O knights, get up, the hour has come!
You have shields, steel helmets and armor.
Your dedicated sword is ready to fight for the faith.
Give strength to me, oh God, for new glorious slaughter.
A beggar, I will take a rich booty there.
I don’t need gold and I don’t need land, But maybe I will be, singer, mentor, warrior, Heavenly bliss is forever awarded.
Into the city of God across the sea, through ramparts and ditches!
I would sing joy again and not sigh: alas!
No, never: alas!
(Walter von der Vogelweide. Translation by V. Levik)
To begin with, we will note that the so-called "Manes Code" is one of the most famous illustrated manuscripts of the Middle Ages and the most valuable historical source of our information regarding the knightly equipment of the first decades of the XIV century. It is called "Manesse" because it was commissioned by a noble knight from the Manesse family, Rudiger von Manesse the Elder, a member of the city council of the Swiss city of Zurich.
"Manes Codex" in the exposition of the Cesky Krumlov castle.
In Zurich, they began to create it somewhere around 1300-1315. The text was written in Middle High German, but in terms of content it is nothing more than a collection of the then secular poetry. The manuscript is executed in a beautiful Gothic script, and there are practically no punctuation marks in it. But there are beautiful capital letters at the beginning of each paragraph.
The Codex collected poems of 110 medieval poets at once, ranked according to their social status. Then the poems of another 30 authors were added to it. However, the collection was never completed, and not all the materials in it were ordered. In particular, there are still a few blank pages left in the text.
The Manes Codex page with poems by Walter von der Vogelweide.
All in all, this manuscript contains 426 parchment sheets measuring 35.5 by 25 cm and 138 miniatures that depict the medieval poets mentioned in it. And these miniatures are the main value of this Code. It would hardly be an exaggeration to call them masterpieces of medieval book miniatures. They depict the feudal nobility dressed in heraldic flowers, battles, various courtly and hunting scenes, that is, the whole life of that time.
True, this manuscript was completed a hundred years after the death of some of the Minnesinger poets (the German analogue of the French troubadours or troubadours), whose poems were included in it. That is, the reliability of a number of heraldic information of this manuscript cannot be established with absolute certainty, due to the fact that the coats of arms often changed, and during the life of even one generation, and a hundred years is the life of three generations, and in that era it was even four.
Library building of the University of Heidelberg.
The "Manes Code" is kept in the library of the Heidelberg University in the city of Heidelberg in Germany. However, there are several copies made later. One of them is located in the Český Krumlov castle, but it lies there under glass and, alas, it is impossible to see it, even for scientific purposes.
Well, for now we'll just take a close look at some of his illustrations and see what information we can get from them.
In this miniature, we see Wolfram von Eschenbach in full knightly gear. And here the question immediately arises: what is it on his helmet? Horns? Does not look like it. Axes? Also, it seems not. One thing is clear - these are heraldic figures, since their image is both on the shield and on the pennant.
The miniature depicting Walter von der Vogelweide is interesting because its coat of arms depicts a nightingale in a gilded cage and … the same figure was also on his helmet. Original, isn't it?
Walter von Metz's image shows us a typical knight of this era. Heraldic clothing, including surcoat and blanket, so to speak, from head to toe, but on the helmet there is an ornament that is not associated with the coat of arms!
Minnesinger Hartmann von Aue is depicted in almost the same pose. But he approached the issue of identifying his personality more consistently, so that his helmet also adorns the image of the head of a bird of prey.
Well, this is the well-known Ulrich von Lichtenstein - the most odious knight of his time. The same one about which I already had my material on VO and who cut off his lip and lived with lepers, and tied by the wrist under the tower window hung and all this … for the grace of his lady of the heart, who was not at all young and not at all beautiful. By the way, in the presence of a much younger wife, who, however, had nothing against such service. He sported in women's dresses, but the church turned a blind eye to it. So on this miniature he is depicted in a coat of arms surcoat, but … with the figure of the pagan goddess Venus on her helmet!
Schenck von Limburg was truly a fashionista and original. On the helmet there are feathered horns, a surcoat of one color, a blanket of another, the coat of arms on the shield - three clubs. Well, that's how he wanted …
This miniature depicts a curious technique of the then armed struggle. The riders strive to grab each other by the neck and only after that strike with a sword. Original, you will not say anything! Although this is not a real fight, but a tournament!
The helmet of the winner of the tournament fight, Walter von Klingen, is adorned with feathered axes, although a rampan lion flaunts on his shield. Interestingly, he hit his opponent with a spear in the helmet with such force that he blew him out!
Another knightly fight, with splashes of blood from the elbow cut by the sword. Well, there is also an interesting round shield at the knight on the right. This means they were still in use, despite the fact that it was the shields-irons that were in fashion.
In this miniature with the knight-poet Heinrich von Frauenberg, the duel was done without blood, but it is interesting how the manuscript shows the position of the horsemen relative to each other. They jump, having the enemy to the right of them, that is, the force of the blow of the spear in a collision is maximum. It was only then that they were separated by a barrier and set so that the movement relative to each other was left-sided. At the same time, the spear hit the shield at an angle of 25 degrees, and the force of the blow was largely weakened. The creators of the film "A Knight's Story" should have remembered all this!
Kristan von Luppin is fighting some Asian. For some reason, he is wearing only a bascinet comforter, and there is no blanket on the horse.
This miniature demonstrates to us the effectiveness of the then knightly sword. With a successful blow, they could completely cut the fully closed Tophelm helmet!
And it succeeded both on horseback and on foot! True, it is known that helmets were then made of iron and were not subjected to any special hardening. So there is nothing surprising in what is drawn here. And it is unlikely that an artist would paint something really non-existent for such a wealthy customer. Nobody would have allowed that. Such was the time at that time, although … yes, there were both fictional characters and absolutely fantastic beasts on the pages of medieval manuscripts, and no one forbade them to portray them. Only this was a fantasy, always separated from the truth.
But the miniature on the page of the manuscript clearly depicts a scene of divine judgment, since the combatants are not wearing any armor. And they use buckler shields, which means they already existed and were in use at the time.
In this miniature, we see a hunting scene. The noble gentlemen gathered to hunt, but the cows blocked their way. True, the knights who set off on it are still dressed in chain mail armor and hemispherical bascinet helmets. In the hands of two spears with wide tips and a crossbar immediately behind them, that is, the hunt is obviously serious. The crossbows are very well depicted, especially the one on the warrior on the left. You can see both the bow mount and the long trigger lever.
Here, crossbowmen in long chain mail shirts, worn over vertically quilted gambizons, fire at the besieged castle. The defenders also shoot back from crossbows and throw stones on their heads, and not only men, but women as well. An arrow stabbed into the back of the warrior who was breaking the gate with an ax, but he, apparently, does not notice it. It is no longer ordinary warriors who are guarding the gates, but a noble knight. He has a golden fish on his shield and … horns on a helmet of two golden fish, in addition, decorated with feathers.
Well, this scene breathes with peacefulness and care for one's neighbor: a splint is applied to a broken leg.
Isn't it true, looking at the miniatures from this manuscript, we seem to plunge into medieval life, and are transported into that distant and already little incomprehensible time for us …