Bear skin

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Excerpt from fol. 8v of the "bear skin": King Konrad III. , Duke Leopold of Bavaria , Hadmar I. von Kuenring

The donor book of the Zwettl Monastery , called Bärenhaut , Latin Liber fundatorum zwetlensis monasterii , is a manuscript that was written in the Zwettl Monastery at the beginning of the 14th century . In addition to various literary and historical texts in Latin and Middle High German, it mainly contains copies of documents relating to the Zwettl monastery, as well as a land register of the monastery. It is one of the most important sources for the history of Lower Austria in the 13th and 14th centuries. The manuscript is kept in the Zwettl Monastery without interruption to this day (archive Hs. 2/1).


The prologue on fol . 6 r mentions the name of the book as liber fundatorum et benefactorum Zwetlensis monasterii , the book of the founders and benefactors of the Zwettl monastery. The popular name "bear skin" comes from the pigskin binding - so it is a "Saubären" ( boar ). It can be found for the first time in the notes of the Zwettler Abbot Bernhard Linck from the 17th century. This name was already used earlier (1586) in Zwettl for other manuscripts.

In his text edition from 1851, Johann von Frast names the book liber fundationum Zwetlensis monasterii or “foundation book” by the Cistercian Closter Zwetl .


A note on fol. 74r, according to two documents from Bishop Wernhard of Passau dated December 23, 1304, informed about the immediate reason for the collection: These two documents had been lost, and the Zwettler brothers turned to Bishop Wernhard with a request for a new exhibition. He complied with the request, but at the same time suggested that a copy of all documents relating to Zwettler should be made and that these should be kept carefully. The main part (Part II) of the "Bear Skin" was written in the years 1310/11; as early as June 8, 1311, Abbot Johann von Heiligenkreuz , who visited the Zwettl Monastery in his capacity as abbot of the mother monastery , referred to it in a document.



The eponymous cover of the "bear skin"

The original Gothic binding, consisting of oak wood covers covered with pigskin, has been preserved. Five each on the front and rear lid chased and driven brass fittings (four corners and a central fitting). These were probably made towards the end of the 15th century.

Writing material and writing

The large-format manuscript (480/85 × 330/335 mm) consists of 196 parchment leaves. The largest part was written by a scribe ("main scribe") in Gothic book script (Textualis) in two columns with a fluctuating number of lines (usually 44 or 45).


part One

The first part (fol. 1–5) is a German rhyming chronicle about the Kuenring family and the foundation and history of the Zwettl monastery. Despite multiple references to the second part, there are indications that the first five sheets do not belong to the original inventory of the manuscript. Rössl assumes that this is a concept that was never finalized. In the absence of a fair copy, the pages were bound at a later date before the main part.

Part II

The main part comprises 130 sheets (fol. 6–135). The majority of these are copies of documents. The originals of numerous documents are still in the Zwettl Abbey Archives. The oldest document is the confirmation of the Hadmar Foundation to the Zwettl monastery by King Konrad III from October 1139, the most recent from June 15, 1311. The arrangement is essentially chronological, but there are also deviations. The documents are partly in Latin and partly in Middle High German, and important Latin documents are also translated into Middle High German.

In between there are various literary and historical writings, often with a moralizing tendency, in which the economic interests of the monastery also play a role: For example, a bitter dispute with the Cistercian monastery Aldersbach over various possessions, especially about the parish church of Thaya, is reported ultimately turned out unfavorable for Zwettl.

Significant inserts include:

  • Fol. 6r: Prologue with the filiation of the Zwettl monastery. It ends with the date of foundation: Anno M ° C ° XXXV ° III ° II Id.Ianuarii, videlicet temporibus beati Bernhardi, fundata est zwetlensis abbatia (In the year 1138 on January 12th , i.e. at the time of Blessed Bernhard , the Zwettl founded).
  • Fol. 6r – 7r: A Latin poem in Leonine hexameters , the content of which largely corresponds to the Middle High German poem in Part I.
  • Fol. 7r – 7v: A Latin prose paraphrase of the previous poem.
  • Fol 25v – 26r: Report on Hadmar II's departure for the crusade, his departure from Zwettl Monastery, the handing over of care for Zwettl to his sons Heinrich I and Hadmar III, his death overseas, the repatriation of the bones and the burial in Zwettl Monastery.
  • Fol. 33 among other things: Various reports on the misdeeds of Heinrich I and Hadmar III, the "dogs of Kuenring". The contrast between Hadmar II, who was well-disposed towards the monastery, and his “failed” sons is always emphasized.

Part III

The third part was written in 1311–14 and comprises 30 leaves (fols. 136–165). On fol. 136 and 137 there is an alphabetically ordered topographical index ( tabula prediorum zwetlensis monasterii ), the rest contains a land register ( capitulum de redditibus zwetlensis monasterii ), which is essentially based on the land register drawn up by Abbot Ebro around 1280.

Part IV

The fourth part consists of 30 leaves (fols. 166-195) and is a continuation of the main part. It begins with the request: qui hunc librum in descripcionibus privilegiorum vel prediorum zwetlensis monasterii augere desiderat from anno domini M ° CCC ° XI ° incipiat et per ordinem sic procedat (Whoever would like to continue this book of privileges and goods of the Zwettl monastery may in the year 1311 and continue in sequence). The documents of the fourth part come mainly from the years 1311-13, several supplements come from the years up to 1331.

Book decorations

Parts I, III and IV are simply furnished: The only decorative elements are simple initials (Lombards) in red. The planned splendid decoration of the main part remained unfinished: a single full-page miniature, the Kuenringer family tree on fol. 8r, is painted in opaque colors and gold, of the numerous other miniatures only the gray pen sketches were made. Some of these pen drawings (fol. 6r, 8v, 10r, 31r) were colored later, possibly not until the 19th century. The drawings show portraits in the form of medallions and historicized initials, family trees and a representation of the founding legend of Zwettl Abbey.

Kuenringer family tree

Kuenringer family tree on fol. 8r

The magnificent Kuenringer family tree is the most famous miniature of the "bear skin". In four horizontal stripes there are 11 medallions on a gold background with red and blue frames.

  • In the topmost strip there are two large round medallions. The left shows Azzo , the progenitor of the Kuenringer, together with three miners. The right shows the two Babenberg Archbishop Poppo von Trier and Margrave Leopold of Austria (presumably Leopold II is meant ), incorrectly referred to as brothers: Poppo archepiscopus Treverensis. Leopoldus marchio Austrie. Duo fratres. Poppo points to a banner with the inscription upside down : I enphfilich dier Atzen my dear uncle. The schol dier enphfolhen be .
  • The second strip contains three medallions with portraits of the three sons of Azzo, Anshalm, Nizzo and Albero.
  • In the four medallions in the third strip are Hadmar I, the son of Nice, and his wife Gertrud on the left. Together they hold a model of the Zwettl monastery church. Hadmar is described as a pious benefactor : pius fundator monasterii zwetlensis . The two medallions on the right show a further son of Nice, the Zwettler pastor Pilgrim, and Albero's son Albero III.
  • The fourth strip contains two heraldic shields on the left: the first is divided by black and gold and labeled by Sahsen , the right by the Achkswald , a free-floating ax over Dreibergen. On the right there are two medallions with portraits of the children Albero III, Hadmar II and Gisela von Sonnberg .

More family trees

Kuenringer family tree on fol. 27r
  • Fol 17v: Family tree of the Lords of Sonnberg (7 medallions, continued from fol. 8r): Gisela, daughter Albero III. von Kuenring with her husband Leutwin von Sonnberg and their descendants.
  • Fol 18r: Kuenringer family tree (full page, 5 medallions, 2 coats of arms, continuation from fol. 8r): Depiction of Hadmar II and his wife Eufemia von Mistelbach , who hold a model of the Zwettler monastery church. Christ and Mary soar above them, below them their children Hadmar III. and Heinrich I (each referred to as canis , "dog") and Gisela von Falkenberg.
  • Fol 26v: Kuenringer family tree (4 medallions, continuation from fol. 18r): Hadmar III. canis and his children Gisela von Budweis, Heinrich II. von Weitra and Albero V. von Dürnstein
  • Fol 27r: Kuenringer family tree (full page, 10 medallions, continuation from fol. 18r): Heinrich I. canis and his descendants: Hadmar IV. Gypposus (the hunchback), Heinrich III. catulus (young dog) and Eufemia von Pottendorf with their children
  • Fol. 37v: Pottendorfer family tree (11 medallions, continuation of fol. 27r): the brothers Heinrich, Siboto and Konrad von Pottendorf with their children.
  • Fol. 44r: Falkenberger family tree (almost full page, 15 medallions, continuation of fol. 18r): Gisela von Falkenberg with her husband Ulrich, their children Rapoto von Falkenberg, Albero von Buchberg and Hadmar von Mistelbach and their children.
  • Fol. 47v: Buchberger family tree (almost full-page, 11 medallions and a coat of arms, continuation from fol. 44r): The sons of Albero, Konrad and Irnfried von Buchberg with their children.
  • Fol. 51r: Falkenberger family tree (continued from fol. 44r, 8 medallions): Hadmar II., Rapoto V. and their sister Margarete with their descendants
  • Fol. 55r: Habsburg family tree (6 medallions and two coats of arms): Rudolf I , his son Albrecht I with his wife Elisabeth and three undesignated sons and a daughter.
  • Fol. 62r: Kuenring-Dürnsteiner family tree (continuation of fol. 26r, 6 medallions and drawings of Dürnstein Castle and the Zistersdorf parish church): Albero V. von Kuenring-Dürnstein with his wife Gertrude and their children.
  • Fol.64v: Kuenring-Dürnsteiner family tree (continuation of fol.62r, 6 medallions and a drawing of the Zwettl monastery church): Leutold I. von Kuenring-Dürnstein (son Albero V.) with his wife Agnes von Asberg and their children.
  • Fol. 69r: Kuenringer family tree (continuation of fol. 26v, full page, 23 medallions and a drawing of Weitra Castle): Heinrich II. Von Kuenring-Weitra with his wife Kunigunde, 5 children, grandchildren, great and great-great-grandchildren.
  • Fol. 70r: Kuenringer family tree (continued from fol. 69r, full page, 5 medallions): A large medallion with Albero VII. Von Kuenring-Weitra and his wife Agnes von Kapellen, who hold a model of the church in Windigsteig . The four medallions intended for their children are empty.

Zwettler founding legend

F. 12r der Bärenhaut: Zwettler founding legend

The drawing on fol. 12r illustrates the founding legend of the Zwettl monastery: at the top left, Hadmar I. von Kuenring and Hermann, the first abbot of Zwettl, ride around the area that is to belong to the monastery from now on. This round trip is represented by a large circle; Within the circle there are eight medallions with possessions of Zwettl: Around the monastery church Zwettl the Grangien Dürnhof , Gaisruck, Pötzles, Edelhof and Ratschenhof are arranged, as well as the city Zwettl and the parish church St. Johannes in Zwettl. On the outside of the circle there are three medallions with Pope Innocent II , King Conrad III. and Duke Leopold of Bavaria . On the opposite side (fol. 11v) a hand in a semicircle points to Hadmar and Hermann.

Portrait medallions and historicized initials

Four Abbots from Zwettl. Historiated L initial on fol. 73v

Individual evidence

  1. Stiftsarchiv Zwettl Hs. 3/16, p. 38; Rössl p. 11
  2. Stiftsarchiv Zwettl Hs. 4/1, p. 38; Rössl p. 11
  3. Rössl p. 24
  4. Fol. 166r, Frast p. 586
  5. Rössl, p. 9
  6. Rössl, p. 14
  7. Fol. 8vb, Frast p. 32. See also Certificate No. 36 in Friedrich Hausmann (Ed.): Diplomata 21: The documents of Konrad III. and his son Heinrich (Conradi III. et filii eius Heinrici Diplomata). Vienna 1969, pp. 58–60 ( Monumenta Germaniae Historica , digitized version )
  8. Fol. 106v, Frast pp. 387-390
  9. Fol. 92–94, Frast pp. 335–341
  10. Rössl p. 120
  11. Stiftsarchiv Zwettl Hs. 2/4


  • Joachim Rössl, Zwettl Abbey (ed.): Liber fundatorum Zwetlensis monasterii "Bear skin" . Akademische Druck- und Verlagsanstalt, Graz 1981, ISBN 3-201-01165-7 (complete facsimile edition in the original format of manuscript 2/1 of the Zwettl monastery archive).
  • The "foundation book" of the Cistercian monastery Zwetl . In: Johann von Frast (ed.): Fontes rerum Austriacarum - Austrian historical sources . Imperial Academy of Sciences in Vienna. Second division. Diplomata et acta. III. Volume, Vienna 1851 ( digitized in the Internet Archive ).

Web links

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