Codex Manesse

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Fol. 127r, Works by Walther von der Vogelweide
Fol. 124r, author's picture Walther von der Vogelweide

The Codex Manesse (also called Manessische Liederhandschrift or Manessische Handschrift , so called by the Swiss scholar Johann Jakob Bodmer ; after the respective place of storage also called Great Heidelberger Liederhandschrift or Pariser Handschrift ) is the most extensive and most famous German song manuscript of the Middle Ages . Of German studies , the collection will briefly with C. respectively. It has been kept in the Heidelberg University Library since 1888 (signature: Heidelberg University Library, Cod. Pal. Germ. Or cpg 848).

The codex consists of 426 parchment sheets with a size of 35.5 × 25 cm written on both sides , which were later paginated by hand . It contains a total of 140 empty pages and numerous pages that are only partially written on. The text was not only published several times in improved historical-critical editions , but - in contrast to other manuscripts - also printed with exact character (see bibliography).

The Manessische Liederhandschrift contains poetic works in Middle High German . The basic stock was made in Zurich around 1300 , probably in connection with the collecting activities of the Zurich patrician family Manesse , perhaps in the Oetenbach monastery of the Dominican Sisters . Several addenda were added by around 1340. The codex is a representative sum of the medieval lay song and is also the main source of the "post-classical" minstrel and largely the only source. The total of 138 miniatures that depict the poets in an idealized form during courtly activities or illustrate certain passages from their work that were already better known at the time (such as Walthers von der Vogelweide Reichston “I saz ûf eime steine ​​und dahte bein mit lege”) are considered to be important document of Upper Rhine Gothic illumination . Another miniature without text is just sketched out. Walther von Breisach was left without a miniature . A total of four artists provided the miniatures for the work: 110 illustrations are attributable to the painter of the basic stock, 20 to the first additional painter, four to the second and three (plus a preliminary drawing) to the third.

Content and structure

Author picture Johannes Hadlaub

The manuscript begins with a table of contents written by the basic scribe in a column up to No. CXIIII, which was partially supplemented by addendums.

The manuscript, written in Gothic book script (by several hands), passed on the Middle High German poetry in its entire variety of genres and forms (songs, corpses , sangproverbs ) from the beginnings of secular song art ( Der Kürenberger around 1150/60) to the time the manuscript was created ( Johannes Hadlaub around 1300 and beyond). Melody notations for the texts are missing. The Code contains 140 poets collections, each (often through full-page images Author arms and crest are, see Fig.) Introduced and, according tones , include a total of approximately 6,000 verses. This involves both love poetry and didactic and religious poetry. The arrangement of the song corpora is initially based, as in the Weingartner song manuscript and in the (lost) common original * BC, on the social status of the authors: at the top, as the most distinguished singers, the Hohenstaufen ruler Emperor Heinrich VI. and King Konrad IV , followed by princes, gentlemen (including Walther von der Vogelweide ) and finally masters .

The Codex Manesse is the result of a complex, never formally completed collection process: Neither the texts nor the 138 images were entered in one go, and some things were later rearranged; There are gaps within the author's corpora, around a sixth of the pages are left blank for supplements. A distinction is made between the basic stock of around 110 authors (written at the beginning of the 14th century) and several supplementary layers who added another 30 authors by the middle of the century. The intention is unmistakable to collect the art of song, including contemporary art, as completely as possible, at least insofar as it was associated with names or could be associated. There was also loss of text due to loss of pages. The beginnings of the stanzas are adorned with blue and red initials that change by song and tone; partially there are border decorations.

Deviating from the standard procedure of the manuscript of assigning a text corpus to an author and a miniature, "Klingesor von vngerlant" not only contains his poems (of course the magician Klingsor from Hungary did not really exist, and his stanzas are fictitious), but also anthology-like Poems by five other minstrels (who also have their own main entry). This happened because the singer's war on the Wartburg (presumably 1206) was to be depicted here: the host couple, Landgrave Hermann I of Thuringia and his wife Sophie, the in-laws of Saint Elisabeth , are enthroned above the six singers who perform.


Author's picture "Konrad the Younger" ( Konradin von Hohenstaufen on the hunt )

The Zurich poet Johannes Hadlaub gives an insight into the preliminary stages and the origin of the manuscript (house bought: January 4, 1302; † March 16, probably before 1340). He belonged to the circle of acquaintances of the patrician family Manesse, who were characterized by a passion for collecting antiquarian books and an interest in the Staufer minstrelsong.

In his Praise of the Manesses ( fol . 372r) contained in the manuscript , the poet praises the collection of song books by Rüdiger Manesse the Elder, which is designed to be complete . Ä. (of age 1252, † 1304), one of the most influential Zurich councilors, and through his son Johannes , the custodian of the provost († 1297). Even if a direct involvement of Rüdiger Manesse in the production of the “Manessische Manesse ” is not explicitly attested, the lieder books of the Manesse family mentioned by Hadlaub should represent the basis of the famous codex. It is possible that Hadlaub himself played a key role in the preparation and execution of the foundation. This is indicated by the exposed position of his oeuvre in C, which is marked by a magnificent initial.

Hadlaub mentions several leading Zurich citizens in other songs, such as the abbess Elisabeth von Wetzikon , the count of Toggenburg , the bishop of Constance and the abbots of Einsiedeln and Petershausen . It was previously assumed that this group of people, because of their interest in literature or their participation in “literary life”, could possibly have been seen as a kind of support group in the environment of the Manesse family, which could have played a role in the creation of the collection. Probably this so-called “literary Manessekreis” is a fiction. According to Max Schiendorfer, Hadlaub fabricated ideal-typical poetry situations and used the prominent political names to give the content of his songs a semblance of reality.

Ownership history

Author picture Duke Johann von Brabant

The Codex Manesse had a very eventful history.

It is not known who owned the manuscript in the century of its creation. It is possible that it was no longer in Zurich as early as the first half of the 15th century, otherwise hardly a (complete?) Copy could have been made in Alsace or in Württemberg at that time .

When Gottfried Keller describes a possible danger to the handwriting in the fire of Manegg Castle in 1409 in the novella Der Narr auf Manegg in 1877 , this is pure literary fiction.

A note from Johann Jakob Rüeger (1548–1606) in his chronicle of Schaffhausen that he had seen the old parchment book at Randegg Castle and also borrowed it seems worth noting . its description fits exactly, but has not yet been proven as a description of the code with absolute certainty.

Around 1575/80 the codex must have been in the possession of a Flemish collector who was primarily interested in the noble coats of arms, because he had coats of arms and helmet decorations heralded in an expert manner, possibly also on the occasion of the sale of the manuscript. A little later, the song book appears in Switzerland in the estate of Baron Johann Philipp von Hohensax († 1596), who held offices in the Netherlands from 1576 to 1588 and could have acquired the code during this time. His close connections to the Pfalzgrafenhof in Heidelberg , however, also make it possible that Hohensax had borrowed the code there before 1594 and took it with him to Switzerland. What is certain is that the Count Palatine von Zweibrücken and the Heidelberg scholar Marquard Freher left no stone unturned for years after the death of the baron to (again?) Come into possession of the songbook.

In 1607 the manuscript came  back to Heidelberg - partly at the instigation of the Swiss humanist Melchior Goldast . Goldast was also the first scientific user; in 1604 he published several didactic poems from the codex. For 15 years, the manuscript was part of the famous book collection at the electoral Heidelberg court, the Bibliotheca Palatina . In 1622, during the Thirty Years' War , the manuscript was evidently brought to safety before Heidelberg was conquered by the troops of the Catholic League under Tilly , as it was not brought to Rome as spoils of war like most of the Bibliotheca Palatina. It can be assumed that the “Winter King” Frederick V took them with him to his exile in The Hague along with the most valuable family treasures . After 1632, however, his widow Elisabeth Stuart got more and more into economic distress, so that the sale of the heirloom may have brought the codex to the private library of the French scholar Jacques Dupuy († November 17, 1656) a few decades later . He bequeathed his collection to the King of France.

Thus, since 1657, the manuscript of the songs had been in the possession of the Royal Library in Paris (today's Bibliothèque nationale de France ), where it was discovered by Jacob Grimm in 1815 . Since this discovery, there have been various efforts to bring the manuscript back to Germany. Due to the expiry of the statute of limitations on the property claim of the Bibliotheca Palatina, this was only possible through a purchase or exchange. The latter was done by the Strasbourg bookseller Karl Ignaz Trübner in 1888 , so that the most famous German manuscript was able to return to Heidelberg with great sympathy among the population, where it is kept to this day. The acquisition of the Paris library under its director Léopold Delisle was made in exchange for a large number of French manuscripts that had been stolen from French libraries in the 1840s and that were the Trübner of Lord Bertram Ashburnham, 5th Earl of Ashburnham (1840-1913) , who wanted to sell his father's collection of manuscripts, some of which had been illegally acquired. The Codex Manesse initially received the Berlin government, which then reassigned the manuscript to the Heidelberg University Library. An imperial disposition fund provided Trübner with the considerable sum of 400,000 gold marks (approx. 7 million euros ) to process the acquisition .

Exhibitions and facsimiles

For reasons of conservation, the original codex can only very rarely be shown at exhibitions. After 1887 Franz Xaver Kraus on the occasion of the 500th anniversary of the Heidelberg University (1886) in only 84 copies a rapidly out of print facsimile edition in the light pressure had published, edited from 1925 to 1927 the Leipzig Insel-Verlag (light pressure of the Art Institute Albert Fritsch, Berlin) 320 copies of a facsimile, for which the original was brought to Leipzig by special train; a copy of this facsimile print is constantly presented in the foyer on the upper floor of the Heidelberg University Library. A new, also complete facsimile of the codex appeared in 750 copies from 1974 to 1979, again by Insel-Verlag as a multicolored collotype by Ganymed - Graphic Institute for Art and Science -, Berlin / Hanover and Kunstanstalt Max Jaffe, Vienna. The original was not the original, but the facsimile from 1927. Published in 1934, edited by Anton Kippenberg , 12 facsimile sheets of the manuscript in a specially made linen folder under the title "Die Minnesinger" in Insel-Verlag zu Leipzig. The Insel-Bücherei first published 24 images of the manuscript in a reduced format in 1933 (IB 450) and 1945 (IB 560), also for a wider audience. In 1988 Insel-Verlag published an illustrated book with all the miniatures.

In 1988 Heidelberg University also organized a comprehensive exhibition on the Codex Manesse. The catalog accompanying the exhibition documents the manuscript itself, its creation, history and meaning in great detail.

In 1991, the Codex Manesse returned to its Zurich roots for a short time (exhibition Die Manessische Liederhandschrift in Zurich in the Swiss National Museum in Zurich ). Only in 2006 did the original travel again to be shown in the 29th  exhibition of the Council of Europe Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation in the Magdeburg Cultural History Museum . On the occasion of this public presentation of the work, the Capella Antiqua Bambergensis published a music radio play in 2006 that tells the story of the origins of the Codex Manesse in fictionalized form. To mark the 625th anniversary of Heidelberg University, an exhibition was held in the university library from October 25, 2010 to February 20, 2011, in which the original and facsimile of the song manuscript could be seen for the first time since 2006.

Miniatures on postage stamps

Miniatures from the Codex Manesse adorned stamp series from the Principality of Liechtenstein (1961–1963 and 1970), the Deutsche Bundespost (1970) and Deutsche Bundespost Berlin (1970) , Austria (1958) and Switzerland (1988).

See also


  • Complete text edition: Die Große Heidelberger Liederhandschrift (Codex Manesse). In true text print [originally in deliveries between 1899 and 1909] published by Fridrich Pfaff . Title edition of the second, improved and expanded edition, edited by Hellmut Salowsky. University Press C. Winter, Heidelberg 1984, ISBN 3-533-03525-5 .
  • Anna Kathrin Bleuler: The Codex Manesse: History, Pictures, Songs (= CH Beck Knowledge; 2882). Beck, Munich 2018, ISBN 978-3-406-72134-2 .
  • The Codex Manesse and the discovery of love. Edited by Maria Effinger, Carla Meyer and Christian Schneider with the collaboration of Andrea Briechle, Margit Krenn and Karin Zimmermann (= publications of the Heidelberg University Library , Volume 11). Universitätsverlag Winter, Heidelberg 2010, ISBN 978-3-8253-5826-6 .
  • Friedrich Heinrich von der Hagen (Ed.): Minnesinger. German song poets of the twelfth, thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. Part 1. Manessian collection from the Paris original. Barth, Leipzig 1838 ( digitized in the Google book search).
  • Christiane Henkes-Zin: Tradition and reception in the great Heidelberg song manuscript (Codex Manesse). Aachen, Technical University, dissertation, 2004 ( online ; PDF):
  • Gisela Kornrumpf : The Heidelberger Liederhandschrift C. In: K. Ruh (Hrsg.): The German literature of the Middle Ages. Author Lexicon . 2nd ed., Vol. 3 (1981), Col. 584-597.
  • Walter Koschorreck , Wilfried Werner (Ed.): Codex Manesse. The Great Heidelberg Song Manuscript. Commentary on the facsimile of Cod. Pal. Germ. 848 of the Heidelberg University Library. Insel, Frankfurt am Main / Graphic Institute for Art and Science Ganymed, Kassel 1981 ( online ; PDF file; 18.6 MB)
  • Elmar Mittler , Wilfried Werner (Hrsg.): Codex Manesse - The Great Heidelberg Song Manuscript - Texts, Pictures, Things - Catalog . Catalog for the 1988 exhibition in the Heidelberg University Library. Edition Braus, Heidelberg 1988, ISBN 3-925835-20-2 .
  • Herta-Elisabeth Renk: The Manessekreis, its poets and the Manessian manuscript . Kohlhammer, Stuttgart 1974, ISBN 3-17-001190-1 .
  • Max Schiendorfer: A regional political testimony from Johannes Hadlaub (SMS 2) . In: Journal for German Philology 112 , 1993, pp. 37-65 (on the “Manessekreis”).
  • Lothar Voetz : The Codex Manesse. The most famous song manuscript of the Middle Ages . Lambert Schneider, Darmstadt 2015, ISBN 978-3-650-40042-0 .
  • Ingo F. Walther: Codex Manesse. The miniatures of the Great Heidelberg Song Manuscript . Insel, Frankfurt am Main 1988, ISBN 3-458-14385-8 .
  • Karl Zangemeister : The coats of arms, helmet decorations and standards of the great Heidelberg song manuscript (Manesse Codex) . Görlitz 1892 ( digitized version )
  • Eberhard Graf von Zeppelin : On the question of the great Heidelberg song manuscript, incorrectly called the “Manesse Codex”. In: Writings of the Association for the History of Lake Constance and its Surroundings , 28th year 1899, pp. 33–52 ( digitized version )

Web links

Commons : Codex Manesse  - album with pictures, videos and audio files
Wikisource: Codex Manesse  - Sources and full texts

Individual evidence

  1. see also Master of the Codex Manesse
  2. Anne-Katrin Ziesak , u. a .: The publisher Walter de Gruyter 1749–1999 . Walter de Gruyter, Berlin and New York 1999, ISBN 3-11-016740-9 , p. 176 ff.
  3. see
This version was added to the list of articles worth reading on August 26, 2005 .