About Hugo von Trimberg

The Trimberg Research Academy (TRAc) is named after Hugo von Trimberg, a Franconian polymath of the late High Middle Ages and an early exponent of the now rich educational tradition in Bamberg. It is mainly due to his principal work “Der Renner” – which is considered the greatest didactical work of the German Middle Ages – that Hugo von Trimberg has not fallen into obscurity throughout the centuries.

He never offered any information about his origin and date of birth himself; all that we know is that he was not of aristocratic origin. Moreover, several dates mentioned in his works indicate that he was born in about 1235, but definitely not before 1230. Even though little is known about his death, there is reason to believe that he must have died soon after 1313.

Hugo von Trimberg came to Bamberg in about 1260, where he became the head teacher of the theological seminary of St. Gangolf – which at that time was fairly unusual for a layperson and paterfamilias. Hugo von Trimberg was one of the medieval authors who made an attempt to decisively Christianise the texts to be read in school. However, this did by no means imply that he thought of the church as an infallible institution. Instead, the schoolmaster from Bamberg who had never attended university himself dared to decry existing grievances he had detected. It was particularly in “Der Renner” that he addressed heavy criticisms to the Roman Curia. With his vernacular writings, he attempted to provide those people who did not know Latin access to certain topics. His work was directed against hypocrisy and infidelity – and for him, creation itself was the most obvious proof of the existence of God. Most importantly, he repeatedly confronted his contemporaries with his call for reversion and emphatically supported the poor.

Looking at his writings, we are struck by Trimberg’s amazing scholarliness and his tremendous urge to summarise and embrace all information and knowledge accessible at his time. This clearly indicates that Trimberg the educationalist was equipped with a well-developed researcher’s attitude, too. Among the sources he used for his work we can find quotes from the Bible as well as recourse to antique and medieval texts. In “Der Renner”, he humbly refers to the image of a man at the harvest who, having no field of his own, takes the chance to diligently glean the rich man’s field while the harvest is carried away in the foreground. Thus, he eventually succeeds in collecting the grain he needs. Despite such examples, it is striking that Hugo von Trimberg’s formulations are never partial or one-sided – he never condemns in the manner of an upholder of certain moral standards. Instead, he managed to hold a mirror up to his fellow men, the world he lived in and, above all, himself.

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