Illumination in the Style of the Manesse Codex

Catherine de Arc


Manesse Illumination

This piece is a Valentine card for my lord. It was designed as a leaf from a manuscript similar to the Manesse Codex.

The Manesse Codex, or Grosse Heidelberger Liederhandschrift, was written and illuminated between c1304 and c1340 in Zurich for the Manesse family. It is a collection of most of the Minnesanger works from this period, representing 140 separate poets. The Minnesangers are the German version of the troubadours and trouveres. The word “minnesanger” translates as “romantic love singer”. The poems and songs are listed by performer and the performers are listed in order of precedence from kings to commons. The earliest works included in the codex were written around 1150. (,

The first page of the section for each performer is a full page miniature of the poet. In most cases this represents the minnesanger himself, usually with his shield and helm above and some token to represent his status or his profession, though some are depicted with the lady of their stories or illustrating part of the story. The miniatures are enclosed by a border, usually of a geometric design in red, blue and gold though other designs are also used in places. The following pages contain the works written in a gothic script with illuminated capitals as appropriate.

My miniature follows the basic pattern for this manuscript. Since I have little talent for drawing, I have employed the technique of copying from models in the manuscript which was well respected in period. I started with a picture of a couple embracing which is appropriate for my purpose, and repeated several times in the Manesse Codex( 179v, 249v, 300r). I enclosed them within a pair of vines – one is a rose so long associated with love (a central theme for the minnesingers and appropriate for Valentine’s Day) the other may be ivy, which represents constancy, also a recurring theme(194r, 249v, 258v 308v 314v).

Above the couple I have depicted the shield and helm usually found in the Manesse pictures. The helm bears my crest and the shield bears my lord’s arms. The tower, arrow, and the winged beast were modified from examples within the Codex( 54r, 69r, 70v, 194r). The entire miniature is enclosed within a border of diamonds found often throughout the Codex(70v, 179v, 258v, 308v). In the Manesse Codex this border would have been gold diamonds with blue on one side and red on the other. I have changed the blue for green since red, gold and green are our heraldic colours. Green is used in other borders within the Codex(120v, 249v).

The inside of the card contains a translation of a verse not contained in the Manesse Codex but contemporary with the earlier works included in it. It was written in a German nun’s love letter from the second half of the twelfth century and is keeping with the style of the minnesingers. The original is Du bist min, ich bin din, des solt du gewis sin, du bist beslozen in minem herzen, velorn ist daz sluzzelin, danne muost du ouch iemer darinne sin (

It is written in a gothic hand, similar but not identical to that of the Codex. The initial “I” is copied from the Codex (42v). Once again I have changed the ultramarine blue to a green similar to that used elsewhere in the Codex.

I have kept the proportions of the picture and the margins the same as the original. The writing I have extended to one column rather than two for aesthetic reasons.

Manesse Calligraphy

The illumination is done on parchmentine which is a plant based parchment substitute recommended by the Lochac College of Scribes. It looks the part and is much easier to get than real parchment. (

The illumination is done with Windsor and Newton gouache. This is pigment with gum Arabic as a binder, which is very similar to the paint used for illumination in the middle ages. Again it is recommended by the Lochac College of Scribes. The colours used include lamp black, permanent white, ultramarine, cerulean blue, cadmium red, lemon yellow and yellow ochre. These colours are as close as I could get to the period colours.


The following illuminations from the Manesse Codex can be found at

42v Shows initial "I".
300r Von Wengen
258v Herr Brunwart von Augheim
179v Der von Johansdorf
69r Herr Wernher von Teufen
54r Herr Rudolf von Rotenberg
70v Herr Heinrich von Stretlingen
120v Herr Meinloh von Sevelingen
194r Otto von Turne
314v Herr Gunther vo dem Vorste
249v Herr Konrad von Altstetten
308v Steinmar