Carmina Burana + Fragmenta Burana

Carmina Burana + Fragmenta Burana

Carinthia, Styria (Austria) or South Tirol (Italy) — Around 1230–14th century

Age-old songs from Benediktbeuern: a unique masterpiece of music and poetry from the Middle Ages

  1. Johann Christoph von Aretin discovered this 13th/14th century manuscript in Benediktbeuern Abbey in 1803

  2. It contains 318 illuminated texts of lyrics, songs, and dramas, which only survive here for the most part

  3. Carl Orff (1895–1982) was inspired by Walther von der Vogelweide, Otto von Botenlauben, and Neidhardt inter alia

Carmina Burana + Fragmenta Burana

  1. Description
  2. Detail Picture
  3. Single Page
  4. Facsimile Editions (1)
Description
Carmina Burana + Fragmenta Burana

The manuscript of the Carmina Burana is a unique testimonial to the literature and music of the Middle Ages. In a spectacular find, Johann Christoph von Aretin discovered this manuscript in Benediktbeuern Abbey during the course of Secularization. The manuscript, which was begun in the 13th century and was continued until the second half of the 14th century, contains a true treasure: 318 texts, which only survive here for the most part, of lyrics, songs, and dramas by the most important poets of their time! As an additional idiosyncrasy, the texts of this famous song manuscript are illustrated with wonderful miniatures. The famous Beurer Songs, an all-around exceptional manuscript!

Carmina Burana + Fragmenta Burana

The manuscript of the Carmina Burana is a unique testimonial to the literature and music of the Middle Ages. In a spectacular find, Johann Christoph von Aretin discovered this manuscript in Benediktbeuern Abbey during the course of Secularization. The manuscript, which was begun in the 13th century and was continued until the second half of the 14th century, contains a true treasure: 318 texts of lyrics, songs, and dramas by the most important poets of their time, which only survive here for the most part! As an additional idiosyncrasy, the texts of this famous song manuscript are illustrated with wonderful miniatures. The famous Beurer Songs, an all-around exceptional manuscript!

The Famous Beurer Songs

Just about everyone can recall the monumental sounds with which Carl Orff reset the Carmina Burana to music in 1935/6. The Beurer Songs, better known under the Latin term Carmina Burana, are counted among mankind’s cultural heritage. Yet, they were lost until the early 19th century. The unique manuscript first reappeared in the course of secularization: by means of the 1803 discovery by Johann Christoph von Aretin in the library of the Benediktbeuern Abbey.

A Song Manuscript from the Alps

Having said this, the Upper-Bavarian Benediktbeuern Abbey is not the song manuscript’s point of origin. The Carmina Burana presumably came from Carinthia, Styria, or modern South Tirol. The manuscript was begun around 1230, but was continuously appended through the second half of the 14th century. Aside from the literary-musical text, the illustrations accompanying the text are also unique. Such wonderful pictorial décor is extremely unusual for a song manuscript. Depictions both small and large, some even full-page, show e.g. various board games (backgammon, chess, etc.), but also biblical and historical events. The marvelous miniature of the wheel of fortune in a circular depiction is also well-known.

Unique Testimonies to Medieval Music and Literature

Yet, the real treasure of the manuscript lays in its textual content, which also lends it its name, the Beurer Songs. This “unique anthology of musical and dramatic texts from the 11th and 12th centuries” contains the most important collection of medieval itinerant music. Alongside Latin secular lyrics, the Middle High German lyrics of the early 13th century are represented in moralizing-satirical poems, love songs, drinking songs, playful songs, and sacred plays. The 318 texts altogether, which have largely survived, even though they have been transmitted anonymously, can nonetheless be ascribed to a few famous poets. Some famous names are represented, here with Walther von der Vogelweide, Otto von Botenlauben, and Neidhardt among them.

A Gem of the Bavarian State Library

The Carmina Burana have only survived in a single manuscript, additionally, a fragment has been preserved. Both manuscripts are stored today under the shelf marks Clm 4660 and Clm 4660a in the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek in Munich. The famous manuscript of the Beurer Songs allows the beholder to immerse themselves in the world of the Middle Ages and its great poets.

Codicology

Alternative Titles
Carmina Burana aus Benediktbeuren
Size / Format
238 pages / 25.5 × 18.0 cm
Origin
Austria
Date
Around 1230–14th century
Style
Artist / School
Previous Owners
Benediktbeuern Abbey

Available facsimile editions:
Carmina Burana + Fragmenta Burana – Clm 4660 + Clm 4660a – Bayerische Staatsbibliothek (Munich, Germany)
Prestel Verlag – Frankfurt, 1967
Limited Edition: 900 copies
Detail Picture

Carmina Burana + Fragmenta Burana

Chess Players

Two noblemen are seated in arm chairs and playing a game of chess as a poised attendant standing on his toes brings a chalice full of wine to the player dressed in yellow on the left. His garments are outlined in red to accentuate the fall of folds. It is still early in the game and the player dressed in green on the right appears to be moving his rook. He is wearing a cap with a chin strap while the two figures on the left are depicted with flowing brown hair.

Carmina Burana
Single Page

Carmina Burana + Fragmenta Burana

Wheel of Fortune

The Wheel of Fortune was a common theme in the philosophy of antiquity and the Middle Ages, which symbolized the fickle nature of fate. It is the prerogative of the goddess Fortuna to spin the wheel at random for the benefit of some and the detriment of others. The figures in this depiction are labelled (clockwise from the top) Regno, Regnavi, Sum sine regno, Regnabo, “I reign, I reigned, My reign is finished, I shall reign”.

Fortuna is depicted holding two blanks scrolls, symbolic of the yet-unwritten events of the future, before an eight-spoke wagon wheel. Always depicted as a woman, the deity was a common medieval allegory for the temporality of earthly things, often focusing on the downfall of the powerful.

Carmina Burana
Facsimile Editions

#1 Carmina Burana

Prestel Verlag – Frankfurt, 1967
Carmina Burana + Fragmenta Burana – Clm 4660 + Clm 4660a – Bayerische Staatsbibliothek (Munich, Germany)
Carmina Burana + Fragmenta Burana – Clm 4660 + Clm 4660a – Bayerische Staatsbibliothek (Munich, Germany) Copyright Photos: Ziereis Facsimiles

Publisher: Prestel Verlag – Frankfurt, 1967
Limited Edition: 900 copies
Binding: Parchment spine
Commentary: 1 volume (39 pages) by Bernhard Bischoff
Language: German
1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size) Reproduction of the entire original document as detailed as possible (scope, format, colors). The binding may not correspond to the original or current document binding.
You might also be interested in:
Gottfried von Strassburg: Tristan and Isolde
Gottfried von Strassburg: Tristan and Isolde
Strasbourg (France) – Second quarter of the 13th century

The primary work of the great poet Gottfried von Straßburg: the oldest edition of perhaps the most beautiful German love story of the Middle Ages

Experience More
Nibelungenlied
Nibelungenlied
Germany – 15th century

Decorated with 37 masterful pen drawings: The sole manuscript of the heroic epic of Siegfried and Hagen with a comprehensive image cycle

Experience More
The Willehalm - Wolfram Von Eschenbach
The Willehalm - Wolfram Von Eschenbach
Western Germany – Around 1320

A fascinating picture of courtly life: Eschenbach's Middle High German epic of the knight Willehalm struggling against the Saracens

Experience More
Nibelungenlied und die Klage
Nibelungenlied und die Klage
Passau (Germany) – Second quarter of the 13th century

Etzel and Hagen, Siegfried and Kriemhild in pictures: the only comprehensive picture cycle of the German national epic

Experience More
Blog articles worth reading
Filter selection
Publisher