Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Herrad of Landsberg and the Garden of Delights

Harrad of Landsberg art
Herrad of Landsberg was a 12th-century Alsatian nun and abbess of Hohenburg Abbey in the Vosges mountains. She is known as the author of the pictorial encyclopedia Hortus Deliciarum (The Garden of Delights).

It is assumed that Herrad of Landsberg was born around 1130. At the age of 35, she was supposed to have begun with 'Hortus Deliciarum' within the cloister walls in order to support her fellow nun's education. She became abess of Hohenburg Abbey about two years later and succeeded her teacher Relindis. The Garden of Delights was a compendium of all the sciences studied at that time, including theology and written in Latin language. Throughout the work, the author researches on the battle of Virtue and Vice with the help of over 300 lively illustrations preceding the text.

The work became widely famous for the many illustrations. Many of them are symbolical representations of theological, philosophical, historical and literary themes. Others were created out of personal experiences by the artist and also many portraits of her sisters in religion are included. The work is considered so special, because it was the first known encyclopedia written by a woman and it is admired for the artistic imagination, which was not seen very often in contemporary artists. But the work does not only live from its imagery. The sentiment of the text is often referred to as very musical and above all admirably adapted to the purpose for which they were intended, namely, the service of God by song. The work contains numerous quotes from the Bible and from church fathers.

The Garden of Delights was preserved for many centuries at the Hohenburg Abbey and was later on passed into the municipal Library of Strasbourg. It is assumed that this was done around the time of the French Revolution. In Strasbourg, the miniatures were copied by Christian Moritz Engelhardt and the text was published once more. Unfortunately, the original work was destroyed during the burning of the Library of Strasbourg during the Franco-Prussian War.

At yovisto, you may be interested in a more detailed description of Hortus Deliciarum by historian Dr Vida Hull.

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