Heinrich von Veldeke - Eneas Romance

Heinrich von Veldeke - Eneas Romance – Reichert Verlag – Ms. germ. fol. 282 – Staatsbibliothek Preussischer Kulturbesitz (Berlin, Germany)

Germany β€” Ca. 1220–1230

A historically significant translation of Virgil's Aeneid and one of the cornerstones of the German language, which influenced Gottfried von Strasbourg and Wolfram von Eschenbach

  1. Written in a Franconian dialect between 1170 and 1189 by Heinrich von Veldeke (d. after 1184)

  2. Rather than translating directly from Latin, von Veldeke used the French Roman d’Eneas

  3. It is the first translation of an ancient novel into German that was undertaken by layperson

Heinrich von Veldeke - Eneas Romance

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Heinrich von Veldeke - Eneas Romance

Often referred to in English as the Eneit, the Eneas Romance is one of the cornerstones of the German language: it is the oldest courtly romance, one of the oldest secular works, and the first translation of an ancient novel into German that was not undertaken by a member of the clergy. It was written by Heinrich von Veldeke between 1170 and 1188 and although the author was a Flemish speaker, he chose a Franconian dialect similar to that used in Eilhart von Oberg’s Tristrant und Isalde. Rather than being based directly on the Latin text of Virgil’s Aeneid, it is modeled on the French Roman d’Eneas. This explains the odd spelling of the title as well why Virgil’s ancient epic was turned into a courtly romance minutely analyzing the psychology of love. Both Gottfried von Strassburg and Wolfram von Eschenbach attested to having been influenced by the example of Veldeke’s Eneasromance.

Heinrich von Veldeke - Eneas Romance

Courtly love, courtly virtues such as moderation, self-control, eloquence, etc., and the beauty of courtly life are presented in the greatest and most influential work by Heinrich von Veldeke (ca. 1150 – after 1188). It is inspired on the Roman d’Eneas, which was written ca. 1160 in Old French and is loosely based on the Aeneid by Virgil (70–90 BC) but focuses mostly on the romantic relationships of the hero β€œEneas” (Aeneas) with Queen Dido and Princess Lavinia. As the first courtly romance written in German, it is one of the oldest and most important works written in this language and according to Gottfried von Strassburg (d. ca. 1210), Veldeke "made the first graft on the tree of German". The action in the text is often interrupted by detailed descriptions of garments, weapons and armor, tombs, and more to create a rich picture of court life at the end of the 12th century. The splendid Berlin manuscript is adorned with 136 half- and full- page miniatures in the Bavarian Romanesque style and was created ca. 1220–30.

Creation of the Work

It is believed that Heinrich von Veldecke began translating the Roman d’Eneas with the encouragement of the Countess Margaret of Cleves (d. 1190) and began writing his version ca. 1170. It was mostly complete when it was stolen in 1174 from one of her ladies in waiting during the wedding feast celebrating her marriage to Landgrave Ludwig III of Thuringia (1151/52–1190). The identity of the thief remains debated today. The manuscript was recovered in 1183/84 through the mediation of Ludwig’s brother, Count Palatine Hermann von Neuenburg, and Ludwig’s other brother, future Landgrave Hermann of Thuringia (d. 1217), who commissioned Heinrich with completing the work, which he did in 1188. It has been debated whether Heinrich initially wrote the work in the Maaslandic (Middle Dutch) language spoken in Cleves and then translated it into Middle High German, which was spoken in Thuringia. The rhymes selected by Heinrich were possible in both languages, indicating that he sought to reach as wide of an audience as possible while exerting minimal effort as a scribe.

The Romantic Adventures of Eneas

After relating the Fall of Troy and the flight of Eneas and his entourage, most of the beginning of the work revolves around Dido and events in Carthage. Dido is presented as the extraordinarily rich and powerful founder and ruler of Carthage who is respected for her intelligence as well as her beauty. However, she falls violently in love with Eneas and despite trying to conceal her feelings and resisting his advances for some time, she eventually gives herself to Eneas in the forest. This passion causes her to lose her prudence and when Eneas announces he is leaving for Italy, she berates him and expresses regret, burning all the gifts he gave her. Dido ends up killing herself with Eneas’ sword and everyone is shocked at what has happened to her. The plot of Lavinia, his second love interest, is considerably longer but less complicated because her feelings are reciprocated by Eneas. The comparison of the two plotlines juxtaposes the happiness and sorrow of courtly love and has dynastic implications as well: while the passionate affair with Dido causes to the downfall of Carthage, the loving, loyal marriage with Lavinia leads to the establishment of a Trojan kingdom in Italy.


Alternative Titles
Heinrich von Veldeke: Aeneid
Roman d'EnΓ©as
Heinrich von Veldeke - Eneas-Roman
Size / Format
148 pages / 25.5 Γ— 17.3 cm
Ca. 1220–1230
German adaption of Virgil's Aeneid modeled on the French Roman d’Eneas
Artist / School

Available facsimile editions:
Heinrich von Veldeke - Eneas Romance – Reichert Verlag – Ms. germ. fol. 282 – Staatsbibliothek Preussischer Kulturbesitz (Berlin, Germany)
Reichert Verlag – Wiesbaden, 1992
Limited Edition: 400 copies
Detail Picture

Heinrich von Veldeke - Eneas Romance

Wedding of Eneas and Dido

In Veldeke’s narrative, Dido is a female figure of extraordinary power and intelligence who rules over Carthage, which she founded. Induced by Venus and Cupid, she falls deeply in love with Eneas upon his arrival but tries her best to hide her feelings until he seduces her in the forest. Their wedding feast is depicted with diminutive servants bringing food to the feast on bended knee as guests approach on the left to present their gifts. However, they will soon be separated by the will of the gods.

Heinrich von Veldeke - Eneas Romance – Reichert Verlag – Ms. germ. fol. 282 – Staatsbibliothek Preussischer Kulturbesitz (Berlin, Germany)
Single Page

Heinrich von Veldeke - Eneas Romance

Assault on Troy

Although the story is focused on chivalrous behavior, the miniatures of the manuscript are also a valuable source on contemporary life, or in this case, contemporary arms and armor. Despite the damage to this page, it contains an early depiction of the enclosed steel helmet that emerged in the late 12th century and eventually developed into the more famous β€œgreat helm” of the 13th and 14th centuries.

The miniature shows how the helmet, with holes for sight and breathing, was worn over a mail coif. A single archer is depicted wearing a simple open-faced helmet with a wide brim, a so-called β€œkettle hat”. After being depicted in Carolingian art, they seem to have fallen out of use before reappearing at the same time as the enclosed helmet.

Heinrich von Veldeke - Eneas Romance – Reichert Verlag – Ms. germ. fol. 282 – Staatsbibliothek Preussischer Kulturbesitz (Berlin, Germany)
Facsimile Editions

#1 Eneas-Roman

Reichert Verlag – Wiesbaden, 1992

Publisher: Reichert Verlag – Wiesbaden, 1992
Limited Edition: 400 copies
Commentary: 1 volume by Nikolaus Henkel und Andreas Fingernagel
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.
Facsimile Copy Available!
Price Category: €€
(1,000€ - 3,000€)
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