Wolfram von Eschenbach composed his medieval German epic poem Parzival, which consists of more than 24,000 lines, in the first decade of the 13th century. It tells the story of the juvenile fool Parzival who, having grown up in the seclusion of the forest, is ignorant of the world and causes much grief as he ventures out to become a knight. He arrives at the Castle of the Grail, but fails to pose the question to the sick King Fisher Anfortas about the source of his suffering—a question that would release Anfortas and make Parzival the new grail king. After a long odyssey and a religious catharsis, Parzival is able to return to Arthur's court and is marked as the new grail king. The tale, according to the manuscript tradition, enjoyed great popularity throughout the Middle Ages. Only a few of the manuscripts are illuminated. This manuscript from the Bavarian State Library, written in a Gothic cursive script, is one of the few illuminated manuscripts of Parzival that are known to exist. Unfortunately, only one of the illuminations in the codex, which were to be inserted in spaces that the writer left blank, was executed. The style of painting suggests that it most likely originated in Lower Bavaria, perhaps in Landshut. The quality and richness of this very illumination gives a hint of what a splendid work of art this would have been had it been completed.

Last updated: November 15, 2013