Spiritual literature in the 12th to 15th century

In addition to the great historical genre forms and new approaches to material (Nibelungenlied, Arthurian epic and Holy Grail epic of Parzival), the tradition of spiritual literature continues in Bavaria in the classical period too. Its epic has a share in courtly formal art, which is reflected, for example, in the veneration of the Augsburg bishop Ulrich (923-973) in the poem on St. Ulrich's life, comprising 1,605 verses, which the priest Albertus mentioned in the text wrote between 1183 and 1187 based on a Latin model. Besides the spiritual epics by Konrad von Heimesfurth from Eastern Swabia (1st half of the 13th century), the legend of St. George written by Reinbot von Durne on behalf of Duke Otto II of Bavaria (1206-1253) after 1231 reveals the strongest link to older courtly literature though. Die Erlösung (The Redemption), an epic of the history of salvation by an unknown spiritual author who in deliberate contrast to the flowery style of the courtly love novel recites his religious material by means of courtly poetry, adopts an ambiguous position.

The Franciscan literature around David of Augsburg (c. 1210-1271), the most important German representative of Franciscan piety and mysticism, provides literary innovation. New forms of edification literature emerged among the Franciscan monks: verse and speculative prose tracts, books of prayer and meditation, written sermons. David's brother in the order Berthold of Regensburg (around 1210-1272) must be mentioned here in particular with his powerful sermon work; the sermon themes pick up on everyday life with no state in the list of sins being spared. An anonymous collection of prayers, sermons, tracts and excerpts for instruction in spiritual life, the "Baumgarten geistlicher Herzen" (Baumgarten of Spiritual Hearts), also emerges from the Augsburg circle. It is regarded as the first edification book in German prose and contains texts from works by Bernhard von Clairvaux (c. 1090-1153), David von Augsburg (around 1200-1272) and Berthold von Regensburg (around 1200/10-1272). One of the most widely received late medieval edification books is the collection of sentences "Die vierundzwanzig Alten" (The 24 Elders) or "Der güldene Thron der minnenden Seelen" (The Golden Throne of Loving Souls) by the Franciscan Otto von Passau (documented 1362-1385) from Basle.

The Dominican convents in Swabia and Franconia in the 14th century show a rich development of monastic life that asserts itself in the writing, tradition and transcription of spiritual literature. The two mystics Adelheid Langmann (1306-1375) at Engelthal convent near Nuremberg and Margareta Ebner (1291-1351) at Maria Medingen convent near Dillingen deserve special mention here with their revelations. The latter was on contact with the Strasbourg Dominican Johannes Tauler (around 1300-1361), of whose sermons about 80 have been authorized by him and compiled in collections. In the 15th century, the corpus was then present in various editorial offices, including the "Großer" and the "Kleiner Tauler".

The catechetical instruction of the people does not stop at the paupers' bibles either. The "Biblia pauperum", an anonymous work written in Latin around the middle of the 13th century, belongs to the evidence of this genre that was widely used in the late Middle Ages. Typological aspects of the Old and New Testaments are juxtaposed here (type and antitypus). Another form of spiritual popularisation is expressed in the Augsburg Passion Play from St. Ulrich and Afra, which was no longer fully preserved at the end of the 15th century. Besides the play by the Swabian Meistersinger Sebastian Wild (died after 1538), it became the basis for the later famous Oberammergau Passion Play.