A Viking landing on the Mediterranean coast
|Two snekkar with a multitude of Viking warriors|
land to sack the calm Mediterranean village.
The latest diorama created by The Brickstons Group (@TheBrickstons) and friends has as historical base the landing that the Vikings -one of Ragnar Lodbrok's sons lead this horde- did in the year 859 on the coast of Alicante, during their trip to the Balearic Islands. In that incursion, they sacked the village of Orihuela, a settlement inside the Emirate of Córdoba, at the reign of Muhammad I, the Umayyad emir.
Our aim was never to recreate Orihuela in the 9th century, but to take the information to make a recreation of what could have been a small village of the time belonging to the Umayyad Emirate of Córdoba, with more than 150 years of muslim occupation over an earlier settlement with Roman and Visigoth remains, which can be seen here and there throughout the diorama.
The diorama consists of several elements:
- The tower with Roman base.
- The fortified alqueria (farmstead).
- The palm grove.
- The ocean zone.
- The Kraken.
- The snekkar (Viking warships).
- The roadway.
- The river.
- The bridges.
- The plantation terraces.
- The shipyard.
- The coast tower.
- The fishing village.
- The reconverted mansio.
- The suburbs.
- The watermill.
- The Roman aqueduct.
- The water decanter.
- The walls of the medina.
- The ascent to the medina.
- The main bent-entrance gate.
- The monumental Roman fountain and the castellum aquae.
- The dungeons.
- The Visigoth cistern.
- The madrasa.
- The souk.
- The houses of the medina.
- The minaret at the outskirts.
- The mosque-aljama.
The authors of this diorama have been:
|General view of the diorama from the southeast zone sureste (hipothetically).|
One of the ships has already docked, the other one flees the danger posed by the Kraken towards
the coastal tower and the shipyard.
How this project was born
We must go back to the year 2015, after a first experience in the world of exhibitions (ALEBricks 2015) with an epic fantasy theme, we thought of making a diorama of a more historical nature. That project was kept in the "possible dioramas" box; although not for much time. After the realization of Harlem, the 30's, we had to think in a new diorama that would allow a good number of people working on it, was modular, and required the making of terrain, something we had not explored with previous dioramas in such a resounding manner. So, amidst some other projects, this is the one that won the vote.
Although we set off from an idea, more or less developed, which was captured on a sketch with the main elements that would later be added, we didn't linger to gather and agree on which elements we should build, both terrain and the constructions on top of it. Two boards with a surface of 1,5 x 2 meters, the same as in Harlem; but with a considerable greater effort in design, coordination and pieces. We didn't flinch, it was October 2017.
After months, the project well on track, we opened it to general participation for all the members of ALE, and the diorama grew to occupy 1,5 x 2,4 meters.
|General view from the visitor's point of view. On the foreground, from left to right:|
the Kraken's lair and the Kraken itself, one of the snekkar, the coastal tower, the shipyard,
the fishing village, and the mansio reconverted into muslim alqueria.
After an extensive documentation phase we made the following components of terrain, buildings and other constructions, of which we will give a short summary:
TURRUM.- It is a cuadrangular tower, with a Roman base, which was repurposed by the muslim military authorities. From it, there is a wide view of the river mouth and the coast. Some smoke signals come from it, alerting of the presence of enemies. It seats on a rocky hill.
FORTIFIED ALQUERÍA.- It's a construction similar in morphology to Roman mansiones; an agricultural farm which tends to be self-sufficient -it has even its own bread oven-. It seats on top of a rocky elevation on the other side of the valley through which the old Roman road traverses.
PALM GROVE.- A tribute to the palm grove in Elche, it's an agricultural plantation, through whose palm trees the Roman road runs. There is also a half demolished shed in which the tools of husbandry are stored. To make the palm trees not be rigid we used hollow hoses through the inside of the cones.
|On the lower-right you can see the fortified alqueria, the bridge of Tablate|
and on top of it, the palm grove with the medina to its left. The tower that repurpuses
Roman construction is to the right.
MEDITERRANEAN SEA.- There is a rocky zone, in which you can see a cave. For the sea, we have used a technique that consists in putting plates in several colours on top of a baseplate -its colour does not matter-, and then on top of the plates we placed tiles (transparent dark blue). We used black for the deepest parts, dark bluish grey for the less deep zones, and tan (or brick yellow) for the shallower zones and the beach.
KRAKEN.- We always considered putting a monstruous species in our sea, and in the end we chose a giant squid/octopus. It's not fixed in place, it can be moved more or less inside its lair.
SNEKKAR.- The plural for snekker, the Viking warship. Sixteen rows per ship, with a crew that oscillates between 24 y 26 Vikings. For the shields we used custom stickers, and also the ones made by LEGO®.
ROMAN ROAD.- There are several sections: one very deteriorated by use and the passage of time, that leads to the double arched bridge; another one meanders through the palm grove; and the last one runs below the Roman aqueduct, with an almost destroyed miliary, resisting still next to the walls.
RIVER.- In the same manner as the sea, we used the same technique to simulate the different depths with the use of colours. As the depth was less, we combined sand (tan or brick yellow) with a darker sand (dark tan).
DOUBLE ARCHED BRIDGE.- This bridge fords the river, with starlings and two arches that make possible the transit of people, vehicles and animals.
BRIDGE OF TABLATE.- So called due to the actual Bridge of Tablate, an important and vital pass in the Middle Ages towards the Alpujarras. In its lower part you can see it was reconstructed, taking advantage of a Roman earlier bridge, destroyed by an earlier flood in the river.
TERRACES.- To give a transition space between the palm grove and the medina (we have to jump fourteen bricks in height), we decided to place some plantations in terraces, typical of mountainous orography. With crops exquisitely chosen for the time, not a single grain of corn.
COASTAL TOWER.- It is not usual to see one of these towers, but wanting to make a breakwater, we decided to build a tower inspired -in position- by the Torre de la Mata (Alicante, Spain).
SHIPYARD.- Difficult undertaking: How did a shipyard from the Early Middle Ages look like? How did muslim fishing ships look like at that time? Thanks to a scale model inside the Torre de la Calahorra (Córdoba, Spain) we had the answer to these questions. A ship run aground on the beach sand, some workers caulking the ship, a shed with tools, fishing nets and ship sails...
|On the foreground, the mansio, the fishing village and the Roman aqueduct.|
On the background, the minaret, the medina on top of the hill, the water decanter,
the watermill, and next to it, the shipyard.
FISHING VILLAGE.- Humble houses, wood roofs, frightened sailors gathering what little they own. The fear of losing nothing, and their lives, their most precious possession.
MANSIO.- Like the fortified alquería, this is an agricultural farmstead; but this time it is not fortified, maybe because it was built on top of the remains of a Roman mansio.
SUBURBS.- The suburbs consist of several cramped houses constructed through years of inheritances and lack of space. Alleys leading nowhere, dark, intimate passages, that reflect the typical Caliphal urbanism, ruled by strict muslim norms and laws. There are two zones of suburbs, the one in front of the main wall gate, that uses the hill to sustain many of its constrictions; and the lonely house with a water pool, which, poor and and simple, stands meek before the majesty of the mosque-aljama.
WATERMILL.- Like almost everything at the time, the watermill is fortified. Behind the tower spins a wheel pushed by the water transported by the Roman aqueduct. This makes the machinery move the wheels that crush the grain which will be used to make bread to feed the population. Inside the actual model there's a mechanism with a motor that spins the wheel.
AQUEDUCT.- The Roman inheritance of the village. Despite substantial differences, we based this aqueduct on the Acueducto de los Milagros in Mérida (Badajoz).
WATER DECANTER.- This building forced to its bottom all of the filth that the aqueduct channel could transport. With this simple step the water was purer, and filtered in some way.
WALLS.- It consists of several stretches. From the left: the support towers, with an advanced tower (albarrana) which helped in the defense against approaching troops, one stretch with a false tower or setback, which leads to the access gate. Behind the castellum aquae stands another tower that re-used a Roman circular tower into two stretches of wall, the exterior one that descends to the road and hides the entrance or gate of treason; and the interior, which closes the medina up to the tower that lets the walls to a 90 degree turn, and climbs up to the mosque. From here another buttress-wall begins, on top of which the temple seats, with an access to the dungeons of the village.
RAMP.- The ascent to the medina is done on a steep ramp, up which the terrified people of the village run. A double ramp in zig-zag fills the height difference from the meandering Roman road next to the suburbs, up to the hill on which the majestic main gate stands.
MAIN GATE.- The most monumental part or the walls, the most dangerous and vulnerable part, is the one that must be best defended, and two towers to either side of the gate act as deterrent to any frontal attack. Its decoration is typical of the Emirate period, on one of the stretches sits a foundational stone with text in Arabic. The gate has a double turn, which forces any attacking force to break lines.
CASTELLUM AQUAE.- Like in Mérida (Badajoz), this architectural element was built as a distribution center for the water the aqueduct carries to the city; additionally a monumental fountain was built, named the Fountain of the Eggs, which decorates a building otherwise without luxury.
DUNGEONS.- In popular imagery, the dungeons are an element omnipresent that shouldn't be left out. Knowing that it was not common to keep prisoners, we decided to touch that imagery (we could have also placed horns on the Viking helmets). An exterior door lets the visitor see its interior. There is also a faint light resembling that which would enter into such a dark and recondite place from any window opening to the exterior.
CISTERN.- We intended to make a cistern, be it Roman or Visigoth, in the style of the one at the Alcazaba de Mérida (Badajoz). A building on top of it covers the entrance, a steep and dark staircase and a basilical cistern (similar but with many differences to the huge one under Istambul).
|The hill that makes the transition from the medina, the dungeons (clsoed) and|
on top of it the mosque-aljama, the madrasa and the cistern. The mosque's minaret
and the access gate to the medina stand out in the silhouette.
MADRASA.- Initially we wanted to build an alhóndiga, a sort of souk with accommodations inside the medinas for the merchants with sumptuous merchandise (silver, silk, perfumes, jewellery, ...); but eventually we decided to make a less trade-oriented building by making a madrasa, a place of culture and knowledge, of science and poetry, a centre of learning.
SOUK.- Usually the marketplace, al-suq, was placed around the place to which it was mandatory to go, at least once a week -on Fridays-. Because of this, the market stalls and the place with more people and hustle inside the medina are the surroundings of the mosque-aljama. There, we placed the TARDIS and the 13th Doctor, a kind of amulet we place, or try to, in every diorama we build.
MEDINA.- Inside the (city) there are several buildings we have already described. However, there are several houses that fill the internal space surrounded by the city walls. Made in different styles, there's alley that reminds of the Pasaje de los siete Infantes de Lara in Córdoba, some others reuse previous temples, are two-storied, and are, usually, a bit bigger than the ones at the suburbs. Nonetheless, they still retain the essence of the structured chaos typical of muslim urbanism.
MINARET.- Born from the extensions we decided to make on the diorama. It has a horseshoe arch on the access door. We had as documentary base the different structures of the minaret at the mosque of Córdoba (Spain) throughout time.
MOSQUE-ALJAMA.- Named in that way due to its mandatory use and attending, on Fridays, for the prayer -and also for the chats and political indoctrination given there-. The biggest and more monumental, with a courtyard in which ablution took place, and a three nave temple (we only built two of them, to be able to see the interior), with a column forest, based, like the minaret, on the mosque of Córdoba at the Emirate era.
In Muslim urbanism and way of life does not practically exist ostentation at the exterior -however, it is not an obstacle to build works of stupendous monumentality-. Every believer is equal in faith, thus nobody should point out their own wealth or power. Everything in a construction is beautiful within the buiding itself, almost without any windows or doors to the exterior to preserve a privacy very important to their beliefs.
|On the foreground the corner of the shipyard, behind it, the suburbs making the transition|
towards the medina, on top of which the monumental gate stands. To the right
stands the mosque-aljama.
- General video of Viking Attack, channel of The Brickstons Group.
- Album Viking Attack from the image gallery of The Brickstons Group.
- ALEBricks 2018 celebrated at the sports center La Cueva, Fuenlabrada (Spain), on the 2nd and 3rd of June, 2018.
- Blogged on the 11th of June 2018 with the title Viking Attack.
- Blogged on the 12th of June 2018 with the title Viking Attack.
- Blogged on the 13th of June 2018 with the title Les Vikings attaquent.
- Blogged on the 14th of June 2018 with the title [MOC] Viking Attack.
- Video shared on the 22nd of June 2018 with the title Orihuela Viking Battle 858 AD in LEGO.
- Blogged on the 26th of June 2018 with the title Massive collaborative LEGO project shows Vikings invading a Spanish village.
This work is under a