Notes on German Culture

The Codex Manesse documented the new concept of love and chivalry, especially that a man should conquer his woman’s heart.

If a nobleman wanted a woman, he simply took possession of her…that is how it was in the first half of the Middle Ages… from the 5th to 11th centuries. The concept of love and chivalry were unknown.

But, by the end of the 12th century, leaders such as the German Kaiser Heinrich VI and trendsetting famous poets such as Walther von der Vogelweide, began to change this practice. They promoted the concept of love and chivalry, especially that a man should conquer his woman’s heart. Troubadours, poets and clerics began to espouse the novel concept of courtship and romantic adventures, such as being a lady’s champion in a tournament.

Fortunately, a wealthy 13th century family captured this new attitude in German lands and preserved it in a massive book. This 700 year old book is being safeguarded in Heidelberg, Germany. It is known either as the “Codex Manesse” or as the Grosse Heidelberger Liederhandschrift, a book containing miniature portraits plus the works of 140 poets, several of whom were famous rulers.

The images below were created in the early 13th century, in the artistic style of the Middle Ages:

Poet Walther von der Vogelweide
A lady’s champion in a tournament.
The Amor Knight
 

Kaiser Heinrich VI was the most important poet included in the Codex

Heinrich was a member of the Hohenstaufen dynasty, was King of the Romans..meaning King of Germany…from 1190 and Holy Roman Emperor from 1191 until his death. From 1194 on he was also King of Sicily.

He was a patron of poets and poetry, and at least three poems are attributed to the young and romantically minded Heinrich VI. In one of those he describes a romance that makes him forget all his earthly power, and neither riches nor royal dignity can outweigh his yearning for that lady (ê ich mich ir verzige, ich verzige mich ê der krône – before I give her up, I’d rather give up the crown).

Der Staufer Kaiser Heinrich VI. (1165-1197), Sohn Friedrich I. Barbarossa, wurde 1191 in Rom zum Kaiser gekrönt. Seine Verse sind vermutlich in seiner Jugend entstanden, zur Zeit des Mainzer Hoffestes 1184.

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