Walther of der Vogelweide (*1170/+1230)

Picture and poetic samples in middle German, modern German and English

Only very little is known about the life of the probably most important medieval German singer and poet. While there is a great record of his works, there isn’t something such as a contemporary biography of the artist. Because of this we are dependent on documentary "snapshots" to outline his life – i.e. documents that mention his or his patrons’ names in any context. This is why such a biography can’t possibly be regarded as complete. For that reason the choice of the listed incidents is merely based on their availability instead of their importance for Walther’s vita.

about 1170

Walther is born on one of the "Vogelweid" farms of the Lajener Ried in the (at that time) Bavarian southern Tyrol (today part of the Italian Province of Alto Adige) as a son of a free farmer or minister (other possible places of birth: Vienna, Feuchtwangen or Frankfurt a.M.).


Taking of office of Duke Leopold V. of Austria.

about 1190

First poems. His early work is probably lost.


Death of the Duke of Austria. His son Friedrich inherits the title.

about 1195

Walther stays at the Court of the Babenbergs in Vienna (later on even Klosterneuburg – Neuburg convent). Reinmar of Hagenau (called "Reinmar the Old") is the resident poet of this court. Walther is according to tradition said to have been his student.

from 1196

Walther’s different view of the technique of medieval singing leads into the so-called "Reinmar-feud".


King Henry VI. dies. His brother Philipp of Swabia is appointed trustee for the three-year-old throne heir Friedrich II.


Duke Philipp of Svavia (Swabia) is elected King of Germany. Otto of Braunschweig (Brunswick) is the rival candidate for the Welfian party.

April 1198

Walther’s patron, Duke Friedrich I. of Austria dies on a crusade. His brother and successor to the throne Leopold supports Reinmar against Walther. They break apart.


Otto of Brunswick is crowned as the counter-king (Otto IV.) in Aachen.


Philipp of Svaviais crowned in Mainz (receiving the real royal signs) to be German King.

End of 1198

Walther has to leave the court of Vienna. His travelling years begin.

December 1199

Christmas of Magdeburg. Walther takes part in the Christmas celebrations in the Magdeburg cathedral in the retinue of King Philipp and his wife Irene-Mary (a Byzantine princess).

March 1200

Day of Court in Nuremberg. Walther meets Duke Leopold VI.

May 1200

Walther takes part in the celebration of Leopold’s "Schwertleite" (def.?) as a guest.


Counter-king Otto IV. is approved by Pope Innozenz II.


Pope Innozenz II. excommunicates King Philipp and his men.


Day of Court of King Philipp in Bamberg. Walther takes part – probably along with the legation of Vienna.

Winter 1201/02

Walther stays at Wartburg castle as a guest of Duke Herman of Thuringia.


Eclipse of the sun, mentioned by Walther in his poem "Jetzt wachet auf, es naht der Tag" (Wake up everybody, the day is dawning).


Walther’s criticism against King Philipp ("Philippschelte").


The only written document from Walther’s lifetime – a travel expense sheet issued by Wolfger, the Bishop of Passau. Walther received a fur coat worth 5 shillings (excerpt from the original document with translation).

Winter 1203/04

Walther accompanies Bishop Wolfgers to the Viennese Court, where Duke Leopold marries the Byzantine princess Theodora. The individual who completed the tale of the "Nibelungen" (whose name is still unknown today) could – along with Walther – have been part of Wolfger’s following.

Beginning of 1204

Having been named Patriarch of Aquilea, Bishop Wolfger travels to his new post from Vienna. Walther might have accompanied him again.


Walther stays at the Thuringian court for a couple of times. Duke Herman takes sides with the Welfian party.


The "dispute about the horse" takes place at the Thuringian court between Walther and the knight Gerhard of Atze.


Walther meets Wolfram of Eschenbach at Wartburg castle. This meeting is later on referred to as the mythic "Wartburg battle".

about 1207

Reinmar of Hagenau passes away. Walther probably stays at Klosterneuburg/Vienna during that time. He composes a song of mourning in memory of Reinmar.


Walther turns away from King Philipp – possibly under the influence of Duke Herman of Thuringia.


King Philipp is assassinated by Count Otto of Wittelsbach.


Otto of Braunschweig (Brunswick) is elected (legitimately this time) to be German king.


Walther’s restless travelling years. He probably stayed at Wartburg castle for a couple of times during that time. Also a visit of the Tegernsee monastery could have taken place in that period.


Otto IV. in Rome to meet with Pope Innozenz III. Right afterwards he offends against an agreement he had with the pope and travels to Sicily to depose Friedrich II. of Hohenstaufen (son of Henry VI.).


Pope Innozenz excommunicates Emperor Otto.


Walther composes traditional songs, probably at his patron’s order and to give relief to his recitation programme.

September 1211

Friedrich of Staufen is elected German king.


Walther in service of Count Dietrich of Meißen.

March 1212

Walther and Count Dietrich of Meißen visit Emperor Otto’s Day of Court in Frankfurt. Walther speaks in favour of the count.


Walther in the following of Emperor Otto IV. He inveighs against Pope Innozenz III. Walther is at the peak of his popularity.

July 1212

Emperor Otto IV. marries Beatrix, the 14-year-old daughter of his assassinated predecessor Philipp of Svavia. Most German noblemen turn away from Otto.


Friedrich II. is crowned king of Germany in Mainz.

Summer 1213

Walther asks Emperor Otto IV. for an estate.


Walther writes his poem "der Leich".

July 1214

Otto IV. loses the crown and his empire in the battle of Bouvines.


Walther stays at the mansion of Duke Bernhard of Kärnten (Carinthia) in St Veit.


Walther takes sides with King Friedrich II.


Walther writes his poems in the service of Friedrich II.


Pope Innozenz III. dies in Perugia.


Count Hermann of Thüringen (Thuringia) dies.


Walther asks King Friedrich for an estate.

May 1219

King Friedrich II. in Würzburg, where he gives a small property to Walther (this could as well have taken place the following year at the Day of Court in Frankfurt).


Friedrich II. is crowned Emperor in Rome by Pope Honorius III.


Count Dietrich of Meißen passes away.


Archbishop Engelbert of Cologne as a patron of Walther’s.

about 1224/25

Walther stays at the mansion of Count Dieter of Katzenellenbogen.


Archbishop Engelbert of Cologne is assassinated.

Autumn 1227

Walther composes his "Elegie".


Walther’s songs about the crusades.


Emperor Friedrich II. lands in Palestine.


Emperor Friedrich II. crowns himself to be king of Jerusalem.

about 1230

Walther ceases in Würzburg and is buried in the cloister of the Neumünster monastery.

after 1230

Ulrich of Singenberg composes an obituary to his honorable teacher, the "Meister of der Vogelwaid".


Walther’s property in Würzburg is mentioned as "curia dicta zu der Vogelwaide" in contemporary documents.


Michael de Leone, Canonicus in Neumünster, collects Walther’s Œvre and mentions his grave in the "grasehove" of the cloister.



Sources and additional information regarding this topic can be found via the following hyperlinks (those marked with a [G] are only available in German):

edited by: Christian Kunze
translation by: Christian Kunze

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