A Nostalgic Filter: A University of Pittsburgh Exhibition

Codex Manesse

Heidelberg, Universitätsbibliotek Heidelberg, Cod. Pal. germ. 848

The pages of the Codex Manesse depict a lively gallery of rulers, poets, and warriors to illustrate its extensive compilation of courtly poetry, written in the German vernacular of its time.

The image of a lord and lady playing chess features musicians playing horns, a drum, and bagpipes in the foreground, evoking the glamorous courtly context of its time to depict the poet and aristocrat Otto IV of Brandenburg. On a different page, the anonymous 13th-century poet known as ‘The Chancellor’ (a nickname that was already used in the Middle Ages, and appears in red ink above the portrayal) is flanked by musicians playing instruments, a vivid reminder that many medieval poems were sung rather than spoken.

Though Pitt’s collection lacks a physical facsimile of the Codex Manesse, its online reproduction has been included digitally here because of its prominence on social media, where the book’s lively and sometimes gruesome battle scenes have become a familiar source for medieval memes.

This manuscript has been fully digitized and is available at the website of the Universitätsbibliotek Heidelberg. 

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