Thursday, June 18, 2015

Thousand-Year Rose

Thousand-Year Rose – Rose of Hildesheim

The Thousand-year Rose also known as the Rose of Hildesheim grows on a wall of the Hildesheim Cathedral, a Catholic cathedral in Hildesheim, Germany and has been dedicated to the Assumption of Mary. The cathedral together with the adjacent St, Michael’s Church since 1985 has been on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites.

It is believed that the rose which climbs up the wall of the cathedral’s apse is said to be the oldest living rose in the world, a Rosa canina which is commonly known as a wild dog rose. It tends to grow against the eastern apse of the cathedral that is about 21 metres high with 9 metres wide and the rose bush reaches a height of about 10 meters. As per verified documentation, its age is said to be around 700 years.

There are slight variations in the tale of the establishment of the diocese by Kind Louis the Pious at Hildesheim in 815 though the rose bush seems to be a common theme in all the versions. In 1945, the Cathedral had been ruined by Allied bombers at the time of the Second World War. However the roots of the rose bush survived and blossomed again inspite of the ruins. As per the legend, it is said that Hildesheim will prosper while the rose bush flourishes.

Poem Published Regarding the Rose – 20th Century

In 1896, a poem had been published regarding the rose and in the early 20th century, author Mabel Wagnall, on visiting the Cathedral and seeing the rose was inspired to write a book which went to form the basis of a silent film. According to legend, Emperor Ludwig the Pious, son of Blessed Charlemagne, the Great, had left his palace in Elze and had gone hunting and arrived in the area of modern Hildesheim along with his entourage which was around 18 km from the Elzer Palace.

After a successful hunting party, he had struck up a tent and celebrated Mass, on a quarter of the wood and at that time a relic was taken from the village chapel along with him. On returning to the palace he remembered that he had forgotten the reliquary in a nearby bush and hurried back to find the priceless reliquary. Inspite of his various efforts, he was unable to take it from the thick wild branches of the dog rose. He recognised `clear divine will’ and build a chapel at that place in honour of Our Lady amid the branches of the rosebush. Till date this rose bush entwines the eastern apse of the Cathedral and is popularly known as `Thousand Year Rose Bush’, since then

Rose Bush Unearthed from Rubble

In 852, the place where Ludwig the Pious had built the Chapel and the Diocese of Hildesheim, was found by Bishop Altfrid, was the keystone of the first Cathedral and after the Cathedral was damaged by fire in 1046, Bishop Hezilo rebuilt and consecrated the second Cathedral in 1061.

However, the Cathedral was totally destroyed on 22 March 1945. The rose bush or the dog roses was unearthed from the deep rubble and started to bloom again. Dog roses, which is a section of Caninae of the genus Rosa has around 20 – 30 species and subspecies that tend to appear in various shapes, occurring mostly in Northern and Central Europe. The rose growing on Saint Mary Cathedral tends to belong to the Rosa canina and shows certain features of canina which is a deciduous shrub ranging from one to three metres in height but tends to climb if provided with support.

Not All Roses as Durable as Dog Rose

The stems are covered with sharp, small hooked spines for assistance in climbing while the leaves are between five and seven leaflets. The leaves are shiny dark green on the upper side and hairless on the underside. The flowers tend to have an unusual pale, pink colour with a slight white colouring at the centre and are of medium size having a rather light fragrance with five petals developing into oval of 1.5 to 2 centre metred red orange coloured hips.

The fruit is said to contain high vitamin C level and is used to make tea and marmalade while the rose hips are used in traditional folk medicine for inflammatory related diseases. It is said that the rose blossom generally tends to survive for a fortnight and appears towards the end of May. However, it could vary as per weather conditions. When the cathedral had been destroyed during the Second World War the rose bush had survived the damage and remained alive under the ruins which later regrew.

Not all roses tend to be as durable as the dog rose and the longest living rose bushes are classified as wild roses. Garden roses together with other rose cultivars tend to have a much lesser lifespan of a couple of hundred years. The tea rose is said to have the shortest lifespan and may not survive for more than 30 to 50 years.

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