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Waise [material:gem] [German Heldensage]
Waise [Mod. Ger.]
weise (Herzog Ernst) [MHG]; orphanus "orphan", Wrisen, Weisen = pupillus "orphaned boy" (Ernestus), unio [L.];
    A magnificent gem that formerly occupied the center-top of the German imperial crown*1. Of a white color with a wine-red tint, that used to glow in the night, but the glow began to fade with age. The last record of it is in an inventory of 1550 but sometime afterwards the gem was lost.

The crown itself, still extant, was originally made for Otto the Great (912-973). It consists of eight plates hinged together to form a near-circular octagon. The frontal plate represents the 12 apostles of the New Testament, and accordingly are set with twelve stones — evidently the twelve gems mentioned in Saint John's Revelation xxi: 19-20*2 describing the vision of the temple with the "pearly gates".

On the crown, the place now occupied by a heart-shaped sapphire used to be set with the waise stone instead. So perhaps it was originally Jesus and the 11 disciples (excluding Judas Iscariot) who were being allegorized.

This stone shouldn't be confused with the Stein der Weisen [lit. "stone of the wise men"] which is the German name for the "philosopher's stone" of the alchemists.

*1This imperial crown (Reichskrone) is still housed in the Schatzkammer at the Hofburg in Vienna. The crown, the Holy Lance [Heilige Lanze], etc. are collectively called the Reichskleinodien.
    [Albert K. Wimmer's German anthology page on Walther provides a few line of notes with an enlargeable photo ]
The imperial crown, the ⇒«Holy Lance, etc., are featured on a series of postage stamps issued by Lichtenstein in 1975 and 1977 (Scott catalog #567-71, 617-20/ Michel 625/8, --, 673/6 ) and all but one stamp can be viewed at the Reichskleinodien page of Charlemagne 2000 site.

* 2 Similarly, the rear plate (positioned at the back of the head of the wearer) represents the 12 tribes of Israel of the Old Testament, and are accordingly set with the same gems as on the "pectoral of the Jewish high priest", described in Exodus xxviii. (see ⇒ Aaron's Breastpalate for further study.) The 12 gems in Revelation matches fairly closely with the gems in Exodus.

§ St. Albertus Magnus

The appearance and characteristcs of the waise was described by Albertus Magnus (1193?-1280)*1 :
'Orphanus est lapis qui in corona Romani imperatoris est, neque unquam alibi visus est, propter quod etiam orphanus vocatur. Est autem colore vinosus, subtilem habens vinositatem, et hoc est sicut si candidum nivis candens seu micans penetraverit in rubeum clarum vinosum, et sit superatum ab ipso. Est autem lapis perlucidus, et traditur quod aliquando fulsit in nocte, sed nunc tempore nostro non micat in tenebris. Fertur autem quod honorem servat regalem.'
— Albertus Magnus in his Book of Minerals[?]
latin passage quoted in Grimm's Teutonic Mythology Ch. 37 Sect. 2
Orphanus is the stone on the crown of the Roman Emperor, such that nothing [like it] is to be found anywhere else, for which reason it is called Orphanus("orphan"). But moreover it is wine-like in color, having a subtle wine-hue. That is to say, it is as if radiant and gleaming snow has penetrated into clear wine-red and is overcome by it. But moreover it is a pellucid stone and tradition says it used to glow in the night, but nowadays in our times it no longer twinkles in the dark. But it retains the honor of serving the kingdom.
— tr. mine
* 1 I haven't been able to consult Book of Minerals, trans. Dorothy Wyckoff (Oxford: Clarendon, 1967).]

§ Walther von der Vogelweide (12th c.): The Waise on King Philip's Head

The minnesinger Walther von der Vogelweide sung of the Waise, the orphan-stone. Walther put himself in the retinue of Philip of Swabia (1177-1208) who was elected to succeed the German throne in 1198 after his brother Henry VI died leaving an heir in minority (the future Frederick II was still an infant)*4. However, the Bishop of Cologne in charge of conducting the coronation ceremony was anti-Hohenstaufen, and refused to crown him, instead backing a rival king. Walther says it is not right that German-speaking peoples are not being ruled under unity and calls upon his listeners to:
Philippe setzen weisen ûf!
["Put the orphan-stone (the crown) on Philip!"]
—Walth. 9, 15., Reichssprüche*5
Even the pope (Innocent III) arbitrated in the favor of the rival, Otto from the rival Welfs, while excommunicating Philip at one point. But the tides of fortune turned, with the bishop and pope recognizing Philip's kingship in the end, so that Walther was able to celebrate:
schouwe wem der weise ob sîme nacke stê,
der stein ist aller fürsten leitesterne

[Now see upon whose head the orphan stone is found.
That stone is every prince's guiding star! ]
—Walth. 19, 3.,
Diu krône ist elter danne der künec Philippes sî, tr. Graeme Dunphy
I have since tracked down an English translation of this poem by Frank Betts*6, though he translates waise merely as "the gem": (p.40):
THE CROWN. The poet marvels that the ancient crown fits so closely King Philip's head and holds that it well beseems him.

THE crown is older far than King Philip. Therefore may all men see and wonder how fairly the smith made it to his head. So well they match, crown and kingly brows, that none with right may sever them; each of the twain, crown and crowned head, adorns the other, they shine both and together, proud gems on the fair young King. Gladly the Princes feast their eye.
He who doubts the Kesar's right let him gaze where the high crown rests. The gem is the bright lodestar of all Princes.
— Frank Betts tr., p.40

*1 The medieval portrait of Walther von der Vogelweide from the Manessische Handschrift, Manessa manuscript 1275 AD, (Cod. Pal. germ. 848, Universitätsbibliothek, Heidelberg)

*2 The German imperial coronation mantle (Der Krönungsmantel) from around this period is also kept in the Schatzkammer at the Hofburg in Vienna. This was formerly the cape of Roger II (d. 1154), king of Norman Sicily, later taken possession by the house of Hohenstaufen (in 1194). Henry VI's wife Constance was the daughter of Roger II, and was named successor to the Sicilian throne by her nephew. However, Sicily elected her nephew Tancred their king, until he died in 1194. Eventually he infant Frederick II was made Sicilian king with Constance acting as regent.

*5 The citation"Walth. 9, 15." is the one used in Grimm's TM. Cf. Harry Heyworth's translation page where the poem is also identified by its first line, Ich hôrte ein wazzer diezen (Lachmann-Kraus #8,28). He gives an interpretive translation as follows: "On Philip’s head, then, set the crown, / Let them be brought to heel".

*6 Betts, Frank, tr., Songs and sayings of Walther von der Vogelweide, minnesaenger, Englished by.., Sheldonian series of reprints and renderings of masterpieces in all languages, (Oxford, Published by B.H. Blackwell and sold in America by Longmans Green & Company, New York, 1917; Reprint AMS Press, 1977; 54p).

§ Duke Ernst, discoverer of the orphan-stone[?]

In the Romance of Herzog Ernst (c. 1190) *1, 2, the title character Duke Ernst loses his father (also named Ernst) at a tender age, and his mother Adelheid (Adelheit [MHG]) marries the emperor Kaiser Otto (Keiser Otte [MHG]), making Ernst the imperial stepson (Stiefsohn [G.] stiefsun [MHG]).
    But due to slandering by the Count Palatinate Heinrich (Pfalzgraf ~ [G.] phalzgrâve ~ [MHG]), he falls out of favor. (+)When the emperor was holding council at Speyer with Heinrich, Duke Ernst and his loyal Count Wetzel burst in, and slew this slanderer. Troops are raised against Ernst, and his city of Regensburg is besieged. . Ernst and his loyals decide to set sail to the Holy Land. They go by land as far as Constantinople, and set sail, but a storm takes them to Grippia (Girppîâ [MHG]; Land der Agrippiner [G.] ), the land of the crane-headed people, which they leave after failing to rescue a princess of India, and killingmany birdmen including the swan-headed king. Their ship get pulled closer and closer to a mountain called the Loadstone (Magnes [MHG]) which floats in the "Loppered Sea" (Lebermer [MHG])

(+)The ship carrying the Duke nears a large mountain called the Loadstone (Magnes 3897) in the Congealed Sea or the "loppered sea" (lebermer). As its name suggests, this mountain (or rock) in the middle of sea is magnetic, and attracts any ship built with iron nails. They are shipwrecked, provisions run low, and the dead get carried off by griffins. Count Wetzel has the idea of wearing battle-gear for protection and then getting sewn up inside animal hides to trick the griffins into carrying them away. They climb down from the griffin's rock to a forest and reach a body of water teeming with fish. But it was bounded on one side with a sheer cliff and the other by raging current sucked into a cave-hole inside a tall mountain. They build a raft and brave the hole, getting rocked and careered downstream. They reach a part where it was no longer dark but illuminated by colored gems. Then Ernst makes the following discovery of the precious gem:
Herzog Ernst (Hs. B), Zeile 4456-65
4456 Ernst der edele wîgant
4457 einen stein dar under sach
4458 den er ûz dem velse brach.
4459 der stein gap vil liehten glast.
4460 den brâhte sît der werde gast
4461 ûz der vil starken freise.
4462 dâ von er wart der weise
4463 durch sîn ellen genant.
4464 er ist noch hiute wol bekant.
4465 ins rîches krône man in siht.
—Bartsch ed., Herzog Ernst B
Duke Ernst (Ms. B) ll 4456-65
Ernst the noble warrior
Saw a stone thereunder,
And broke it off from the rock.
The stone gave out much gleaming light,
He has since brought it, the war-clad sojourner,
Back from the utterly stark ordeal,
Therefrom it has been named "weise"(orphan),
Owing to its sternness.
It is still today well-beknownst.
In the royal crown one can see it.
—tr. mine
    Duke Ernst is afterwards bound for the land of Arimaspî (l. 4505)*2 whose denizens have but one eye in front of their brain (sie heten niht wan ein ouge / vorne an dem hirne. ll. 4518-9) and are called in Latin "cyclopes" (ze latîne hiezens Cyclôpes l. 4521).

(+)The work exists in Latin versions. Odo of Magdeburg's Ernestus (1206 - 1233), the Hystoria Hernestis ducis dated early to late 13c., ("Hezog Ernst C") Odo's Gesta Ernesti ducis de Saxonia (1206-1233) lacks the jewel episode (Thomas, Intro., p. 29).

Ernestus is cited by Grimm in his lengthy article on the waise-stone (but not quoted). The passage he refers to is from Martene's edition*5, Liber XI p. 357 "Et pare quod careat Retio de nomine Wrisen / Nuncupat, hæc latia pupillus voce figurat" attempted translation: Due to the virtue of it being cut off, is called by the name Wrisen, which in Latin is pronounced pupillus (orphan)]). In the critical edition by Klein*6, the same passage reads Et pare quod careat recto de nomine Weisen / Nuncupat, hoc latia pupillus uoce figurat (p. 136, Liber VI, ll.328-329)

*1 Herzog Ernst B in:
Bartsch, Karl, 1832-1888, hrsg., Herzog Ernst (Wien Wilhelm Braumüller 1869.). [p.1-12 "Bruchstücke des Niederrheinischen Gedichtes aus dem XII. Jahrhundert" (Middle Franconiabn fragment ca. after 1170 = "Herzog Ernest A"); pp.13-308 Die &aauml;lteste Überarbeitung des Niederrheinischen Gedichtes (= "Herzog Ernest B") ] [copy 1 (Stanford)] | [copy 1 (Michigan U) (The MHG text can be queried at the MHDBDB site)

*2 Thomas, J. W. (John Wesley), 1916- and Dussére, Carolyn Thomas, 1942- tr., The Legend of Duke Ernst (Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press, 1979). The prose translation here reads:
Among them Duke Ernst saw one which was very bright, broke it free fro mteh rock, and brought it with him out of the frightful peril. The stone glitters with such radiance that it is called "the orphan" and is well known today, since one can see it in the imperial crown. [pp.108-9]

*3 The one-eyed giants called Arimaspoi ριμασποί are described in classical sources e.g. Herodotus.

*4 Richard J. Berleth; The Orphan Stone: The Minnesinger Dream of Reich. (Westport CT, 1990) [Contributions to the study of world history, 0885-9159 ; no. 15 ]

*5 Taken from Martene ed., Thesaurus Novus Anecdotorum, Tome 3 (pub. 1717), ERNESTUS (starts p. 308)

*6 Ernestus / Odo von Magdeburg, herausgegeben und kommentiert von Thomas A.-P. Klein (Hildesheim : Weidmann, c2000) (limited preview)




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