Minnesang was a tradition of lyric- and songwr…

Minnesang was a tradition of lyric- and songwriting in Germany that flourished in the Middle High German period, which began in the 12th century and continued into the 14th. People who wrote and performed Minnesang were known as Minnesänger, a song was called a Minnelied. The name derives from minne, the Middle High German word for love, as it was Minnesang’s main subject. The Minnesänger were similar to the Provençal troubadours and northern French trouvères in that they wrote love poetry in the tradition of courtly love in the High Middle Ages.

In the absence of reliable biographical information, there has been debate about the social status of the Minnesänger. Some clearly belonged to the higher nobility – the 14th century Codex Manesse includes songs by dukes, counts, kings, and the Emperor Henry VI. Some Minnesänger, as indicated by the title Meister (master), were clearly educated commoners, such as Meister Konrad von Würzburg. It is thought that many were ministeriales – members of a class of lower nobility, vassals of the great lords. Broadly speaking, the Minnesänger were writing and performing for their own social class at court, and should be thought of as courtiers rather than hired musicians. Friedrich von Hausen, for example, was part of the entourage of Friedrich Barbarossa, and died on crusade. As a reward for his service, Walther von der Vogelweide was given a fief by the Emperor Frederick II. Several of the best known Minnesänger are also noted for their epic poetry, among them Heinrich von Veldeke, Wolfram von Eschenbach, and Hartmann von Aue.

The earliest texts date from around 1150; the earliest named Minnesänger are Der von Kürenberg and Dietmar von Aist, clearly writing in a native German tradition in the 3rd quarter of the 12th century. This is referred to as the Danubian tradition. From around 1170, German lyric poets came under the influence of the Provençal troubadours and the French trouvères. This is most obvious in the adoption of the strophic form of the canzone, at its most basic a 7-line strophe with the rhyme scheme ab|ab|cxc, and a musical AAB structure, but capable of many variations. A number of songs from this period match trouvère originals exactly in form, indicating that the German text could have been sung to an originally French tune, which is especially likely where there are significant commonalities of content. Such songs are termed contrafacta. For example, Friedrich von Hausen’s “Ich denke underwilen” is regarded as a contrafactum of Guiot de Provins’s “Ma joie premeraine”.

By 1190, the German poets began to again break free of Franco-Provençal influence. This period is regarded as the period of Classical Minnesang with Albrecht von Johansdorf, Heinrich von Morungen, Reinmar von Hagenau developing new themes and forms, reaching its culmination in Walther von der Vogelweide, regarded both in the Middle Ages and in the present day as the greatest of the Minnesänger. The later Minnesang, from around 1230, is marked by a partial turning away from the refined ethos of classical minnesang and by increasingly elaborate formal developments. The most notable of these later Minnesänger, Neidhart von Reuental introduces characters from lower social classes and often aims for humorous effects.

Only a small number of melodies have survived to the present day, mainly in manuscripts dating from the 15th century or later. There are a number of recordings of Minnesang using the original melodies, as well as Rock groups such as Ougenweide performing songs with modern instruments.

In the 15th century, Minnesang developed into and gave way to the tradition of the Meistersänger. The two traditions are quite different, however; Minnesänger were mainly aristocrats, while Meistersänger usually were commoners. At least two operas have been written about the Minnesang tradition: Richard Wagner’s Tannhäuser and Richard Strauss’ Guntram.

Till Eulenspiegel is the protagonist of a Germ…

Till Eulenspiegel is the protagonist of a German chapbook from 1515 (a first edition of circa 1510/12 is preserved fragmentarily) with a possible background in earlier Middle Low German folklore.

Eulenspiegel is a native of Braunschweig (Brunswick) whose picaresque career takes him to many places throughout the Holy Roman Empire. He plays practical jokes on his contemporaries, especially scatological in nature, exposing vices at every turn. His life is set in the first half of the 14th century, and the final chapters of the chapbook describe his death from the plague of 1350. His name translates to “owl mirror”, and the frontispiece of the 1515 chapbook, as well as his alleged tombstone in Mölln, Schleswig-Holstein, display the name in rebus writing, by an owl and a hand mirror. Retellings of the Eulenspiegel tradition have been published in modern literature, since the later 19th century. Notably, The Legend of Thyl Ulenspiegel and Lamme Goedzak by Charles De Coster (1867) transfers the character to the context of the Protestant Reformation and the Dutch Revolt. The Ulenspiegel (modern Dutch: Tijl Uilenspiegel) from this novel became a symbol of Flemish independence. Read more: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Till_Eulenspiegel

The Sängerkrieg (minstrel contest), aka Wartbu…

The Sängerkrieg (minstrel contest), aka Wartburgkrieg (Wartburg contest), was a supposed contest among Minnesänger (minstrels) at the Wartburg, a castle in Thüringen, Eastern Germany, in 1207. Whether the contest was purely legend or had some basis in an actual event has been debated since the Middle Ages. Local historians, such as Dietrich von Apolda in the 1200s and Johannes Rothe (1360-1434) suggested that the poems referred to an actual event. In the 19th century, Johann Rinne argued that the events never occurred. Continue reading: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S%C3%A4ngerkrieg

Die Wartburg in Eisenach, Thüringen, Eastern G…

Die Wartburg in Eisenach, Thüringen, Eastern Germany, is a castle originally built in the Middle Ages. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage site, overlooking the town. It was the home of St. Elisabeth of Hungary, the place where Martin Luther translated the New Testament of the Bible into German, the site of the Wartburg festival of 1817, and the supposed setting for the possibly legendary Sängerkrieg. It was an important inspiration for Ludwig II of Bavaria when he decided to build his Neuschwanstein Castle. The Wartburg is the most-visited tourist attraction in Thuringia after Weimar. Although the castle today still contains substantial original structures from the 12th through 15th centuries, much of the interior dates back only to the 19th century. Read more: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wartburg

Aurich in Niedersachsen (Lower Saxony), Northe…

Aurich in Niedersachsen (Lower Saxony), Northern Germany. Its beginnings as a town date back to the 13th century, when „Aurechove“ was first mentioned in a document. In 1517, it was rebuilt after an attack and the town center was established — it is still in place today. In 1539, Aurich was made the county capital. Ostfriesland (East Frisia) was inherited by the Kingdom of Prussia in 1744. After the Prussian Army was defeated, Aurich became part of the Kingdom of Holland in 1808. In 1810, the Kingdom of Holland was annexed by France and Aurich was made the capital of the department Ems-Oriental of the French Empire. After Napoleon was defeated in 1814, it passed to the Kingdom of Hannover in 1815, then was annexed by Prussia in 1866 and made part of the Province of Hannover. After WW2, it became part of the new state of Lower Saxony and this is what it has been since.

Linguistic map of Old High German (Alemannic &…

Linguistic map of Old High German (Alemannic & Bavarian), Old Frankish, Old Saxon, and Old Frisian at the time of Otto I, 10th century

Die deutschen Stämme (German tribes)

The derivation of the German people from a number of German tribes (Deutsche Stämme; Volksstämme) developed in 18th to 19th century German historiography and ethnography. This concept of „stems" relates to the early and high medieval period and is to be distinguished from the more generic Germanic tribes of Late Antiquity. A distinction was sometimes made between the “ancient stems” (Altstämme) in existence in the 10th century, and “recent stems” (Neustämme), which emerged in the high medieval period due to eastward expansion. The delineation of the 2 concepts is necessarily vague and has a history of academic dispute. The terms Stamm, Nation or Volk variously used in modern German historiography reflect the Middle Latin gens, natio or populus of the medieval source material.

Traditional German historiography counts 6 Altstämme (ancient stems) – Bavarians, Swabians (Alamanni), Franks, Saxons, Frisians, and Thuringians. All of these were incorporated in the Carolingian Empire by the late 8th century. Only 4 of them are represented in the later stem duchies; the former Merovingian duchy of Thuringia was absorbed into Saxony in 908 while the former Frisian kingdom had been conquered into Francia in 734. The customary or tribal laws of these groups were recorded in the early medieval period. Franconian, Saxon, and Swabian law remained in force and competed with imperial law well into the 13th century.

The list of “recent stems” (Neustämme) is much less definite and subject to considerable variation; groups that have been listed under this heading include the Märker, Lausitzer, Mecklenburger, Upper Saxons, Pomeranians, Silesians, and East Prussians, roughly reflecting German settlement activity from the 12th-15th centuries.

The use of Stämme (tribes) rather than Völker (nations, peoples) emerged in the 1800s in the context of the project of German unification. This terminology is reflected in the preamble of the Weimar constitution of 1919, reading „Das deutsche Volk, einig in seinen Stämmen“ (The German nation (people), united in its tribes). The division remains in current use in the conventional classification of German dialects into Franconian, Alemannic, Thuringian, Bavarian, and Low Saxon (including Friso-Saxon, with Frisian proper being regarded as a separate language). In the Free State of Bavaria, the division into “Bavarian stems” (bayerische Stämme) remains current for the populations of Altbayern (Bavaria proper), Franconia, and Swabia. Read more:

The Holy Roman Empire, circa 1000 Ein Stammhe…

The Holy Roman Empire, circa 1000

Ein Stammherzogtum (stem duchy, as in „Stamm“ for tribe in reference to the Germanic tribes of the Franks, Saxons, Bavarians & Swabians) was a constituent duchy of the Kingdom of Germany at the time of the extinction of the Carolingian dynasty (the death of Louis the Child in 911), and the transitional period leading to the formation of the Holy Roman Empire later in the 10th century.

The Carolingians had dissolved the original tribal duchies of the Frankish Empire in the 8th century. As the Carolingian Empire declined, the old tribal areas assumed new identities as the subdivisions of the realm. The 5 stem duchies are: Bavaria, Franconia, Lotharingia, Saxony, and Swabia/Alemannia. They were retained as the major divisions of Germany under the Salian dynasty, and became increasingly obsolete during the early high medieval period under the Hohenstaufen dynasty. They were finally abolished in 1180 by Frederick Barbarossa in favour of more numerous territorial duchies.

Read more: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stem_duchy