Envisioning Salvation: An Ecumenical Ekphrasis in Wirnt von Gravenberg’s Wigalois

Envisioning Salvation: An Ecumenical Ekphrasis in Wirnt von Gravenberg’s Wigalois

Brown, James H.

Arthuriana 20.3 (2010)


In his only known romance, Wigalois, Wirnt von Gravenberg uses ekphrasis as a vehicle for articulating religious tolerance as well as differences between medieval Christians and Muslims, and offers an alternative image to what easily could have been an overly simplified, one-dimensional conception of Muslims during the period of the Crusades.

Wirnt von Gravenberg composed Wigalois in the first half of the thirteenth century, and various redactions of this popular tale remained in steady circulation until the end of the eighteenth century. In fact, with the exception of Wolfram von Eschenbach’s Parzival, no other Arthurian romance in German survives in as many manuscripts and fragments. Yet despite a nearly unbroken line of transmission for almost 600 years, Wigalois was for the greater part of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries considered to be a lesser Arthurian romance, an epigonal, piecemeal cousin to the towering ‘classical’ works of Hartmann von Aue or Wolfram von Eschenbach.

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