Wessobrunn prayer

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Double page from ms. Clm 22053, 65 v and 66 r

The Wessobrunn prayer , also known as the Wessobrunn creation poem , is one of the earliest poetic testimonies in Old High German. It is the oldest surviving Christian poem in German-language literature.


It is named after the old Bavarian monastery of Wessobrunn , the long-standing place of storage of the only bearer of tradition, a Latin parchment composite manuscript from the 9th century. The copy is now in the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek in Munich (shelf mark: Clm 22053). The Old High German poem is entered between Latin texts on fol. 65v / 66r.

Its two parts, the first a creation price in nine stab rhyming long rows and the second the actual Oration in free prose , together form a prayer for wisdom and strength to avoid sins. The two-part structure suggests the structure of magic formulas : a mythical precedent is first called (here the gift of people by the Creator), according to the pattern of which what is asked here and now is to take place.

The nine-line account of creation in its haunting verses could originally have been independent. It contains the beginning of a cosmogony in which the primordial non-existence of everything (earth and sky, tree and mountain, sun, moon and sea) provides the background for the existence of God BEFORE everything created. The poem is written in the language of the old Germanic oral epic and uses stick formulas and introductory formulas that are known from Anglo-Saxon and Old Saxon tradition (manno miltisto; dat gafregin ih) . The formulas, which were not all at the beginning, are similar to those of the North Germanic creation story in the Völuspá . The thought that a transcendent God existed before creation , who finally created the world from nothing, is genuinely Christian ( creatio ex nihilo ) .

The date of creation is around 790 or soon after, the surviving copy was made around 814. The author of the lines is unknown. The place of origin of the manuscript, which was not written in Wessobrunn itself, is also unknown. Dioceses in Bavaria, probably Augsburg or Regensburg, come into question . The noticeable peculiarity of the “star rune” as an abbreviation for ga- only shares the Wessobrunn prayer with a Bavarian manuscript from the 9th century (London, British Library, Arundel MS. 393).

The beginnings of the main sections of the text are highlighted by larger red initial letters (f. 65v, lines 2, 8, 11). The dots just above the line serve as punctuation and mark the verse, sometimes even half-verse closings.

The heading is in Uncial script , the rest of the text in Carolingian minuscule .

Research assumes that the Wessobrunn prayer was initiated on the instructions of an Anglo-Saxon missionary to prepare the pagan Saxons for baptism.

The text was the subject of several settings in the music of the 19th and 20th centuries, including by Max Bruch , Carl Orff and Helmut Lachenmann (Consolation II).

There are also modern settings of the medieval rock bands In Extremo and Estampie .


Original text:

“Dat gafregin ih with firahim firiuuizzo meista
Dat ero ni uuas noh ufhimil
noh paum noh pereg ni uuas
ni [...] nohheinig noh sunna ni scein
noh mano ni liuhta noh der mareo seo

Do dar niuuiht ni uuas enteo ni uuas
enteo ni uuas enteo the eino almahtico cot
manno miltisto enti dar uuarun auh manake with inan
cootlihhe geista enti cot heilac [...]

Cot almahtico, du himil enti erda gauuorahtos enti du mannun so manac coot forgapi forgip me in dina ganada rehta galaupa enti cotan uuilleon uuistom enti spahida enti craft tiuflun za uuidarstantanne enti za piu guisanne enti dinan u.

- Elias von Steinmeyer, The Smaller Old High German Language Monuments, page 16

New High German:

"I experienced that among men as the greatest miracle,
That the earth was not there, nor the sky above it,
nor a tree nor a mountain,
[...] anything else, nor the sun shone,
nor the moon shone, nor the wonderful sea.

When there was nothing of ends and limits,
there was the one almighty God, the gentlest of men,
there were many divine spirits with him.
And the holy God [...]

God, Almighty, who created heaven and earth and gave man so many good gifts, give me in your grace right faith and good will, wisdom and prudence and strength, the devil resist, and avoid evil and realize your will. "

- Alfred Biese : German literary history (1917: 40)

See also



  • Wilhelm Braune : Old High German Reader. 15th edition edited by Ernst A. Ebbinghaus, Max Niemeyer Verlag, Tübingen 1969.
  • Horst Dieter Schlosser : Old High German Literature - With samples from Old Low German. Selected texts with transcriptions and comments. 2nd edition, Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 1980.
  • Elias von Steinmeyer : The smaller Old High German language monuments. Weidmann, Berlin 1916. Vol. II pp. 16-17.


  • Annette von Eckardt: The handwriting of the Wessobrunn prayer. Facsimile edition. Munich 1922.
  • Hanns Fischer : Tablets for the Old High German reading book. Max Niemeyer Verlag, Tübingen 1966, plate 14.

Research literature

  • Georg Baesecke : The Charles Renaissance and the German literature. In: DVjs 23 (1949), pp. 143-216.
  • Bernhard Bischoff : The southeast German writing schools and libraries in the Carolingian era , Volume 1: The Bavarian Dioceses . Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden, 2nd, through. 1960 edition.
  • Bernhard Bischoff: Paleographic questions of German monuments of the Carolingian period. In: Frühmittelalterliche Studien 5 (1971), pp. 101-134; here 116.
  • Ernst Hellgardt : Wessobrunn creation hymn and prayer. In: Rolf Bergmann (Ed.): Old High German and Old Saxon Literature. de Gruyter, Berlin / Boston 2013, ISBN 978-3-11-024549-3 , pp. 510-515.
  • Hans Pörnbacher: The Wessobrunn prayer . Fink, Lindenberg, 4th edition 2011, ISBN 978-3-931820-73-2 .
  • Ute Schwab: The star rune in the Wessobrunn prayer. (=  Amsterdam publications on language and literature 1). Rodopi, Amsterdam 1973.
  • Hans-Hugo Steinhoff: Wessobrunn prayer. In: The German literature of the Middle Ages. Author's Lexicon Vol. 10. Verlag Walter de Gruyter, Berlin / New York 1999, ISBN 978-3-11015-606-5 , Sp. 961-965.
  • Heinrich Tiefenbach : Wessobrunn creation story. In: Heinrich Beck, Dieter Geuenich, Heiko Steuer (eds.): Reallexikon der Germanischen Altertumskunde Vol. 33. Walter de Gruyter, Berlin / New York 2006, ISBN 978-3-11018-388-7 , pp. 513-516.

Web links

Wikisource: Wessobrunn Prayer  - sources and full texts

Individual evidence

  1. Birkhahn (2002: 81): "another star [margin note kazungali ]"