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« Place Names | Home | Some Observations abo… »

Half-Timbered Construction

by Bill Biar

Friday 18 November 2011 at 11:16 pm.

Early German and Slavic tribes did not know the art of construction with brick and stone as the Romans did, but used wood.  Later on as wood became scarce a method usually referred to as “HALF-TIMBERED” construction was employed.

In England it is also known as “WATTLE AND DAUB” construction and in Germany it is known as “FACHWERK”.  Vertical and horizontal frames of timber were erected for the walls.  These frames or compartments were then filled with whatever material was available, woven tree branches, twigs or similar materials.  Then both sides were covered with plaster, resembling what we know as stucco work. 

Many of the old houses in the villages from where our Wendish ancestors came were constructed in this manner, including the old Biar house in Gröditz and the old Moerbe house in Guttau.  Both of these were still in good repair in 1992.  At that time some of these old houses still had the old thatched roofs.  After World War II the writer observed in Bavaria when repairs were made to half-timbered buildings due to war damage the frames or compartments were filled with whatever material was available, small pieces of brick, mortar, etc.

There are still many villages in Europe, not damaged by war, that have many of these quaint-looking, often very picturesque, buildings constructed in the “Fachwerk” style during the 15th to the 17th centuries.  These buildings line the streets on both sides and are especially picturesque when timbers with various designs are left exposed and painted with a glossy dark color, usually brown, in contrast to the light color of the stucco.  Many of these buildings house shops, eateries, and the like, on the ground floors; while the floors above them are used for living quarters.  On many of the beams just above the ground floors the year of construction, quotations from the Bible, etc., appear.  One observation that the writer made in some villages, especially if the population is predominately Lutheran, is that if the buildings were built before the Reformation the texts are in Latin and if the buildings were built after the Reformation the texts are in German.

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