Saturday, September 13, 2014


The Swallowtail Crenellations

Much ado has been made out of the swallowtail crenellations that are depicted on the rosette map. Indeed, this depiction of a castle or fortress in the Voynich manuscript's Rosette fold-out shows a certain type of merlon quite prevalent in northern Italy during the 15th century, which indicates the Ghibelline side of two warring Italian factions. 

Here are Guelph and Ghibelline getting enough of each other in Dante's Hell.

Does this prove the manuscript originated in northern Italy?

Diane O'Donovan points out that this swallowtail style may have sprung from an indigenous and originally Achaemenid Persian style.

Here are examples of merlon styles with Vs in them from various places around the world.
Lademaher Tower, Latvia

Prague, Czech Republic
Orlik Castle, Czech Republic
Kos, Greece
Bran Castle, Romania
Kuşadası, Turkey
Kremlin, Russia
On July 19, 1425, the Italian architect Anton Fryazin (Antonio Gislardi)
laid the first stone of the Tainitskaya Tower on the south wall of the Moscow
Second Kremlin in Izmailovo, Russia
Velez Blanco, Spain
Tyumen, Russia
Sudak, Ukraine
Kremlin wall - Koromyslova Tower - Nizhny Novgorod

Reason #1 the swallowtails as a case for Italy don't hold up

Swallowtail crenellations are as much in Russia and elsewhere in Europe as they are in Italy.

Many multi-domed buildings were constructed in Russia during the 15th century. The revival of bricks in many constructions were seen in regions like Novgorod and Pskov. The first cathedral in the Moscow Kremlin complex was constructed in this period. There was also a fall in wooden constructions, as the then Tsar Ivan III ordered demolishing of all wooden structures that were surrounding the Kremlin. Glimpses of Italian influence can be seen in Russian structures of the 15th century. (From A Summary of the Truly Splendid and Opulent Russian Architecture)

Rafal T. Prinke makes this conclusion:  
All of this just confirms my earlier opinion that any resemblance of the VMS features to the "humanist hand" or Italian architecture of any type does not "prove" that it originated in Italy or even that region. Italian scholars and artists of the 15th c. were everywhere - especially in central and eastern Europe. 

Reason #2 the swallowtails as a case for Italy don't hold up

Another reason why crenellations are not as helpful as one might assume in identifying the location of a castle is that they are not the most durable part of a fortification. They get bombarded, eroded, and dispensed with in a redesign.
Hämeen linna (Häme Castle) 16th c and now

Reason #3 the swallowtails as a case for Italy don't hold up

There is yet another reason you cannot rely on the swallowtail crenellations as an indication of any sort of origin for the Voynich manuscript. These appear on a map. Maps usually are drawn by people who travel. So who can say whether the person drawing a castle with swallowtail crenellations was drawing their home or some landmark in their travels? This would seem a no-brainer, as would hundreds of blonde women sweating in a sauna pointing toward, oh I dunno, maybe...Finland...? Just a wild guess, but hey, knock yourselves out trying to find the Chai.

What about when everything else falls into place and there are swallowtail crenellations?

Several details about the Voynich manuscript point to the possibility of the swallowtail crenellations depicted being not in Italy but rather in Russia. It's a northern language heavily Finno-Ugric, the symbolism used throughout is Finno-Ugric and northern European, and the features of the women are northern European. Their ritualistic implements point toward a northern European belief system. It stands to follow, then, to look for architecture in northern Europe, not southern Europe. And indeed, given the rest of the landmarks on the map, where we should expect to see an extraordinarily long wall with swallowtail crenellations they are there in abundance.

Khanate of Kazan on the upper Volga, 1441 

The Volga, Kama and Vyatka were the main rivers of the khanate, as well as the major trade ways. Peoples subject to the khan included the Chuvash, Mari, Mordva, Tatar-Mishar, Udmurt, and Bashkir. The Permians and some of the Komi tribes were also incorporated into the Khanate.

Other Architecture

Other than the crenellations, is there any additional outstanding architectural feature in the castles that may hint to the area of origin?

Onion Cupolas

This is the sort of architecture for which Karelia and all of Russia is renowned. I don't believe this circle of onion domes is supposed to represent one building or even one city but rather the Golden Ring of Russia itself.

St. Sophia Cathedral, Novgorod

Built from 1045 - 1050 to replace the Oaken Cathedral in the middle of the 11th century, making it the oldest cathedral and oldest building that is still being used.

Balto-Slavic Red Coned Roofs 

Red coned roofs crown a plethora of castles from Lithuania to the Czech Republic.
Talinn, Estonia


All this goes to say that the architecture in the Voynich Manuscript spans Europe because the map itself spans several countries. It cannot be relied on solely as a locator for the distinct origin of the manuscript. It certainly nails down Europe, but any further specifics as to origin require looking elsewhere inside the manuscript. 

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