Codex Albensis

Codex 211 - Array (Graz, Austria)

Facsimile edition
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Extent / Format

320 pages / 27.2 x 18.5 cm

1st half of the 12th century

Edition for studies in 2 colours, 8 pages in 4 colour printing

Short description

The Hungarians are a unique people originating from outside of Europe and as such, their language is completely sundered from their neighbors in addition to other cultural idiosyncracies. King Stephen (r. 1001-1038) was perhaps the most important figure in Christianizing and pacifying the Hungarians, who in the previous decades had regularly attacked and pillaged Christian Europe until their defeat by Otto I "the Great" at the Battle of Lechfeld in 955. The Codex Albensis: the most important, yet so far unpublished monument of Hungarian medieval history as well as Central European music, and is a testament to the importance of King Stephen to Hungary and the celebration of the Christmas holiday there. The manuscript is one of the oldest antiphonaries in Europe and features St. Gall style notation.

Facsimile editions available


A Musical Manuscript of Incomparable Importance

The Codex Albensis: the most important, yet so far unpublished monument of Hungarian medieval history as well as Central European music. At present, its repository is the University Library of Graz (Ms. 211). According to the methods of Paléographie Musicale, the codex is published in facsimile edition. The codex was written in Hungary during the first half of the 12th century. This is confirmed by the office composed in honor of King Stephen who reigned from 1001 to 1038. Textual analysis has shown that the original copy, which served as a template, had come into being about the year 1000, so our codex belongs to the oldest type of antiphonaries in Europe. The notation of the codex is, with minor divergencies, the uniform notation of St. Gall.

Hungary and the Feast of Stephen

A suite of pen-and-ink drawings are to be seen at the bottom of the folio, containig the feast of St. Stephen, the first martyr. These include a huntsman following a stag and other animal pictures. They call up to memory the minstrels, masked with animal hides and going from door to door on the second day of Christmas and on the following days in order to sing their songs in honor of King Stephen, the so-called regölés (raggerlaish). The codex is also interesting from the historical point of view, because of its drawings and its divergencies between the South-German original and the popular Hungarian version. The codex is one of the first expressions of the Hungarian people, who had only been settled in the area for a few decades at that point. The discussion between both classes of the Hungarian people took place in this area; the heathens, living in their old racial organization, wanted to rush through Europe and go plundering, whilst the Christian founded the new state and the new church under the direction of King Stephen.

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