Bernhard von Breidenbach

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Bernhard von Breidenbach (also Breydenbach ) (* around 1440 ; † May 5, 1497 in Mainz ) was a leading official and politician of the Archdiocese of Mainz . He is known as the author of a much-read travelogue to the Holy Land and as the editor of the first medical herbal book in German .

Illustration of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem from the first Latin edition of the travelogue 1486


His name is spelled differently. While the spelling in the author's lexicon and in the medieval lexicon corresponds to that of the family of the Barons von Breidenbach zu Breidenstein , which still exists today, Breydenbach has become established in incunabula research .


Bernhard von Breidenbach was a scion of the Hessian knight dynasty of those von Breidenbach, who had their headquarters in Breidenbach (today the district of Marburg-Biedenkopf ). His parents were Gerlach the Younger von Breidenbach († 1459) and Countess Lysa von Wied .

As early as 1450, Bernhard - at the age of ten - went to Mainz as a canon and received his first training at the local cathedral monastery school. Easter 1456 enrolled him at the University of Erfurt , which was then the electorate of Mainz belonged. There he obtained a doctorate in law .

Canon in Mainz

In 1471 he signed the statutes of the cathedral library in Mainz , so he returned there. Until his death in 1497 he was a member of the cathedral chapter there and held other important positions. He became bailiff of the Mainz cathedral chapter in Bingen , apostolic protonotary , canon of the knightly monastery of St. Alban and the collegiate monasteries of St. Viktor and Liebfrauen as well as canon of the collegiate monastery of St. Peter and Alexander in Aschaffenburg . As treasurer of Archbishop Diether von Isenburg , he headed the secular court of the city of Mainz from 1477.

In the same year Archbishop Diether opened the University of Mainz . She was completely under spiritual influence, as the maintenance of the professors was guaranteed by foundation pledges and therefore only clerics were eligible for these positions . As a member of the influential cathedral chapter and high official of the electoral city administration, Breidenbach was in close contact and lively exchange with the university. In February 1479 he took part in the inquisition trial against Johann Ruchrat von Oberwesel . The court asked the Erfurt university professor and former cathedral priest to revoke his "false doctrines" directed against indulgence .

Trip to Jerusalem

Madonna of the Palestinians in the cloister of the Mainz cathedral monastery

Breidenbach went on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem with Count Johann zu Solms and the knight Philipp von Bicken and from there on to Mount Sinai and spent most of 1483 and the beginning of 1484 on the journey. The pilgrimage report , printed in Mainz in 1486, is adorned with a splendid woodcut with the coats of arms of the three nobles on the flyleaf.

Together with Count Johann zu Solms, Philipp von Bicken, the Baronen Truchsess von Waldburg , with Hans Werli von Zimber (rooms), Heinrich von Staffel, Bernhard von Rechberg a. a. Bernhard von Breidenbach became Knight of the Order of Knights of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem in 1483 .

Count zu Solms died on the way back. In 1484 Breidenbach and the knight Philipp von Bicken donated a "Madonna of the Palestine Riders", depicted as a crescent moon , for the Church of Our Lady in Mainz for his happy and healthy return . Breidenbach's return took place before the end of April 1484, because on April 27, 1484 Count Ludwig von Hanau-Lichtenberg set out for Jerusalem with a travel instruction written by Breidenbach in his luggage, a “travel guide”.

The publisher

Bernhard von Breidenbach published his own travel experiences as a printed book. The Pforzheim Dominican Martin Rad prepared his travel report, which also contains information on the meaning of Arabic vocabulary . The illustrated travelogue was first published in Latin and then in German in 1486 by Erhard Reuwich in Mainz , who was already referred to in May 1484 as "Mr. Bernharts meler und snytzer". Numerous other issues followed. Some editions of the travelogue are kept in the Martinus library .

He also commissioned an archbishop's personal physician to compile a medical herbal book (herbarium). This was published by Peter Schöffer on March 28, 1485 under the name Gart der Gesundheit and is the first printed herbal book in German. The 381 woodcuts in it are presumably by Erhard Reuwich, probably the most outstanding book designer of his time in the Rhine-Main area .

In both books the representations are drawn from nature and do not repeat - as was often the case back then - traditional and sometimes incorrect representations from manuscripts .

Both the pilgrimage report and the herb book appeared in German, which speaks for the cosmopolitan mindset of the canon, who thus contradicted the censorship dictated by his bishop. Breidenbach himself commented on this in his dedication to the German edition of the travel book. He does not oppose printing in the vernacular in general, but rather regrets the loss of quality that arises because everyone can now write and print. In this respect, his German-language prints are intended as a pedagogical contribution to the general education of German-speaking readers and perhaps even as a model for other books in German. With the two works he initiated, he made two major contributions to the history of books and literature in the late Middle Ages .

The later years

Grave slab of Bernhard von Breidenbach in front of the Gotthard Chapel of Mainz Cathedral. The grave inscription reads: Anno MCCCCLXXXXVII. the V. Mensis Maji obiit Reverendus Pater D. Bernhardus de Breidenbach S. Apostolicæ sedis Pronotarius ac hujus ecclesiæ Decanus CARIP

The year 1484 brought further trips for the canon, especially on a diplomatic mission. In May he stayed in Bad Ems with Landgrave Hermann IV of Hesse , the Archbishop of Cologne , and in September in Rome . The new Archbishop of Mainz, Berthold von Henneberg , had sent him there to take part in the coronation and the coronation procession of the newly elected Pope Innocent VIII as representative of Kurmainz. Breidenbach remained until October in Rome, where he for Mainz Sebastian Brotherhood a drain procured, which in today Mainzer diocesan museum has been preserved. Back in Mainz, he received the cathedral deanery on November 15, 1484 , but continued to serve as treasurer.

As dean of the cathedral, Bernhard von Breidenbach held an excellent position within the Mainz clergy and belonged to the closest circle around Elector Archbishop Berthold von Henneberg. He certainly also supported the censorship decree issued by the archbishop on January 4, 1486, in which he complained about the abuse that "is carried out with the divine art [printing]". Above all, he opposed what he saw as the inadequate translation of canonical works from Greek and Latin into the vernacular and ordered such books to be examined by a censorship commission.

In February 1486 Breidenbach took part in the election of Maximilian I as Roman king in Frankfurt am Main and on April 9, 1486 in his coronation in Aachen , where he assisted Archbishop Berthold. A certain fatigue became noticeable in 1491 when he gave up his treasury office, which he was entitled to for life, and traveled to Rome for about half a year. Back in Mainz, he continued to pursue his political business and in 1495 saw the great Reichstag in Worms .


Bernhard von Breidenbach died on May 5, 1497 and was buried in the Marienkapelle of Mainz Cathedral . His simple tomb can be found today at the entrance to the Gotthard Chapel .


As the initiator and editor of two works that are so important for the history of printing and culture , such as his travelogue and the herb book, he must have been spiritually very versatile and an enterprising man. Probably Bernhard von Breidenbach financed the printing out of his own pocket and thus also at his own risk, because for secular topics, especially in the vernacular, there was hardly a church client. So he could only trust that his costs would be paid by selling the books. A printed document from 1489, according to which Breidenbach participated in the development of mineral springs near Assmannshausen in the Rheingau , speaks for such a modern, entrepreneurial attitude . In the document, the archbishop allowed the dean of the cathedral and a certain Heinz Sigler from Aschaffenburg to search for the sources at their own expense. If it were successful, half of the water would have gone to the pen, the other half to the two entrepreneurs. In addition, the three parties would have benefited equally from the operation and the hostel building.


  • Peregrinatio in terram sanctam , Mainz 1486 ( digitized version )
  • Andreas Klußmann (Ed.): Bernhard von Breydenbach: Peregrinatio in terram sanctam. First German edition by Peter Schöffer, Mainz 1486. Facsimile, 159 sheets, numerous illustrations and folding panoramas, Saarbrücken 2008, ISBN 978-3-937246-00-0 .
  • Isolde Mozer (Ed.): Bernhard von Breydenbach: Peregrinatio in terram sanctam. A pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Early New High German text and translation . de Gruyter, Berlin 2010, ISBN 978-3-11-020951-8 . ( Review .)
  • Armored travel book of the holy land, or, A thorough description of all sea and bilger journeys to the holy land, made by many high, also other class persons, on water and land ... There also further the actual description of the whole holy land Palestinee, sampt the same Landscapes . .


  • Friedrich Wilhelm BautzBreidenbach, Bernhard von. In: Biographisch-Bibliographisches Kirchenlexikon (BBKL). Volume 1, Bautz, Hamm 1975. 2nd, unchanged edition Hamm 1990, ISBN 3-88309-013-1 , Sp. 738-738.
  • Reimar Fuchs:  Breidenbach, Bernhard von. In: New German Biography (NDB). Volume 2, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1955, ISBN 3-428-00183-4 , p. 571 ( digitized version ).
  • Dietrich Huschenbett: Bernhard von Breidenbach . In: Author's Lexicon . 2nd Edition. 1978, Vol. 1, Col. 752-754.
  • Andreas Klußmann: In God's name we drive. The late medieval pilgrimage reports by Felix Fabri, Bernhard von Breydenbach and Konrad Grünemberg in comparison . universaar, Saarbrücken 2012, ISBN 978-3-86223-076-1 .
  • Bettina Schmitt: Media strategy on our own behalf. Bernhard von Breidenbach (around 1440–1497). In: Winfried Wilhelmy (ed.): Cry for justice. Life on the Middle Rhine on the eve of the Reformation . Regensburg 2015, pp. 182–185 ( publications of the Episcopal Cathedral and Diocesan Museum Mainz , Volume 6).
  • Cornelia Schneider: The author . In: The trip to Jerusalem - Bernhard von Breydenbach's pilgrimage to the Holy Land . Gutenberg Museum Mainz 1992, pp. 11–12.
  • Anne Simon: The non-Catholic “Other” in Bernhard von Breidenbach's Die heyligen reyssen towards Jherusalem. In: William A. Kelly, Jürgen Beyer (Eds.): The German book in Wolfenbüttel and abroad. Studies presented to Ulrich Kopp in his retirement (Studies in reading and book culture, Volume 1). University of Tartu Press, Tartu 2014, ISBN 978-9949-32-494-1 , pp. 301-326.
  • Frederike Timm: Bernhard von Breidenbach's Palestine pilgrimage report and Erhard Reuwich's woodcuts. The peregrinatio in terram sanctam (1486) as a propaganda instrument in the cloak of learned pilgrimage. Hauswedell, Stuttgart 2006, ISBN 978-3-7762-0506-0 .

Web links

Commons : Bernhard von Breydenbach  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Jakob Hermens: The Order of the Holy. Dig . 1867, p. 32.
  2. Printed at Röhricht: Deutsche Pilgerreisen . 1880, p. 122 ff.
  3. Kristian Bosselmann-Cyran: The Arabic vocabulary of Paul Walther von Guglingen and its tradition in the travel report of Bernhard von Breidenbach . In: Würzburger medical history reports , 12, 1994, pp. 154-184.
  4. Wolf-Dieter Müller-Jahncke , Werner Dressendörfer, Gundolf Keil: Older German 'Macer' - Ortolf von Baierland: 'Pharmacopoeia' - 'Herbarium' by Bernhard von Breidenbach - Dye and painter recipes: The Upper Rhine medical composite manuscript of the Berleburg Codex. Color microfiche edition with an introduction to the texts, description of the plant images and the handwriting. Munich 1991 (= Codices illuminati medii aevi. Volume 13).
  5. CARIP = Cuius anima requiescit in pace.