In velox libertas!

Time is relative. Especially historical time and especially at our parts, in Eastern Europe, where it can happen without further ado that three hundred years between 600 and 900 are stolen from Hungarians, while at Russians world history starts right in the stolen 800 and in its framework Christ is crucified in 1200 A.D. – just some years after the Troian war – in Istanbul.

It is therefore no accident that it was precisely a Russian graphic artist sensitive of such relativity, Boris Indrikov to discover and translate into Russian from the only available copy of the May 2009 issue of the Scientific Archevelogy the article of Sandy Collins, in which she has reported about their sensational discovery made during the excavations around the Lower Normandian Château-Gaillard. The Russian translation was published just two days ago. Here we publish its short English summary which – we are sure – will reach those interested much sooner than the original English publication.

Boris Indrikov’s medieval bicycle from Château Gaillard
Château-Gaillard was the favorite castle of Richard the Lionheart (1188-1199) in Lower Normandy. It also received its present name when the king, beholding for the first time the castle built on his order with its shining white stone walls, double ramparts, pont-levis and thirteen strong towers, exclaimed: “Quel château gaillard” – “What a merry castle!” At least this is how Maurice Druon describes it in The prison of Château-Gaillard.

In May 2008, while excavating around the castle, the archaeologists of Bristol University made a surprising discovery. They have unearthed two graves side by side. In both of them they have found the rests of the body of an armored knight, and above it in one grave the well preserved skeleton of a horse, while in the other the fragments of iron objects which, seen from above, resembled… a bicycle.

Boris Indrikov’s medieval bicycle from Château Gaillard
The British scholars carefully cleaned the fragments,

Boris Indrikov’s medieval bicycle from Château Gaillard
they removed them,

Boris Indrikov’s medieval bicycle from Château Gaillard
and made inventory of them,

Boris Indrikov’s medieval bicycle from Château Gaillard
and they were shocked to see that it was in fact a bicycle, whose iron parts have remained in so good conditions because they had been covered with wax before being buried.

Boris Indrikov’s medieval bicycle from Château Gaillard
“When they called me from the excavations saying that they had found a 12th-century bicycle,” said Steve Berkeley, the engineer-constructor of Cambridge University’s Scientific and Technical Center of Cardiff who, together with his colleague Andrew Hopkins assembled the excavated parts, “I would have suspected that it was an All Fool’s Day hoax, were it not the excavation’s leader Professor John Williams himself to tell it. And as we were gradually assembling the surviving fragments, our admiration grew higher and higher for the unknown medieval constructor.”

Boris Indrikov’s medieval bicycle from Château Gaillard
But is this construction really medieval? The opinion of experts vary in this question.

“As an expert of medieval knights’ armor,” declared archaeologist professor Justin Pierre, the representative of the French Academy of Sciences at the excavations of Château-Gaillard, “I have to say that the alloy adopted, the methods of elaboration and the X-ray examination rather point to the 15th century, and more precisely to the working methods of the armorer’s workshops of Milan and Venice, primarily to those of the renowned Missaglia dynasty.”

Does this mean that the Middle Ages already knew bicycle?

“Bicycle is a much older invention in human civilization than one would think,” says Peter Godward, professor of the Department of History and Archaeology of Cardiff University. “The sensational discovery of Château-Gaillard only reinforces the earlier results of our university’s researchers. Already in 1962 the news spread all over the world that in the course of an archaeological excavation in Versailles a closed cellar was found, among other things with a bicycle from the reign of the Sun King inside.”

Boris Indrikov’s medieval bicycle from Château Gaillard
“The news made much noise and led to heated debates. Following the Versailles excavations, our university decided to establish an international research center for the thorough examination of the question. For several years we have been collecting data, consulted with archaeologists and collectors, and examined the collections and manuscripts of the greatest museums of the world.

Boris Indrikov’s medieval bicycle from Château Gaillard
Finally in 1986 we managed to get in contact with art collector Andrea Castilles, co-founder of the Sotbyes auction house, who in his younger years had been an enthusiastic cyclist himself. In 1951 he participated on the Giro d’Italia, and in 1955 on the Tour de France. In his world famous collection he has dedicated a special section to the objects of art connected with cyclism. He readily offered us to observe them. And what we have seen has exceeded our most daring imaginations.

Sandro Botticelli (1445-1510) carried out between 1492 and 1500 his series of illustrations to Dante’s Divine comedy. One of his sketches to Canto XXXI of the Purgatory, preserved in the collection of Mr. Castilles represents the marvellous celestial pageant carrying Beatrice to Dante on a coach drawn by a griffin:

Thus they began their song and then
they took me to the griffin’s breast,
where Beatrice stood and faced us.

Boris Indrikov’s medieval bicycle from Château Gaillard
«Have a closer look to the figure greeting the pageant in the forefront,» Mr. Castilles said. «Can you see what is standing on his side?»

Boris Indrikov’s medieval bicycle from Château Gaillard
Then on his signal a massive, hermetically closed glass cage was carried in the room. The cage was constructed to protect a small panel painting. At a closer examination, the panel represented the same construction as the previous sketch.

Boris Indrikov’s medieval bicycle from Château Gaillard
Boris Indrikov’s medieval bicycle from Château Gaillard«This is one of the least known images by Botticelli,» Mr. Castilles said. «The composition and the details are fully identical to his Portrait of Saint Augustine of 1495, thus he most probably painted the two pictures at the same time. The fact that this painting represents a female version of the bicycle, also links it to the chef d’oeuvre of the master, the Birth of Venus. Art historical research has pointed out that this Portrait of a Bicycle has not achieved much success in the life of the master. As far as it can be established, the contemporaries did not understand what it represented. It is also a mystery to me why Botticelli undertook this unusual task. Why did he represent the bicycle as a female version? And how is the Divine comedy connected with all that? Perhaps the bicycle is a symbol for Beatrice? You, scholars, you should find the answers for these questions.

The image was soon forgotten after the master’s death. It was preserved in the Berlin State Museum, from where it disappeared during WWII. Then through an interesting chance it got to me… but this is already a totally different story.»

Then Mr. Castilles asked us to accompany him to the exhibition room of his castle which was established on the second floor of the medieval tower with all the achievements of modern technology.

Boris Indrikov’s medieval bicycle from Château Gaillard
Boris Indrikov’s medieval bicycle from Château Gaillard«Here you can see a minor image of Hans Holbein the Younger, the great Renaissance portraitist and court painter of Henry VIII,» he led us to a niche. «He painted it in 1540, in the same year as the famous portrait of Henry VIII preserved in the National Museum of Rome. They share a number of common details.…»

«And the same construction can be seen on an earlier sketch of Holbein. It is possible that on this the master represented the inventor himself. But this latter, judging from the gestures and looks of those standing around, was doomed to be not understood. New and unusual things were feared in every age and every period…»

Boris Indrikov’s medieval bicycle from Château Gaillard
Then a new miracle followed.

Boris Indrikov’s medieval bicycle from Château Gaillard
Boris Indrikov’s medieval bicycle from Château Gaillard«This picture was painted by Jan van Eyck (1385-1441), the great master of early Flemish Renaissance,» pointed Mr. Castilles to another niche. «His Arnolfini Couple is known by everyone, but almost nobody knows about this masterpiece, painted in the same year.»

Mr. Castilles also told us that on the reverse of the Botticelli painting, during the X-ray examination of the Holbein picture and carved in the panel of that of Van Eyck the same design was found: a crowned lion on two wheels, looking at the sun and the moon. «What can it refer to? Perhaps to an Order of the Knights of the Bicycle?» We were amused by the idea, not knowing how close we were to truth.

«Bicycle is not only a vehicle of transport,» Mr. Castilles said to us at leaving, «but a form of artistic self-expression, a way of life and a Weltanschauung. Why did all these great masters dedicate a picture to the bicycle? As in the course of creation they all lived through the experience of unlimited freedom, this two-wheeled “freedom generator,” so wonderful in its simpleness, obviously deeply touched them. The bicycle as the way leading to the knowledge of the world and to freedom. You should also follow this way in your research.»”

Boris Indrikov’s medieval bicycle from Château GaillardBut did the Order of the Knights of the Bicycle really exist?

“Our research center has collected a large amount of data since 1962, and on the basis of this today we can already assert with certainty that between the 12th and 15th centuries «the Order of the Sun and of the Moon» in fact existed in Europe. According to the sources, the knights of this order rode on «iron horses» and took part in the battles together with the traditional cavallery. Their swiftness, quick manoeuvring and the invulnerability of their «horses» posed a serious threat, while their unusual appearance, reminding of the horsemen of the Apocalpyse, had a paralysing effect on the enemy. They were able to cover very long roads, as they needed no food for their «horses.» Their late followers, for example the English Brighton Rifles set up in 1885 were a remarkable force in the Boer War of 1899-1902, and in the 20th century they were brought into service at every army of the world.

Boris Indrikov’s medieval bicycle from Château Gaillard
The first written record on the Knights of the Sun and of the Moon is found in a manuscript of the popular historical compilation The Deeds of the Romans from around 1230-40. The illumination of the manuscript represents a knight riding before the army on a construction very similar to a bicycle, and his shield shows the crowned lion standing on two wheels. This is also the first known representation of the coat of arms of the order.

Boris Indrikov’s medieval bicycle from Château Gaillard
We also find this pattern in the 14th-century Bellenville Manuscript which collects the coat of arms of the English king and of his vassalls.

Boris Indrikov’s medieval bicycle from Château Gaillard
Boris Indrikov’s medieval bicycle from Château Gaillard
And also in a 15th-century French book of coat of arms.

Boris Indrikov’s medieval bicycle from Château Gaillard
However, the full form of the coat of arms also includes the united figure of the sun and the moon, and two obligatory accessory figures holding the shield: a silver griffin and a silver lion, both standing on a wheel. The motto of the coat of arms, «IN VELOX LIBERTAS» can be translated in various ways: «Freedom in velocity,» «Velocity makes you free» or «Swiftly into freedom.»

(Note of the English translator to the inventions of the Latin motto author and of the Russian translator: Oh scholars of Latin, have mercy on us!)

Boris Indrikov’s medieval bicycle from Château Gaillard
Boris Indrikov’s medieval bicycle from Château GaillardThe lion is a symbol of the Sun, of force and fire. The winged lion represents both force and swiftness. The griffin is also a solar and royal animal, the lord of the air.

The Sun and the Moon, these two wheels always turning on the sky, always following and never reaching each other, obviously refer to the members of the order who advance on their always turning wheels towards always greater freedom.

The winged lion can be found since the Renaissance in the coat of arms of Venice, while the united representation of the Sun and the Moon in that of Milan.”

Boris Indrikov’s medieval bicycle from Château Gaillard
But why just Venice and Milan?

“It is not by chance that the symbols of Venice and Milan figure in the coat of arms of the Knights of the Sun and of the Moon,” asserts Pierre Justin. “These two cities were the centers of armorership in 14th and 15th-century Europe, and the construction and details of the unearthed bicycle also reflects the technological methods of their masters.”

But the discovery of Château-Gaillard also had a further surprise in store.

Steve Berkeley and Andrew Hopkins, the engineer-constructors of Cambridge University’s Scientific and Technical Center assembling the excavated fragments have decided to build a working copy of the paleo-bicycle. In the structure of the vehicle they could follow the model of the findings. However, they had no model to its detailed elaboration. In the summer of 2008 they visited the great armor collections of Northern Italy, hoping to find inspiration in the products of the ancient masters of Milan and Venice, primarily of the Missaglia dynasty, but without any result.

At this time Peter Godward turned again to his old acquaintance, the eighty-two years old Andrea Castilles. And not in vain. Castilles had been since decades on good terms with a Northern Italian armorer whose ancestors already had been master blacksmiths in 9th-century Milan. He also purchased of him 14th and 15th-century drawings, and he could always rely on him in technical questions.

“As soon as I showed the photos to Giovanni Ferrelli,” recalled later Castilles, “he exclaimed with his eyes turned to the sky: «Santa Madonna! Impossibile!» And, struggling with tears, he started to take out various drawings from his secret family archive.”

Boris Indrikov’s medieval bicycle from Château Gaillard
Boris Indrikov’s medieval bicycle from Château Gaillard
Boris Indrikov’s medieval bicycle from Château Gaillard
The carefully kept drawings of the Missaglia dynasty displayed with full particulars all technical detail, surface finish, dimensions, ways of assembling, all provided with explanations, descriptions, even on the secrets of how to temper the metal… And every drawing had, besides the monogram of the Missaglia family, the crowned lion standing on two wheels.

Furthermore, Giovanni Ferrelli declared that it would be a honor for him to participate in the reconstruction of the vehicle. The team composed under his direction completed the work in six months. The dream of Steve Berkeley and Andrew Hopkins has come true. The result can be seen in the picture below. The work received the name “Richard the Lionheart” after the one time lord of Château-Gaillard, whose land has preserved to us for centuries the secret of the order.

Boris Indrikov’s medieval bicycle from Château Gaillard
Boris Indrikov workingBoris Indrikov, the original Russian translator of the article
Velikie Veliki – www.indrikov.com/richard.html
www.indrikov.com
Continuation: Ad astra

29 comentarios:

Julia dijo...

¡¡Fabuloso!!
El del cumpleaños tuvo que esperar, pero la alegría que me produjo este texto bien lo vale (todavía me sigo riendo). No dudo de que a él también le gustará cuando se lo muestre.

Studiolum dijo...

¡Buenos cumpleaños entonces, con esta pequeña contribución de mi parte!

indrikov dijo...

Thanks you very very much for yourtranslate!
Best regards, Boris Indrikov

Studiolum dijo...

Дорогой Борис,

Огромное ВАМ спасибо за фантастическую статью! Она совсем захватила меня как искусствоведа, как велосипедиста, и, конечно, как простого читателья. Если у Вас будет что-либо подобное, я буду счастлив, чтобы тоже перевести их - если хотите, не только на английский и венгерский, но тоже на испанский и итальянский.

Большое спасибо тоже за Ваш комментарий. Познакомиться с Вами - моя честь.

Желаю Вам всего наилучшего,
Tamás Sajó, Будапешт

Πόλυ Χατζημανωλάκη dijo...

Congratulations!!!!

A brilliant idea and a an excellent realization along the lines of Leonardo's Bicycle by Paco Ignacio Taibo II.

Thank you for the translation.

Studiolum dijo...

Wow, Poly, what a sharp eye you have! In fact, the “Milan drawings” would certainly pass for perfect illustrations to Taibo’s novel.

Thank you for the appreciation, absolutely in the name of Boris (who will certainly read it).

Lord of Erewhon dijo...

PHANTOM TIME, a poem dedicated to Boris Indrikov.

Cheers!
Thank you all.

Studiolum dijo...

Breaking news: Polish friends have just included this post in the title roll of the Polish community portal “Wykop” whose very name by chance is quite fitting to the theme of the post: “Excavation”… (in the sense of digging up interesting items from the Web).

Welcome to everyone coming from Poland and the diaspora, and if you liked this post, have a look at the continuation as well: http://riowang.blogspot.com/2009/05/ad-astra.html

Studiolum dijo...

I've checked back to the Wykop page, and I see with sorrow that most comments focus on triumphantly announcing that “it stinks a fake to me” and the like. Ay, guys, I thought Poles had more humor…

Julia dijo...

Ellos se lo pierden!

Es curioso pensar que los polacos son en Estados Unidos protagonistas de innumearables chistes ...
En Argentina el equivalente de esos chistes sobre estereotipos nacionales son los de gallegos (título con que se nombra aquí a todos los españoles)

Studiolum dijo...

Well, I was astonished as all the Poles I have personally known always had excellent humor. My only consolation is that perhaps these four commentators were the only exception among the almost eight hundred visitors coming from the Wykop page.

These comments remind me a popular Hungarian joke. This peasant (in the original version, a Székely – a version of чукча in Hungarian, if you know what I mean –) comes out of the movie where he has just seen the Star Wars, Part I. He shakes his head and he says: “I don’t believe it!”

Studiolum dijo...

This post has just been also linked to the Lithuanian forum Rekonstrukcija and, probably through them, to the Russian forum Форум Ордена Северного Храма. Thank you for the link, and you, Russian speakers, are encouraged to read the Russian original of Boris Indrikov (to whom we congratulate again for this highly popular article).

Studiolum dijo...

This post has been also quoted in the Bikeforum – thanks a lot! Bicycle experts have immediately discovered that on some images the chainrings are on the wrong side. However, as an art historian, I have to contradict. Chainrings are always on the correct side. On the side of the spectator.

Studiolum dijo...

Today we had the honor of being recommended with some good words in the excellent collection Weird Universe. Thanks a lot!

Jonathan dijo...

Wow. That was a lot of work to put into such an elaborate hoax. Very convincing artwork. Although I usually abhor such internet hoaxes, this was rather comical and diverting. The writing was even a passable imitation for a real scientific news article.
However, I do wonder what possessed the author to conceive such a story.

Studiolum dijo...

Jonathan: To meddle with useless but perfectly elaborated things is the most delicious business in the world.

Aaaand… ta-damm: we’ve been also quoted on Bent Rider Online. And already the first comment is a bull’s eye: “And all the bikes are crank forward so semi-recumbent”!

indrikov dijo...

Hello, Tamas!
New bycicle http://indrikov.com/bikeart_gallery.html

Studiolum dijo...

Здравствуйте, Борис! Большое спасибо за ссылку. Могу ли просить вас, чтобы подготовить этот анимированный GIF http://indrikov.com/pages_bikeart/mult.html в размере 550 пикселей горизонтально?

indrikov dijo...

Здравствуйте,Томаш!
Пожалуйста, размещайте.

P.S.И пишите мне на e-mail: indrikov@yandex.ru
Здесь я бываю не так часто.
Удачи.

Studiolum dijo...

And now… Boris has his own page in deviantArt where the first post – of today – includes a link to this English version of his original Russian “translation”. Здравствуйте, Борис, и удачи!

Anónimo dijo...

The Versallies photo is an evident trick.

Anónimo dijo...

Maybe none of this is real, even thhough I would love it to be. I also think bicycles are older 1800's.

Studiolum dijo...

Really??? :)

Westy dijo...

Impresionante. Me ha encantado.

Tororo dijo...

Hi Studiolum!
I noticed that no French translation of this post was available on the Rio Wang site, and some Google searches convinced me that there was not so many French-language resources about Indrikov's works otherwise available anywhere on the Web; so I thought perhaps I could submit you a mine French translation for this fascinating story? Would you allow me to email this to you?
In any case, much thanks for sharing with us this enlightening fragment!

Studiolum dijo...

Thank you, Tororo, it would be marvelous! I’m sure Boris would be fascinated, too. Please send it to the e-mail address you find at the right side of the page, in the “Más de nosotros – More from us” box. Thank you very much!

Tororo dijo...

Voilà, c'est fait!

Studiolum dijo...

Merci, Tororo, pour la traduction française!

Anónimo dijo...

Obviously, the bicycle was introduced at the court of King Arthur in the sixth century by the time-traveler Sir Hank and his squire Clarence, who taught Sir Lancelot to ride one.
http://blueblackinkbooks.files.wordpress.com/2011/11/a-connecticut-yankee-in-king-arthurs-court-sir-lancelot-bicycle2.jpg