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.

Codex Manesse – Pavilion

Today another (after the church) simple 3d model for Codex Manesse range. This time it is a knightly pavilion loosely inspired by Winli’s tent.

It is one of most commonly depicted (though not necessarily most common) kind of tent of high-to-late middle ages – round pavilion supported by a center pole. (As this model was to be as simple as can be, the center pole is not included :D. You can easily make one of paper roll or bamboo skewer). How the perimeter of the tent was erected is not entirely clear. Several concepts are used by re-enactment groups and experimental archaeologists with spoked wheel concept being  most common.

As you can see the tent is actually almost as big as CM church. I tried to keep it’s relative size to characters, according to original miniature and Codex Manesse art canon, and that demands inconsistent scaling of “architecture” elements :).


Anyway the model is fairly simple to make. Simply cut out elements, fold togue tabs and insert them into slots marked with corresponding letters,  then put the tent top on the walls, and that’s it. The tents should stand on its own with no glue required (depending on paper density), allowing easy assembly and disassembly for storage. You can always glue it together if you like. Click on the image below to download PDF file allowing you to make a closed or opened tent with 3 different scallop patterns (Use layers tab to turn desired options on or off ). To add size variety to your tent field you can cut out some segments of the tent to make narrower but taller tents. (The tent to the right on the photo above had 4 scallops and corresponding wall sections cut out).


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... Read more…

Codex Manesse – Cutfiles

20130401_Manesse_03Thanks to Mike Proteau of Cardboard Warriors forum, all lucky owners of Silhouette studio operated robocutters can now push the whole (up to date) range of Codex Manesse miniatures through their clever machines.

Below you will find Codex Manesse Jousting Knights (Including the Fencers, the King, the bear and the maiden fair), and first two sets of The Court edited for the robocuter and zipped together with .studio cutfiles.

Codex Manesse: Jousting Knights

Codex Manesse: The Court


Codex Manesse Court – Lords of the land.

Here comes another set of mighty lord and knights at the Codex Manesse Court.


This time lords of Holy Roman Empire (mostly) with Landgraff of Turingia and three Burggrafs of Regensburg, Reitenburg and Lienz. Swords in hands of Herr Landgraff and Burggraf of Reitenburg are usually interpreted  symbols of their judiciary power. These two fellows could have been known as particularly just judges (or the monk just wanted to depict them as such 😉 ).

Read more…

Codex Mannese – Fencers.

As promised two posts ago here come the Codex Manesse Fencers. First four gentlemen fighting with sword and buckler are wearing only Cotte and gloves. According to Sachsenspiegel such were requirements for judicial duel in German states so they are probably sides in trial by combat. Just my guess though, as in joust or at war I would expect the combatants to be armed as the fifth and sixth miniature – armoured and dressed in coat of arms.


As it was a couple of times in the past, this time we have also two special guest stars. This time Sacredos (priest) and Scolaris (scholar or student) from Fechtbuch I33 (so called Tower Manuscript), the oldest surviving European martial arts manuscript – a treatise about sword and buckler combat. I have coloured them up a bit as the images in the original I33 manuscript are only tinted and would otherwise stand out from the rest of Codex Manesse miniatures. Comparing to contemporary Codex Manesse, I33 Fechtbuch is rather poorly drawn, and supposedly written in poor church Latin, but these two characters are too important for history of European fencing to leave them out of the fencers set.

The final team of jousting knights.

Not the last of Codex Manesse miniatures surely, but most likely a last team of mounted knights in full dress. I guess I could still make more, but it would require reconstruction of more than 50% of character silhouette making the knights more invented than source based. In such case I would prefer to make them 100% myself.


All minis in this team already required some work or reconstruction. Duke Henry of Wroclaw had to be armed and helmeted (as on the original illustration he rides triumphant, with arms handed over to the squires). Graff von Heigerlo’s horse needed some major surgery if not necromancy to stand on his hooves. The next two knights were actually unnamed victims of Duke of Anhalt and Graf von Liningen. I gave them crests and helmets of  Rudolf von Stadegge and Hesso von Reinach to add them to the joust. I’ve found out that killed or otherwise defeated knights make great material for really dynamic poses. The last  mini is one of Jan of Brabant knights, on partially (back partially) reconstructed horse.

There is still a lot of material for many great minis in the codex. Incoming are the foot fencers, then the court (kings, matrons and maidens, lords and servants). There are also many charts with hunting theme I intend to exploit. I am thinking also about Codex Manesse scenery but for now I have no concept how to make them 3d and still look good.  Flat scenery IMHO looks ok on the shelf but is not practical for gaming and this is how I intend to use them.