The Berlin fragment is one of the most significant among luxurious medieval manuscripts of the German-speaking world. The text was composed for King Konrad IV, son of the great Staufer king Frederic II, and traces back to the poet Rudolf von Ems from Vorarlberg, in Western Austria.
It is a tale of the Bible in German verse, understood as a historical narrative with clear reference to contemporary political events. The text, which remained unfinished, was originally intended to cover historical events from the past to the times when it was written.
Charlemagne and the Song of Roland
Unlike Rudolf von Ems, a second author, the itinerant poet Stricker, is hardly known, although he wrote a considerable number of verse romance and comic tales. His success is due primarily to his epic of Charlemagne, which he wrote around the year 1220.
Stricker relied on numerous literary accounts built around the figure of Charlemagne as early as the 12th century in the form of heroic tales, in association with the legend of the hero Roland. The text is set before the historic background of the campaign against the Saracens in 778.
Impressive Illustrations Set Against Glowing Gold
The twenty-three surviving illuminations of the Berlin fragment can be attributed to the artistic environment of the famous Manessische Liederhandschrift (Manesse song manuscript) and are thought to be the work of a single artist. They depict scenes charged with lyric beauty and are painted in bright colors, with a predominant use of red and blue, set on golden grounds. According to the pictorial trend of the time, men’s hair is depicted in yellow; women's and celestial creatures’ hair, in the same color, is represented as long and wavy.
August Heinrich Hoffmann von Fallersleben
In 1826, the manuscript found its way to the author of the Deutschlandslied (the national anthem of Germany), August Heinrich Hoffmann von Fallersleben, who was also an important librarian and manuscript collector.
In 1850 he sold the manuscripts to the Royal Library in Berlin. Today the surviving fragment is treasured at the Staatsbibliothek in Berlin.
We have 2 facsimiles of the manuscript "Berlin World Chronicle":
- Die Weltchronik - Karl Der Grosse facsimile edition published by Mueller & Schindler, 1980
- Cronaca del Mondo e Storia di Carlo Magno facsimile edition published by Il Bulino, edizioni d'arte, 2004