Codex Manesse Court: Of monks, not exactly nuns and one Jew…

Because there were always some of them in medieval Courts of Europe… Here is another set of Codex Manesse miniatures.

monks-and-nuns

First five minis to the left are monks. Judging by their habits we ave here three monks of the Order of st Benedictus (first, fourth and fifth from the left). Two of them are carrying pastoral staves, are probably abbot and a prior of a convent. With their motto “Ora et labora” Benedictines were one of the oldest and most significant orders in Europe anbd their monasteries were a vital element of medieval landscape (both geographicaly and socialy speaking).

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Codex Manesse: Men of the Sword

codex-manesse_men of the swordA year without Codex Manesse… shame on me I guess… Anyway the theme of this modest update is  – a sword. Not as a tool of war, but as a symbol of status. Browsing Codex Manesse miniatures you may notice that many images depicting knights during very “civilian” activities like reading a letter or contemplating a poem there is often a sword around hanging on the wall or simply standing somewhere (see Emperor Heinrich).From narrative point of view the sword adds nothing to the image and the narrator could just omit this detail (wchich he often does), however the presence of a sword underlines high status of the man depicted.

For a medieval man sword was not only a tool of murder or a portable shrine making an impromptu cross when stuck in the ground. A sword was a powerful symbol – it denoted knighthood, justice, virtue, authority, Christendom and possibly had many other now not entirely clear meanings.

Anyway a curious thing is that with exceptions of evident martial or traveling context swords in Codex Manesse (and many other manuscripts from XIII-XIV century) sword is not carried fastened to the side hanging on a belt (or other device) but rather carried in hand. There could have been many reasons for this, but for me two most obvious and plausible ones are:

  1. Practical – having something heavy (ok i know that original swords where not that heavy but still) and cumbersome dangling around your leg for a better part of a day could be annoying. There are accounts of II WW officers complaining on the weight and discomfort of carrying their sidearms on their hip – it could be the same with the sword.
  2. Informational/Symbolic. – When carried by the side, a sword is not always in sight, especially when the bearer was wearing a cloak. However it is hard to miss when guy you’re looking at carries it in hand or resting on his shoulder and regardless of many romantic or chivalric, symbolical meanings of a sword the most obvious one was – power. When a sword was in sight all people around immediately knew  things just got more serious.