Ruodlieb – Reichert Verlag – Clm 19486 – Bayerische Staatsbibliothek (Munich, Germany)

Probably Tegernsee (Germany) — Second quarter of the 11th century

The “Frankenstein Manuscript”: a lost German chivalric romance brought back to life through gradual discoveries and painstaking work

  1. After being discovered in 1897, fragments of the old manuscript were gradually pieced together

  2. It contains an unfinished chivalric romance relating the adventures of a young knight

  3. Written in Latin by a German poet ca. 1030, it paints a vivid picture of contemporary feudal society


  1. Description
  2. Facsimile Editions (1)

A lost manuscript that has been brought back to life through gradual discoveries and painstaking work: the Ruodlieb. Beginning in 1807, fragments of an old manuscript that had been cut up and used to bind other books were discovered and pieced together. The “Frankenstein manuscript” that has been resurrected contains an unfinished chivalric romance relating the adventures of a young knight, which was written in Latin by an anonymous German poet who flourished ca. 1030. Aside from being one of the earliest German chivalric romances, it also paints a vivid picture of feudal society in the 11th century.


In 1807, Germanist and librarian Bernhard Joseph Docen (1782–1828) was working in the Bavarian Royal Court and State Library in Munich (the modern Bavarian State Library) when he discovered the fragment of an unfinished chivalric poem written in leonine hexameters by an unknown author. He spent the following years finding 15 double leaves from the erstwhile manuscript. More leaves continued to be discovered up to the year 1981 and appear to be from an 11th century manuscript that was dismembered in the 15th century to be used as bindings for other works. This has provided about 2,320 verses or roughly 60% of the original text for researchers to study.

Chivalry, Fantasy, Reality, and Morality

Ruodlieb is the story of a young knight exiled from his home who enters the service a just king and is paid in wise sayings or proverbs, each of which serve as the starting point of an episode wherein the knight comes to appreciate its significance. He then returns home to reunite with his mother and seek a wife, which he is only able to accomplish by capturing a dwarf. This dwarf then tells the knight where he can find a large treasure and prophesizes that he will marry Heriburg after slaying her father and brother. The story is filled with motifs from fairytales and heroic sagas, which are combined with realistic depictions of daily life for noble and commoner alike in the Upper Bavarian village where it is set. Similarly, the narrative switches between playful and colorful to sober and moralizing. The characters either learn from life lessons or suffer the consequences for failing to do so.

Defining the Ruodlieb

No traces of the story can be found in other works and it found no successor in Latin. The anonymous author, likely a cleric, was influenced by various classical works, the Aeneid and Alexander romance in particular, but only explicitly mentions Pliny the Elder. It is difficult to place the fascinating work in terms of genre because it exhibits the characteristics of a fairytale, heroic saga, saint’s life, chanson de geste, and adventure novel. Despite this, the fictional tale of virtue and fortune is considered to be the “first chivalric mirror” of the Middle Ages. The almost complete lack of proper names and place names is an unusual feature of the work, as is the lack of any concrete political allusions. Nevertheless, the manuscript is evidence of an extremely creative mind, even if the work appears to not have been a success in its own time.


Alternative Titles
Codex Latinus Monacensis
Fragmente von St. Florian
Fragments of St. Florian
Second quarter of the 11th century
Facsimile Editions

#1 Ruodlieb: Faks.-Ausg. d. Codex Latinus Monacensis 19486 d. Bayer. Staatsbibliothek München u. d. Fragmente von St. Florian

Reichert Verlag – Wiesbaden, 1974

Publisher: Reichert Verlag – Wiesbaden, 1974
Commentary: 1 volume by Walter Haug
Language: German
1 volume: This facsimile is not complete. Reproduction of the entire original document in black and white. The pages are presented on a larger white background. The binding may not correspond to the original or current document binding.
Facsimile Copy Available!
Price Category: €
(under 1,000€)
You might also be interested in:
Weingarten Manuscript – Müller & Schindler – HB XIII 1 – Württembergische Landesbibliothek (Stuttgart, Germany)
Weingarten Manuscript
Konstanz (Germany) – Early 14th century

Love poetry by 31 medieval poets revolving around Walther von der Vogelweide: one of the most important German sources of Minnesang, adorned with 25 author portraits.

Experience More
Hortus Deliciarum – Hortus Deliciarum – Original manuscript lost
Hortus Deliciarum
Hohenburg Abbey, Alsace (France) – Last quarter of the 12th century

A manuscript from the 12th century that is special in two ways: the first richly illustrated encyclopedia written by a woman as well as an early source for polyphonic music

Experience More
Blog articles worth reading
Filter selection