Apocalypse - Heinrich von Hesler

Alternate Titles:

Apokalypsa - Heinrich von Hesler, Apokalypse - Heinrich von Hesler

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Alternate Titles

Apokalypsa - Heinrich von Hesler
Apokalypse - Heinrich von Hesler

Extent / Format

320 pages / 30.0 x 21.5 cm

Mid 14th century

Luther of Braunschweig

Artist / School

Two writers
Unknown illuminator, probably from Western Germany


35 beautiful gilded miniatures

Former owners

Library of the Teutonic Order in Marienburg
Library in Tapiau
Castle Library in Königsberg

Short description

The Apocalypse by Heinrich von Hesler was composed in the 13th century. Its exact period of origin remains unclear to this day. The heady work is a German translation of the Book of Revelation, the last book of the New Testament. The text of the manuscript is in rhymed prose and its stunning illumination, richly embellished with gold, makes the Apocalypse one of the most interesting works of medieval German literature.

Facsimile editions available


Apocalypse - Heinrich von Hesler

The Revelation of John, also known as the Apocalypse, is the last book of the New Testament. The tale of the end of the world and the Day of Judgement belongs among the most influential literary works worldwide and for centuries it has been continuously adapted in literature, film, or the visual arts. A particularly interesting edition of the biblical text was composed by the German noble Heinrich von Hesler. The origin story of this Apocalypse continues to puzzle historians and researchers. The fascinating manuscript is illustrated with 35 breathtaking, colorful miniatures richly adorned with gold.

The Layman Heinrich von Hesler

Only a few facts are known about Heinrich von Hessler. He probably originated from the von Heßler family from Burgheßler near Eckartsberga and lived in the 13th century. Heinrich appeared to have been a “nôthafter rîter”, hence a layman in the circle of the Franciscan Order of Thuringia and composed a few manuscript codices, of which only three still exist today. One of his works is the Apocalypse, which belongs among the most precious literary works of the Middle Ages. The mysterious manuscript remains an important historical research project to this day. It period of origin is estimated to be somewhere between the years 1260 and 1335. In any case, the magnificent illuminated work demonstrates the comprehensive theological knowledge and talent of the author Heinrich von Hesler.

Medieval German Literature

Heinrich von Hesler’s version of the Book of Revelation is a German translation of the biblical text in rhymed prose. It remains nonetheless a word-by-word translation. Here the story is combined with the writings of a few medieval theologians and with Hesler’s own lessons. The fact that the text is written in verse with a uniform meter is especially impressive, thereby preserving a catchy melody for the Apocalypse that is particularly well-suited for reading aloud.

A Unique Illumination

The Revelation of John was reproduced in numerous illuminated manuscript throughout the Middle Ages. In contrast to most of the other Apocalypse manuscripts, the edition by Heinrich von Hesler exhibits a special characteristic. Many pictures of his manuscript correspond with the text of the work and illustrated the portrayed representations in a breathtaking manner. Having said this, other pictures were in all likelihood painted according to the desire of the patron. Alongside apocalyptic depictions of Hell and Paradise, which awaits all the righteous, one also finds numerous images of battling knights. The depicted knights acted according to divine providence in order to defend the destiny of the church on Earth. Such an illustration cycle was truly astounding and unique for the literature of that time.

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