Since ages I love Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana. I could listen to it for hours and never tire of it. In fact while writing this I am listening to it (the 1 hour and 11 minutes version on youtube). Especially the part of O Fortuna (at text passage “sors salutis et virtutis...”) when the timpani start, gives me the goose bumps anytime I hear it. I knew that it is a Latin text but I never thought about its origin (not the best music lessons at school I guess...). But since life is eternal learning I realised that I was about to visit the place where the original texts were stored for a long time before they were brought to Munich after secularisation. The texts of what is being called Codex Buranus, 234 songs and dramas in total, were written in 11th and 12th century to be precise. However, today it is not clear where they have been written; what is certain is that it was not Benediktbeuern, more likely it was Steiermark in Austria or Neustift Monastery near Brixen/Bressanone – say the scholars. Even nothing is proven about the path, the texts travelled to Benediktbeueren. Given the contents of the texts, which were drinking songs, love songs and mockery songs, it seems somehow clear that the monastery had intention to hide them from the folk. So this is a case where secularisation lead to something “positive”: make these texts and the illustrations accessible to the public. Although I doubt that it is easy for Joe Public to look at them in the Bavarian State Library.
Only little tells the visitors of Benediktbeuern Monastery today that these texts stayed here for a long time. Inside the cloister there is one room where a copy of the Wheel of Fortune illustration is being shown but surprisingly little side information next to the glass cases.
For the ones who are interested in the original lyrics of Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana – here it is.
© Ingrid D., December 2011 (So please do not copy my text or photos without my permission.)
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As the name suggests Benediktbeuern Monastery once was home to monks of the Benedictine order. The monastery is one of the oldest in Bavaria, founded end of 8th century. And it is said that Charlemange donated the relic of St. Benedict's right forearm to the monks just a bit after the monastery foundation. I have read that it is only on exhibit (below the main altar piece) on special occasions. And obviously there was a special occasion just before I came for a visit early October. I think there was a festival the previous days. So I could see the relic. It was a special feeling because I “know” St. Benedict (San Benedetto) from Italy, where I visit the town of his birth, Norcia, from time to time.
[Sorry, no better photo than the two I made. It just didn’t feel right to play around with my camera too much in front of the altar piece]
My last photo also shows the marvellous trompe-l’œil painting above the church entrance with the inscription: Templum D. Benedicto Dedicatum, a temple dedicated to St. Benedict.
© Ingrid D., December 2011.
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In 1803, the ancient texts and poems of Carmina Burana, were found here. Copies can be seen in the rooms of the monastery.
But Benediktbeuern is more - an enchanting town in southern...