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Introduction Napoleon battlefield (1/4)

Introduction to the Hint in the Church Painting

As readers of my previous reports know I like to search battle fields. Unfortunately, areas of well know battles have been searched by legions of detectorists long before I got into this hobby. One way to deal with this situation is looking for sites where less famous military events took place. (The other is to stay on the famous battle fields and find unsearched spots by better research.)

Today I would like to invite you to follow me to the site of a skirmish of the Napoleonic era. As far as I know this skirmish is not documented in literature, at least not in sufficient detail to localise find spots. There are hardly traces in the military archives. The event had so little historical impact that today even people living at this place can hardly tell you anything about it. According to my knowledge the only source mentioning this skirmish in detail is an old votive painting in a church.



The Votive Painting

Votive Painting. Early 19. century.

A word about votive paintings. Well into the 19. century it was customary for people who escaped life danger to thank God in a special way. They paid artists for paintings that showed the dangerous situation or religious motifs. These paintings were displayed in the local church or chapel sometimes accompanied by a description of the situation.

For relic hunting purposes the vast majority of these paintings is not very helpful since the mentioned events were unlikely to bring relics into the ground. For example,. you read very often that farmer X fell from his horse and suffered serious injury but recovered. During my research I spent hours with these sort of stories.

However, there was only one painting I learned about that referred to a military situation.

Luckily, the painting has an inscription. It translates roughly as follows. (While translating I tried to keep the old fashioned style. Names and dates have been replaced to protect the site. Please compare to the map sketch below.)

“In the area of village B, village C, village A and hill A a terrible battle took place on <date>, between the Austrian and French troops which caused the local inhabitants, faithfully believing in the protection of Sankt <name of church patron> to avoid fearful danger, to escape with their children and belongings to the church of Sankt <name> in village C. Due to their faith in God he protected them from misery by providing shelter for their homes that were threatened by constant [cannon] fire.
For this wonderful help the Almighty received many prayers and for the honour of the holy <name> for his mighty protection the inhabitants of village C raise this votive painting which was restored in <middle 19. century>.”

So much the inscription.

To sum it up, I was looking for a hill with a known name. There is a church on or nearby that hill. The text in the mentioned history book says that the Austrians had entrenched themselves at that church. They were attacked by French artillery so local civilians fled to village C which thus had to be in walking distance. The names of two more villages A and B are also know.

The votive painting shows this hill with the church and the Austrian soldiers (below the church) on the right site. On the bottom left site village C is shown with the refugees. Top left shows the attacking French soldiers.

While my map software allows me to search for the name of villages and towns I cannot search for hill names. While there are several villages called A, B, or C in the region in question there is only one area where villages with all three names are found close together. And – there is a hill still carrying the name mentioned in the painting! I was confident that I had located the right spot.. Would it produce any relics? Would all this research bring any rewards?



The Location

Map Sketch.

This is a sketch of today’s situation. My objective was hill A.

At the western slope of the hill a church is located. The village C, where the refugees went, is 1.5 km / 1 mile away to the southwest.. The other villages mentioned do also exist in the vicinity. All conditions were met. The location was probably identified.

(C) Thorsten Straub www.metal-detecting.de 2006-2011.

Napoleon battle site found using a church painting Metal Detecting Search (2/4)