Monday, 11 September 2017

Glimpses of Queer Heritage : North

This past weekend the UK celebrated its annual Heritage Open Days. This is the weekend when hundreds of museums, galleries, stately homes and parks, who usually charge admission for the rest of the year, join hundreds of free-entry sites to have free entry days. I wonder if you have a similar free entry weekend in the country where you live.

There’s a bit of a controversy raging in the English heritage industry this summer. The National Trust, the UK’s leading heritage charity who own hundreds of stately homes and heritage sites, has become embroiled in an argument about the ethics of outing people posthumously.

The National Trust published a book called “Prejudice and Pride” this year which lists some of their properties and some of the more well-known lgbt owners. One of their sites is Felbrigg Hall in Norfolk. The National Trust outed the man who left the hall to the Trust in his will, Robert Ketton-Cremer (1906-1969). Ketton-Cremer’s godchildren objected to this posthumous outing and insist he wasn’t gay. To add to the publicity the National Trust has been criticised for demanding volunteer staff at Felbrigg Hall must wear gay pride badges or be moved to non-public areas of the property.

On the whole the British heritage industry is more than willing to display the vast heritage of the lgbt community without attracting unnecessary controversy.

There may be millions of places around the world that could be listed as lgbt heritage sites. TheStonewall Inn in New York, as I mentioned in June, is one of the most famous. My “City Pride” series often includes historic sites of interest. What I’ve been looking at for today are places which are lesser known, or even no longer in existence, which could also be considered as lgbt heritage sites.

I’ve selected six sites on six continents. All are accessible to the public, either as museum or public area. There is no guarantee that all of them have free entry. Today we’ll look at three lgbt heritage sites north of the Equator and later in the week at three south of the Equator. The locations are shown on the accompanying maps.

Notes on the illustrations:
Fort Ville-Marie – scale model reconstruction of the fort.
Cachtice Castle – modern photo of the castle ruins.
Flower Palace – 14th century depiction of the palace.
Fort Ville-Marie, Montréal, Canada
The Pointe-à-Callière Museum in Montréal occupies part of the site of the first fortified European settlement in the city. At that time Montréal was called Fort Ville-Marie, and construction began in 1642. The fort is also the location of the first recorded instance of a prosecution for homosexual activity in colonial Canada.

In 1648 an un-named drummer of the fort’s militia was sentenced to death for “crimes of the worst kind”, as it was termed at the time. The Jesuit missionaries in Fort Ville-Marie objected to the death penalty and sent the drummer to Quebec for imprisonment. There the civil authorities gave him an ultimatum, to remain in prison or become the province’s first public executioner. The drummer chose the latter.

The fort was abandoned in 1670 and the settlement expanded and was rebuilt over and over again to create modern Montréal. In 2000 the Pointe-à-Callière Museum bought an old empty warehouse a few doors away and excavations began underneath its floor. The museum director had a good idea that there was some colonial archaeology down there, so she was pleasantly surprised when the remains that were found were of the original Fort Ville-Marie. In May this year the old warehouse has been demolished and replaced by a sparkling new visitor pavilion. The history of the fort is on display as well as some of the preserved excavations.

Cachtice Castle, Slovakia
One of the most famous castles in Slovakia due to it being the home of the world’s most prolific female serial killer, Countess Erzsebet Bathory (1560-1614). This Slovakian (or Transylvanian, as she was in her lifetime) countess exercised her bloodlust by luring hundreds of local girls up to her castle and killing them so that she could drink or bathe in their blood. This, she hoped, would give her eternal youth.

The Bathory family came into possession of Cachtice Castle in 1569. It was built in the 13th century when the area was subject to border conflicts between the old medieval kingdom of Hungary and the Grand Duchy of Kiev.

The ruins that can be seen today are the result of a fire which completely destroyed the castle in 1772. On a good day the view of the surrounding countryside is spectacular. There is also a small museum which is open on certain days a weeks.

Hana-no Goshe (The Flower Palace), Kyoto, Japan
On Muromachi Street in Kyoto you can find a battered stone square pillar on one junction which makes the site of the palace of the Muromachi, or Ashikaga, dynasty who reigned from 1338 to 1573. The Flower Palace was built in 1378 by the 3rd Shogun. Two of his sons, the 4th and 6th Shoguns, openly displayed behaviour similar to that found in their European contemporaries of bestowing property and great power on their male favourites/lovers.

The samurai tradition included the taking of same-sex partners in much the same way as the Ancient Greeks soldiers. The 4th Shogun, Ashikaga Yoshimochi (1386-1472) and his brother the 6th Shogun Ashikaga Yoshinori (1394-1441) both had samurai lovers to whom they gave control of provinces and powerful offices of state. This didn’t go down well with the families from whom they were taken. The enmity between the Ashikaga and the dispossessed families resulted in the assassination of Yoshinori.

The Flower Palace was the political and social hub of Kyoto while the Ashikaga held power. It was abandoned after the civil war of the late 1500s and the exile of the Ashikaga. Archaeological excavations in the area uncovered relics and artefacts which are now housed at Doshisha University just over 100 meters to the east.

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