Carmina Burana

The anthology of the Carmina Burana is one of the most famous and valuable manuscripts of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek (Bavarian State Library). It is considered the most important collection of secular Middle Latin poetry (so-called "goliardic poetry"). At the same time, it gives outstanding testimony of Middle High German poetry of the early thirteenth century. It received its title by the linguist Johann Andreas Schmeller (1785-1852), who acquired the first complete edition in 1847. In the twentieth century, The Carmina Burana became known to a wide public through Carl Orff’s (1895-1982) setting to music.

The manuscript comes from the Benediktbeuern monastery, although it was not written there. It was probably manufactured around 1230 in the eastern Alpine region of Carinthia or Styria, possibly in Friesach (Carinthia). The South Tyrol may also be considered as a possible region of origin. How the Carmina Burana came to Benediktbeuern is unknown. In the course of the secularisation, the Carmina were brought to Munich in 1803.

Of the manuscript exists only the single copy Clm 4660 of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek. It contains 318 texts, three fifths of which have not been preserved otherwise. At the beginning of the work there are moral-satirical poems; the following love songs form the biggest block of content. Additionally, drinking and gamesters’ songs as well as spiritual plays are included. Some of the texts transmitted anonymously could be attributed to important authors, such as Otto von Botenlauben (d. 1254), Walther von der Vogelweide (d. 1230), Reinmar (d. before 1210) or Neidhart (d. around 1240).

The design of the manuscript is also of the highest rank. In most cases, song manuscripts were not illustrated at all. The Carmina Burana, however, feature artistically designed miniatures matching the content of the works. Some full-page illustrations are also included.

In addition to the Carmina Burana manuscript, seven fragments, found in the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek in 1880, are presented here (Fragmenta Burana, signature Clm 4660a). The fragments are by diverse hands. Their connection to the Carmina Burana was determined by the similarity of the script to the Emmausspiel of the codex. Where the individual sheets are to be integrated in the main manuscript, is not conclusively clarified.

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