Salian Period (1050–1150): With the Salic epoch a time of increased religious disputes began; A leading role was played by the monastic and ecclesiastical reform movement that originated in the French monastery of Cluny and was carried on by the Swabian monastery of Hirsau. The investiture controversy led the monasteries out of their Ottonian isolation. The various religious impulses produced early Middle High German vernacular, ecclesiastical and functional literature, mostly anonymous and (similar to the smaller Old High German poems) in artless rhyming verses and sometimes impressively succinct language. These smaller poems are no longer only preserved as notations in Latin manuscripts, but partly in separate collective manuscripts, such as B. the famous Vorauer handwriting, handed down. The oldest of these early Middle High German poems is a hymn of salvation, the “Ezzo song”. Dogmatic poems such as the “Summa theologiae”, biblical verse narratives such as the “Vienna Genesis” or the “Life of Jesus” by the oldest known German poet known by name, Ms. Ava, as well as legends such as the “Annolied” and Marian poems were created for lay instruction and building. “Melker Marienlied”). The world flight tendencies of the time found their expression in v. a. in penitential poems, in lamentations for sin and ascetic-worldly poetry (Heinrich von Melk) as well as in rhymed prayers.
The translation work was continued by Abbot Williram von Ebersberg. During this time, the oldest German natural history works were also written in prose, such as the German translation of the »Physiologus« and the creation story »Merigarto« with a primitive representation of geography, which has only survived in fragments. – The conclusion of this epoch is formed by larger historical poems that point beyond their time, such as the “Kaiserchronik” (around 1150, it also contains the oldest German-language “novels”, e.g. “Lucretia”) and the “Alexanderlied” (around 1150) by Pfaff Lamprecht, which, in contrast to previous literature, is based on French models instead of Latin models.
Period of the Hohenstaufen (1150–1250): Up until this time, monasteries were primarily cultural institutions, schools and educational centers; Monks administered and mediated the educational goods. The first breakthrough into this world of education took place in France: secular literature flourished at the university in Paris and the religious courts. The First Crusade (1096–99) led by France played an important role in the emergence of vernacular literature: the encounter with the world of the Orient gave the spiritual life a variety of stimuli. At the same time, a new culture emerged at the courts, which was borne by the warrior nobility. The secular art of the troubadours, whose first representative Duke Wilhelm IX. of Aquitaine was. In northern France, the “Chanson de Roland” was the first heroic song to be recorded in writing. – A comparable process did not begin on German soil until after the 2nd Crusade (1147–49), in which a German army also took part for the first time. The idea of the crusade is also reflected in the German adaptation of the “Chanson de Roland”, the “Roland song” by Pfaffen Konrad (around 1170).
Spiritual literature continued alongside secular literature throughout the Middle Ages; But since the end of the 12th century it was no longer representative of aristocratic culture. The moral and life teaching was also detached from the spiritual realm. In minnesang, aristocratic society created its own literary expression for the first time. In the first phase, the »Danubian Minnesang«, this art was cultivated by Kürenberger, Meinloh von Sevelingen and Dietmar von Aist. With the Rhenish minstrels (Heinrich von Veldeke, Friedrich von Hausen Among other things) began the actual high minnesang, with which the Middle High German poetry reached a climax. In addition to the advertising songs, genres such as Wechsel, Tagelied, Kreuzlied, and Leich have been found right from the start.
The high phase of minnesong is represented by the sensitive, virtuoso spirituality of Heinrich von Morungen and the stylistically elegant elegiac reflection of Reinmar des Alten. Walther von der Vogelweide, who, as a traveler at the Upper and Central German courts, performed his minnesongs, political poetry and poetry, was the most important rhetorician among the singers; he enriched the traditional repertoire of types through recourse to forms and themes of Latin vagante lyric poetry.
– The late phase of minnesong began around 1210 with Neidhart, who presented (and parodied) the minnesang theme in his winter and summer songs in peasant costume and thus worked well into the 16th century.
The Middle High German Minne lyric has only been handed down from the time of its decline: the “Kleine Heidelberger Liederhandschrift” was created around 1275, after 1300 the “Weingartner Liederhandschrift” and the Manessian manuscript adorned with miniatures.