University of Arizona

The Manessische Liederhandschrift

The Glory of Thirteenth-Century Book Illustrations in Southern Germany

Illustration from the Codex Manesse or Manessische Liederhandschrift

The year 1200 saw the apogee of medieval German courtly poetry, representing an astounding level of poetic maturity, sophistication, and rhetorical skills. But soon thereafter conditions changed, the value system transformed, or got lost, and traditional ideals were no longer maintained the same way. By the early fourteenth century a group of wealthy Zurich patrons realized that that glorious corpus of German courtly love poetry was in danger of being lost, so they dedicated much money and time to the copying of those songs. The most important manuscript, the Manesse manuscript, contains a treasure trove of the most valuable Middle High German love poetry, accompanied by stunning imaginary illustrations of the poets. A disproportionately large number of modern studies on the Middle Ages has drawn from this manuscript, and it is one of the most important national treasures of Germany today. Professor Classen will introduce and discuss the invaluable facsimile of this manuscript kept in Special Collections, and offer the relevant social-historical context.

Contact person: