Notes on German Culture

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. If a nobleman wanted a woman, he simply took possession of her.

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 in this article were created in the early 13th century, in the artistic style of the Middle Ages:

Poet Walther von der Vogelweide
The Amor Knight


Kaiser Heinrich VI. (1165-1197), son of Friedrich I. Barbarossa… His poems were probably written at age 19 in 1184.

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

Heinrich was a member of theHohenstaufen dynasty and was King of the Romans..meaning King of Germany…from 1190 until his death at age 32. In 1191 he was also crowned Holy Roman Emperor and in 1194 he added King of Sicily to his titles.

The young Emperor 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).

To see examples of prints and products:

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