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Parzival

 

Between the beginning of the 14th century and the end of the 16th century, medieval arts flourished in Constance on both sacred and profane buildings. One of the most significant paintings is the Parzival frescoes on the second floor of a chamber in the house known as the Haus Zur Kunkel, the Distaff-House. The frescos were discovered in 1937; however, it is not until 1988 that the frescos were proved without doubt to show episodes from Wolfram von Eschenbach’s Parzival. Although the legend of Parzival is 16 books long, the frescos only cover books 3-6. The images are dated to approximately the second decade of the 14th century; unfortunately, they were largely damaged during renovation. These is the oldest wall paintings of Parzival preserved.

 

Parzival is a medieval German romance by Wolfram von Eschenbach that focuses on the Arthurian hero, Parzival, and his long quest for the Holy Grail. The frescos on the Constance residence’s wall begin with Parzival’s birth and are presumed to end with his acceptance into the the knights of the Round Table at the Arthurian court.

 

 

The frescoes begin with a depiction of Parzival’s birth. After giving birth to Parzival, Queen Herzeloyde laments her husband’s death, decides to raise Parzival in a secluded forest and keeps him from learning about chivalry.

 

 

One day, Parzival meets three knights passing by and decides to join the King Arthur’s court. This scene shows Parzival’s farewell to his mother. In an effort to keep Parzival from successfully joining the Arthurian court, his mother dresses him in a fool’s outfit made out of sackcloth. Her plan fails and she dies of grief soon after he leaves her to find Arthur’s court.

 

 

At Arthur’s court, Parzival kills Ither the Red Knight and demands his armor. This scene depicts Lady Ginover's page, Iwanet, helping Parzival put on the Red Knight's armor and Parzival galloping on Ither’s horse into the Arthur’s court.

 

 

After being named the Red Knight, Parzival rides aways and encounters Gurnemanz de Graharz at his castle. The kindly host teaches Parzival how to make the sign of the Cross and other holy actions, and tells him to "not ask too many questions." After leaving Gurnemanz’s castle, Parzival heads for the city of Pelrapeire, where he meets his future wife, Queen Condwiramurs.

 

 

This image portrays Parzival fighting and defeating King Clamide, who has besieged Condwiramurs and plans to force her into marrying him. Parzival, therefore, wins the hand of Condwiramurs and becomes a king.

 

 

After marrying Condwiramurs, Parzival continues his search for the Holy Grail at the Grail’s castle.

 


 


 

Credits: 
This picture is the last preserved in the series due to the damaged caused by renovation efforts. This image depicts Sigune, Parzival’s cousin, still lamenting her dead lover Schionatulander and embracing his corpse on a lime tree.

 

The frescos of weavers on the opposite wall facing Parzival, depicting women in the Middle Ages

 

Compared the Parzival frescos to the frescos of weavers on the opposite wall, we found some striking similarities and differences. While the frescoes cover different subjects, it is interesting to note that the two murals stretch over three lines of the same height and are separated by narrow horizontal lines. In addition, both murals contain similar flower and curtain borders which bring two motifs together as part of the same series. On the other hand, the two frescoes illustrate contracting topics: the Parzival fresco portrays examples of knightly behavior influenced by noble ladies as Parzival embarks on his journey to the Arthurian Court, while the Weavers depicts the roles of women in medieval society. In addition, unlike the Weavers, the Parzival frescoes function without text captions as the story of Parzival was prominent during the medieval ages.