The Codex Manesse, or «Große Heidelberger Liederhandschrift», is an outstanding source of Middle High German Minnesang, a book of songs and poetry the main body of which was written and illustrated between 1250 and 1300 in Zürich. The Codex, produced for the Manesse family, is one of the most beautifully illustrated German manuscripts in history.

The Codex Manesse is an anthology of the works of about 135 Minnesingers of the mid 12th to early 14th century. For each poet, a portrait is shown, followed by the text of their works. The entries are ordered by the social status of the poets, starting with the Holy Roman Emperor Heinrich VI, the kings Konrad IV and Wenzeslaus II, down through dukes, counts and knights, to the commoners.

Page 262v, entitled «Herr Gœli», is named after a member of the Golin family originating from Badenweiler, Germany. «Herr Gœli» may have been identified either as Konrad Golin (or his nephew Diethelm) who were high ranked clergymen in 13th century Basel. The illustration, which is followed by four songs, shows «Herrn Gœli» and a friend playing a game of backgammon (at that time referred to as «Pasch», «Puff», «Tricktrack», or «Wurfzabel»). The game is in full swing, and the players argue about a specific move.

Join in, click to enlarge, and start playing a game of backgammon against «Herrn Gœli». But watch out: «Herr Gœli» speaks Middle High German, and despite his respectable age he is quite lucky with the dice!


A Swiss open cultural data hackathon project by Thomas Weibel Multi & Media, Basel, Switzerland