How should women reciprocate the chivalry of men?

The minne service

The chants of love at court

It is not entirely certain where the term "Minne" is derived from, but it is very likely that the Latin "mens" (spirit) and "memini" (to commemorate) coined the original meaning. Gradually from this the meaning "love" developed and minstrelsong became the love poetry of the Middle Ages.

This first secular literary genre of the Middle Ages, which mainly took place at court, was more than just poetry. It shaped the entire value system of aristocratic, knightly society.

The music was of great importance for the presentation, but it is the content of the minne songs that we now mainly associate with the minne service. Most of the time we only understand this to mean the so-called "high love", but the minstrel could take on very different forms.

The beginning of the minstrel

In its beginnings, minnesong was by no means just an expression of love that was pushed into the unattainable - there are some love songs that tell of the joys of love between man and woman. An example from "Concepts of Love in the Middle Ages":

"Come, come, my love, I am waiting very much for you! I am very much waiting for you, come, come, my love. Sweet rose-colored mouth, come and make me well! Come and make me well, sweet, rose-colored mouth."

The songs were always performed by the man, but consisted alternately of women's and men's stanzas. You speak of the longing of lovers, both man and woman.

Obviously, not only the men but also the women were rich in experiences outside of marriage. And in the songs they didn’t long for their husband-in-law, but for their lover.

However, the woman alone bore the risk - it was more advisable for her to seek her "free" love in secret, while the men were appreciated for their amours. Minne songs, which clearly testify to conquests, also seem to have been exchanged in purely gentlemen's circles and not necessarily under the balcony of loved ones.

The "high love"

At the end of the 12th century "high love" developed at court. Longing developed out of love and love poetry became the man's school in things of love and propriety.

The multitude of conquests was no longer appreciated. Not even a single conquest, but only the service of love, the devotion to the pure woman, whom one should not humiliate through a conquest, heightened the lover.

The task of the always noble woman was to reject the lover, so that he mastered the art of love more and more, became purer and better in striving, preserved his loyalty and constancy - in spite of all rejection.

Virtues such as honesty, discretion and loyalty should not only exist in the love relationship, but shape the whole person.

The "lower love"

It is clear that this could not go well forever: soon the first sang of the qualities of non-aristocratic young women, with whom one could also spend a wonderful secret night of love.

So while the stories of high love tend to tell of the hopeless wooing of a man for an unreachable noble lady, low love includes at least one night of love that the man can remember.

The woman to whom these thoughts applied belonged to a lower class and only had a chance of being married at the beginning of the new poetic teachings - as in the texts of Walther von der Vogelweide.