Codex Manesse – Courtly love.

Obviously this set was intended for Valentines day, unfortunately I was too busy to finish it in time so here it is now. Meet the Codex Manesse lovers.


These miniatures are more like standees, than single miniatures as depicting whole scenes better suited the theme.
Being primarily a collection of love poems (Middle-High German Minnelied or Minnesang) Codex Manesse illustrations contain many depictions of different faces of medieval love. Many love scenes are pretty much similar to present day courtship. Knights taking their ladies for a forest walk, enjoying a picnic or dancing.  Other are quite curious – like a Lady using a crane to pull her Knight to her tower, or lovers exchanging letters using crossbows (a medieval version of SMS), some are even more dramatic like Friedrich der Knecht fleeing with his beloved before an armed pursuit. For this set however I chose more benign images. Read more...

On the first image, Her Chunrat (Konrad) von Altstetten in a tender embrace of his beloved lady, resting on a brake during a falcon hunt. It seems that falcon hunting – one of the most favoured knightly pastimes – was also quite popular way of knightly “dating” as this is not the only lovers scene with a falcon (just IMHO most tender one). The original image is actually even more romantic, as the two are laying under the blossoming rose bush. I removed the bush as it would be a real pain to cut out, if I find a way to simplify it I will include it to some CM foliage set.

The second image Herr von Vengen greets his love, who welcomes him with a warm embrace of her fur trimed mantle. There are several similar depictions of hugging couples in the Codex, most of them however are a bit funny with arms around lovers but only cheeks touching (sample). I don’t know if it was intentional (like if the people depicted were not allowed more intimacy according to the custom) or just a simplification based on illustrator skill and personal experience. I like this one as being closest to a real warm loving hug.

Some theorise that church had some positive input into the concept of courtly love, as a part of its effort to civilise crude Germanic feudal codes. If that was the truth than the image of Engelhart of Adelburg would be the best illustration of such church advocated courtship. Here we see the knight wounded with a cupids arrow, kneeling in adoration before the lady of his heart, perhaps proclaiming his love or reciting his poem, but keeping the proper distance and rite. All this very platonic, courteous, and virtuous as the clergy would like… blah bla blah, boooooring…

Fortunately not all knights followed these love concepts, and courtly love tales were much richer than that. The last miniature comes from one of my most favourite illustrations in Codex Manesse. Here again we have a kneeling knight Rosst von Zurich – a lay canon of church of Sarne (so technically and legally a priest), dressed in travelling robe, just before he leaves his beloved for a long journey. The lady wears a headscarf that suggests she is probably his wife as lay canons were not restricted by celibacy, but she may be as well married to another as courtly love tales (despite church efforts) frequently touched the theme of adulterous love (see e.g. Lancelot and Guinevre). The lady weaves his hair into a heddle braid, as a token of his affection when he’ll be away. She may use the braid as chemise belt or garter to keep him close to her body. The knight-preist, unconcerned with a presence of servant maid, caresses the bare thigh of his beloved lady – now that is courtly love I like :). A curious thing is that Rosst was quite possibly the scribe (or one of) of the Codex Manesse, and to choose such a scene to depict/immortalize himself –  that says something about the man:).

Anyway now you can choose the image of courtly love that suits you best.

P.S. I dedicate this set to my own beloved lady – my wife.


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