref. 15). The oldest map of Tharandt Forest (southwest of Dresden), drawn by Humelius about 1558, likewise shows a 32-fold compass rose, centred on the “Helle” of the hunting castle Grillenburg, and laid cut as straight avenues over the forest (Ref. 29). Map of the Tharandt Forest with 32-ray compass rose Who is not reminded of the Catalan seamen’s maps, or portolanos, developed in the fourteenth century? They used remarkably exact maps, with a network of 32-rayed bundles superimposed so that there was one at the centre and sixteen outer ones arranged in a circle (Ref. 10). Further, the 32-fold compass rose is still used today in navigation, and a direction finder in the form of a windrose can still be found, in a good state of preservation, attached horizontally to a little-visited rock face in the Elbe mountains of Bohemia. The fire-watchers who, in the Elbe mountains eg on the “Königsplatz” and the “Rudolfstein”, observed the vast forest plains in dry summer weather, will have pinpointed danger spots in the forest in the same way as the fire-watchers in the Swedish forests (Ref. 36).

One might once again raise the question as to who the constructors of such a vast network may have been. In the end we always, one way or another, come back to the idea of an ancient construction project, traversing the primeval Markwald forest and joining one inhabited clearing to the next. It is remarkable that the territory of the Teutonic Knights, whose patrons were Otakar I and Vaclav I, stretches from the Elbe east of Litomerice over the villages of Biskovic, Nesel, Ujezdec, Pirna near Litomerice, and later Lenzel, Triebsch, Dubravic, Temitzl, beneath our main alinement right up to Babina. West of their territory the Hospitallers settled from 1169, so that the line Königsbrück–Königstein–Babina–Prague serves as a boundary within the Bohemian tableland, just as it also separates Meissen from the Lausitz. When the Mongols came to a halt outside Legnica in 1241, it was not so much the Silesian knights as news from their homeland that forced them to retreat. And this news was sent to them via signalling apparatus that telegraphed across 6000 km from Karakorum to Legnica (Ref. 44). Hermann Grimm’s “Oil prospector of Duala” was kept informed in the African bush by the drums of the natives.

(To be concluded)

Early German Land Surveys

By Kurt Gerlach, Hellerau


There is not much to be said about the village of Babina. It has only a few houses and lies sheltered beneath the long ridge of the 568-metre high Matzenstein, which blocks the view northward from Prague, but from which one can see the peaks of the Saxon–Bohemian mountains – the Sněžnik, the Grosser Zschirnstein, and the Rosenberg – and from these the view stretches far into the plain. Again, looking southeast from the Matzenstein one can see in the distance the shining ribbon of the river Vltava and the hills and towers of Prague. In 1574 Heinrich von Salhausen bought Binowe and two larger estates in Hummel, also later Welhotta, Plahof, and the still uncultivated Babina, from Jaroslav von Wrschesovitz, the heir of Dubansky von Duba auf Libeschitz und Ploschkowitz (Ref. 30). Besides Welbine, Heinrich also peopled Babina with farmers and founded the village of Lischken. The region in those days was still Czech.

If one wishes, it is possible to find more connections in addition to those mentioned above. Thus the east–west line from the centrepoint near Babina crosses over Schönau and Teplice, and at 33 km from Schönau strikes the church of Oberneuschönberg on the summit of the Erzgebirge range. There is also the historical connection that by the agreement of 6th February 1482 Timo von Colditz sold Teplice to Burghard von Vitzthun und Neuschönberg (Ref. 13). However, Oberneuschönberg was only founded in 1651 by Bohemian exiles, and the church was not built until 1659 (Ref. 48). It must be assumed therefore that Schönberg and Schönau were previously connected.

Nazi propaganda

Now whether this is a Neolithic system that remained in force throughout the Bronze Age and up to the time of the Marcomans (c. 100 BC), and was taken over by the German settlers of the early Middle Ages, or whether the opportunity for creating it arose with the resettlement of abandoned territory, one thing is certain, that we are dealing with a thoroughly German system, which grew up in the Lausitz and Meissen, and in Bohemia was based upon Prague, and which is proved to be German by the pro-German policies of the Bohemian princes and by its German place- and field-names, and thereby shows that its Bohemian homeland is German at heart. When the diocese of Prague was founded in 973 the German bishop Dietmar von Magdeburg went into St Vitus’ church in Prague (Ref. 37). The clergy sang the Ambrosian chant in Latin, but Duke Boleslav and the nobles sang an Old High German song “Christe, Keinado: Und die halicgen alle helfant unse!”

Do we perhaps hear from the strong voice of the Saxon–Bohemian borders a sacred Old High German song?


Examples of early German surveying in history and tradition:

In 1268 documents describe “Canon Meynher in Merseburg as rector in Groytzs and Wyzenfels”. In 1284 Meinhart was chosen as prebendary and rector at Groyzig (Groitzsch). Groitzsch–Weissenfels = 22 km.

The church of St George in Regis belonged to Zeitz monastery, from which it was not separated until 1815. Regis–Zeitz = 22 km.

Document 22 of the “Codex diplomaticus Saxoniae regiae” deals with Emperor Otto’s gift of the towns Zeitz and Altenburg, and several other places in various districts, to Bishop Hugo of Zeitz. Zeitz–Altenburg = 22 km.

Heinrich I built the castellum Madeburu (Magdeborn) which in 968 was handed over by King Otto to Bishop Boso of Merseburg for use as a mission station. Merseburg–Magdeborn = 33 km.

At the beginning of the fifteenth century the lords of Wildenfels held the stewardship of Kloesterlein. Kloesterlein–Wildenfels = 11 km.

Until the mid-fourteenth century Sachsenburg and Frankenberg came under the jurisdiction of Freiberg. According to the Meissen diocesan register of 1346, Sachsenburg belonged to the diocese of Freiberg. Frankenberg–Freiberg = 22 km. Sachsenburg–Freiberg = 22 km.

Slavko, of the Riesenburg family, Count of Bílina, founded Schlackenwerth and Schlackenwald (Ref. 24). Bílina–Schlackenwerth = 66 km. Schlackenwerth–Schlackenwald = 22 km.

Tharandt castle is probably a foundation of the Margraves of Meissen. Documents show that from 1242 Margrave Heinrich the Illustrious was lord of Tharandt (Ref. 34). Meissen–Tharandt = 22 km. From Meissen an almost straight highway leads via Wilsdruff to Tharandt. Five discoveries of bronze-age votive offerings on lonely peaks in the forest suggest the existence of an ancient sacred place (Ref. 40).

St Nicholas’ church in Meissen belonged to the archdiocese of Rosswein (Ref. 35). Rosswein–Meissen = 22 km.

The župa (district) Ústí was founded at some time unknown and superseded by the župa Bílina (Ref. 8). Ústí–Bílina = 22 km.

The builders of Geiersburg castle as Steinburg in 1315 were the lords of Burgau or Bergau, a branch of the Lobdaburg family. To them belonged the lordships of Sayda, Borsenstein and Lauenstein. Otto von Bergau came to Bohemia in 1310 (Ref. 14). Geiersburg–Sayda = 33 km. Geiersburg–Lauenstein = 11 km.

In 1054 one Hermann von Roll founded the Benedictine monastery near Mnichovo Hradiště with monks from Tornach (Ref. 25). Roll (Ralsko)–Mnichovo Hradiště = 22 km.

The bishop of Litomerice owned the castle in Drum and also Rohnburg castle (Ref. 37). Litomerice–Rohnburg = 22 km.

The lordship of Krupka (Graupen) included Libešice. The Jesuits had residences in Mariaschein (Krupka) and Libešice (Ref. 13). Libešice-Mariaschein = 33 km.

In northeast Bohemia the land was owned by the Hrone family who at the time were Burgraves of Bautzen, Zittau, and Prague. The town of Rumburk, Runenburg castle (Roynungen), Rohnau, and the Ronberg preserve their name. Branches of the Hrone family include Birke von der Duba, and also the Wartenberg, Markwart, Waldstein, and Michelberg families. The custom of laying out their fortified towns at traditional distances apart seems to have been carried on by the Birkes. Starting from Česká Lípa, they acquired Hohnstein, first mentioned in documents in 1333. The straight line Česká Lípa–Hohnstein crosses over the main peak of the region, the Rosenberg, and is 44 km long. The Rosenberg divides it into two sections of 22 km each. In 1332, in return for an advance of money, Hynek (Hinke) Birke, the chief burgrave of Prague, acquired from King John the Bezdez hill, which lies on an extension of the Rosenberg–Česká Lípa line at 22 km from Česká Lípa. At the foot of the Bezdez this Hynek Berke had the town of Bezdez demolished, ostensibly because of the poor water supply, and built instead the town of Bela (Weisswasser) several km to the southeast (Ref. 17). In this way there was created a sightline 66 km long, entirely in the possession of Hynek Berke, since from the Bezdez one can see as far as the Stolpen district. From Bezdez the view stretches from the Milešovka to the Sněžka and from Prague to the Zimni Vrch.

Arnstein, which eventually passed by mortgage from the hands of the Birkes to the Wartenbergs, thus apparently belonged at the time of its destruction to Děčín, but we know that the first mayor of Děčín was a Birke. The family of Birke von der Duba owned the hilltop castle Burgstein, which bears their name. It is 22 km from Duba (Ref. 8).

The founders of Rohnau (near Zittau) were the lords of Česká Lípa. A document of Emperor Heinrich VII, dated 20th July 1310, confirmed von der Leippa’s ownership of Rohnau and Zittau, which are known to have belonged to him long before. But in 1319 Heinrich von der Leippa exchanged these properties, plus Oybin castle, for estates in Bohemia. Česká Lípa, 0ybin, Zittau and Rohnau are in alinement; Oybin and Rohnau are in contact by beacon signals (Ref. 31).

In 1319 King John of Bohemia made over the town of Zittau and the castles of Rohnau and Schönau (Czino) to Duke Heinrich von Jauer as a dowry for his bride Agnes, a sister-in-law of the king (Ref. 18). Rohnau–Schönau = 11 km.

Sayda was founded in 1193 along with Osek (Ref. 45). Sayda–Osek = 22 km.

The castle at Crostau has, on the side facing the garden, a small tower from which the view extends as far as Bautzen. In the church is the memorial of Rudolph von Rechenberg, lord of Crostau, Budissin, etc (Ref. 42). Crostau–Bautzen = 11 km.

In 1770, Andreas, Count of Riaucour, bought the lordship of Crostau. Karl, Count of Schall-Riaucour, moved his place of residence to Gaussig. Crostau–Gaussig = 11 km.

In 1559 the Jesuit Father Luca said prayers and masses in the monastic church on the Oybin, also in the nearby town of Cvikov (Ref. 31). Oybin–Cvikov = 11 km.

In 1306, on the first of May, Ebersbach was transferred to Löbau to become a village within the municipal district. Ebersbach–Löbau = 11 km (Ref. 1).

Jauernick belonged to Marienthal monastery. Jauernick–Marienthal = 11 km.

Legends, further political and ecclesiastical relationships:

The Wittich cross near Glashütte. The robber-knight Wittich is said to have been killed here by Weigand von Birenstein. For his reward Birenstein stipulated that a stag, which he himself had caught and cared for, should be led across the stone bridge over the Elbe in Dresden (Ref. 29). Wittich cross–Neustadt end of the bridge = 22 km. On the Neustadt side stood the customs house of the Dohna family, who levied the toll from here to Königsbrtick. Their coat of arms could be seen there: two crossed stag’s antlers. The story is told differently by G. A. Poennicke (Ref. 38). But there too the Elbe bridge in Dresden is mentioned.

Kuhfahl (Ref. 23) states that the Wittich cross once fell over and was re-erected. He says that old accounts place the killing “somewhere above the manor of Rheinhart-Grimma”, but considers this unlikely because from the cross to this spot it is nearly an hour’s journey, and because there in the village itself, on a raised site above the manor, a stone cross still stands today.

The Wittich cross–Elbe bridge line traverses the manor of Rheinhardtgrinma and also a widely-visible landmark of the Dresden region, the Babisnau poplar.

Meiche 841: The great bell at Marbach near Nissen, and that of the Frauenkirche in Dresden, are said to have been dug up by a wounded boar near the old hermitage in the Zellwald. Altzella–Frauenkirche = 33 km.

Meiche 595: In the neighbourhood of Rochlitz, a suburb of Mittweida, is the Kalk- or Galgenberg (gallows hill). The Devil once sat there and watched the pilgrims travelling to Seelitz. 308-metre peak–Seelitz = 11 km.

Meiche 1133: For a bet, a miller of Baruth tried to carry two bushels of millet as far as the Knigsmühle (king’s mill) in Bautzen. Where the cross stands at a fork in the road, he fell dead. Baruth–cross = 11 km. The cross, actually a stone pillar with crosses carved on it, also shows a “wheel”. It bears the date 1549, but was already mentioned the year before (Ref. 23).

Meiche 920: The treasure of the Stromberg near Weissenberg was transferred to the Rothstein near Sohland. Legend 273 of Meiche’s Saxony tells that a chapel of St George once stood on the western peak of the Rothstein. On the Rothstein stands a double rampart and on the Stromberg a rampart of slag (Ref. 40). Stromberg–Rothstein = 11 km.

Meiche 69: The Zschirnstein is haunted at noon. Also, the Devil is said to have appeared between 12 and 1 o’clock on the Lilienstein. Zschirnstein–Lilienstein = 11 km.

The Teufelstein (Devil’s stone) near Pliesskowitz is said to have been thrown there from the Czorneboh (Ref. 29). Teufelstein–Czorneboh = 11 km.

“In Ludwigsdorf near Görlitz, it was intended to build a monastery affiliated to Oybin in 1465, but this project was not carried out” (Ref. 31). Oybin–Nieder-Ludwigsdorf church = 44 km.

“Cosmas says that Duke Boleslav I (920–967) built himself a castle”, ie Stará Boleslav (Ref. 3). Prague–Stará Boleslav = 22 km.

Karl IV built Karlstein castle. Prague–Karlstein = 22 km.

The Schönberg family have resided in the Meissen district at Rotschönberg since 1290, and at Purschenstein and Pfaffroda since 1351 (Ref. 16). Rotschönberg–Purschenstein = 44 km.

“The Wettiners (Ekkehard I, 1046) owned Rochlitz and Strehla” (Ref. 22). Rochlitz–Strehla = 44/45 km.

Wiprecht von Groitzsch received from Emperor Heinrich IV the castles of Leisnig and Dornburg an der Saale (Ref. 22). Groitzsch–Leisnig = 45 km, Groitzsch–Dornburg = 45 km.

Otto’s first act was to found the city of Leipzig, then the plantation town of Eisenberg, then the market town Grimma (Ref. 22). Groitzsch–Leipzig = 33 km, Groitzsch–Eisenberg = 33 km, Groitzsch–Grimma = 33 km.

“At first Dietrich received only the hereditary estates that could not be taken from him, especially around Weissenfels” (Ref. 22). Groitzsch–Weissenfels = 22 km.

The first seminary (in Saxony) for the training of priests was built in 1122 in Wurzen, and one a century later in Bautzen (Ref. 22). Wurzen–Meissen = 55/56 km. Meissen–Bautzen = 66 km.

The royal castle Žebrák or Bettlarn (Václav I) lies 44 km from Prague, and 22 km from Karlstein.

The first foundation in the Pschow district was Pschow castle, mentioned in 870 as the seat of the “Lechen” or Counts Slavibor, at the mouth of the river Schopka (north of Melnik), 33 km from Vyšehrad (Ref. 2).

“The church at Chcebuz with its panoramic view was built by Boleslav II in the tenth century (993)” – on a pagan place of sacrifice, “On neighbouring estates Břevnov abbey owned Chcebuz church along with two farms from 993” (Ref. 2). Chcebuz–Břevnov = 44 km.

In the Kouřim district across the river Šembera a collegiate monastery has stood in Sadská since the early twelfth century, where from antiquity a royal residence had stood in the open fields (Ref. 9). Břevnov–Sadská = 44 km.

From 1143 a Cistercian monastery stood at Sedlec near the future site of Kutná Hora (Ref. 9). Sedlec–Břevnov = 66 km.

In 1126 there was built at Vrbčany (Kouřim district), on a steep summit, a church with an enclosing wall (Ref. 9). Vrbčany–Břevnov = 44 km. Cf Naegle (Ref. 33) according to whom a church existed in Vrbčany in 1126.

The older Benedictine monasteries, dating from the tenth and eleventh centuries: St George in Prague, Břevnov, Kladruby, Sázava, Želiv, Rajhrad, Hradiště (Ref. 3). Břevnov–Sázava = 44 km. Sázava–Želiv = 44 km.

The Pillnitz–Moritzburg road near Dresden links the castles of Moritzburg and Pillnitz. Straight line distance = 22 km.

“Pirna (castle and settlement) seems originally to have been situated between the Děčín and Nisani districts and to have belonged to the (older) town of Königstein” (Ref. 28). Pirna–Königstein = 11 km.

The expedition of Johann Georg III, to relieve the imperial capital when when besieged by the Turks (Ref. 49):

Three times the route of march shows a total of 33 km for two consecutive days, on three occasions 22 km was covered in a single day, once 55 km in two days, and once 33 km in a single day.

According to Klemm (Ref. 20), the names Königsbach and Königsmühle near Poemmerle, also Königsbach and Königsmühle near Naxdorf, indicate the route by which the king travelled from Prague to the Königstein. The latter Königsmühle is 11 km from the Königstein.

The line from Arnsdorf near Wilthen to Arnstein coincides with the former boundary of the diocese of Meissen: from Doberschau near Bautzen, via Wilthen, Weifa, Hilpersdorf, and the “place of the hermit (einsiedler)”, Einsiedel near Sebnitz. From Sebnitz onwards the way to the Arnstein lies through the mountains. Along the Elbe there was ro road!

Arms of the Dohna, Birke and Schönfeld families The arms of the landowners who settled in the border regions – the Dohna, Birke and Schönfeld families – perhaps indicate their solidarity. The Birkes bear the crossed “rone” (branches) on their shield, the Dohnas the crossed stag’s antlers, and the Schönfelds a single antler. The arms of St Margaret’s monastery near Prague are said to be similar to those of the Birkes (Ref. 30).

The former hermits’ quarters of the Saxony–Bohemia border are situated at Dippoldiswalde, Posta and Sebnitz. The hermit Dippold, who looked after St Barbara’s chapel, probably founded Dippoldiswalde. But another tradition attributes the town to Diebold von Lohmen, who is supposed to have found gold here. Also near Lohmen, and belonging to it, was the former village of Posta, now surviving only in the field name “on the old Posta”. Fragments of stone exist there today. Klemm points out that a hermit must have lived on this spot, an “apostle” from whom the village took its name. This would have been in Wendish times. But if so, the hermits of Dippoldiswalde and Posta would have been settled at 22 km apart, and the distance to the next hermit at Sebnitz would have been the same. This would correspond to the distance that the hermits of Ostrov on the Sazava took as the separation of their hermitages.


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