Herrad of Landsberg

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Herrad of Landsberg
Selfportrait from Hortus deliciarum, ca. 1180

Herrad of Landsberg (c. 1130 – July 25, 1195) was a 12th-century Alsatian nun and abbess of Hohenburg Abbey in the Vosges mountains. She is known as the author of the pictorial encyclopedia Hortus deliciarum (The Garden of Delights).

Life at Abbey[edit]

Born about 1130 at the castle of Landsberg, the seat of a noble Alsatian family. She entered the Hohenburg Abbey in the Vosges mountains, about fifteen miles from Strasbourg, at an early age. The Hohenburg Abbey, also known as Mont St. Odile, was run by Abbess Relinda, and due to her support from the emperor the abbey was extremely successful and powerful, as well as a source for reform. At the abbey Herrad received the most comprehensive education available to women during the 12th century. As she grew older she rose to a high position in office at the abbey, and was soon put in charge of governing and educating her fellow nuns.[1] After Relinda’s death, Herrad was elected abbess in 1167.[2] As abbess, Herrad worked on rebuilding the monastery, as well as consolidating the land surrounding the monastery under its ownership.[3] She proved herself to be a capable and well loved abbess, and it was at this time that she began her work on the Hortus Deliciarum. Herrad was abbess for 28 years,and continued in that office until her death.

Hortus Deliciarum[edit]

Main article: Hortus Deliciarum

As early as 1165 Herrad had begun within the cloister walls the work for which she is best known, the Hortus Deliciarum, a compendium of all the sciences studied at that time. Hortus Deliciarum was written as a compendium for the women in Herrad's convent, in order to further learn biblical, moral, and theological material, and was compelted in 1185.[4] In it, Herrad delves into the battle of Virtue and Vice with vivid visual imagery preceding the text.

The work shows a wide range of reading. Its chief claim to distinction is the three hundred and thirty-six illustrations which adorn the text. Many of these are symbolical representations of theological, philosophical, and literary themes; some are historical, some represent scenes from the actual experience of the artist, and one is a collection of portraits of her sisters in religion. The technique of some of them has been very much admired and in almost every instance they show an artistic imagination which is rare in Herrad's contemporaries.

Alsace Mont Sainte-Odile 05

While other artists and writers contributed to the Hortus Deliciarum, it was largely compiled, written, and edited by Herrad. Many of the poems and hymns were written by Herrad, and it is speculated that much of the art was created under the direction of Herrad as well.

After having been preserved for centuries at the Hohenburg Abbey, the manuscript of Hortus Deliciarum passed into the municipal Library of Strasbourg about the time of the French Revolution. There the miniatures were copied in 1818 by Christian Moritz (or Maurice) Engelhardt; the text was copied and published by Straub and Keller, 1879-1899 [1]. Thus, although the original perished in the burning of the Library of Strasbourg during the siege of 1870 in the Franco-Prussian War, we can still form an estimate of the artistic and literary value of Herrad's work.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ McGuire, Thérèse (1988–89). "Monastic Artists and Educators in the Middle Ages". Women's Art Journal 9. 
  2. ^ Storey, Ann (1998). "A Theophany of the Feminine: Hildegard of Bingen, Elsabeth of Schönau and Herrad of Landsberg". Women's Art Journal 19.1. 
  3. ^ Griffiths, Fiona J. (2006). The Garden of Delights Reform and Renaissance for Women in the Twelfth Century. University of Pennsylvania Press. ISBN 978-0-8122-3960-7. 
  4. ^ "Herrad von Landsberg". Oxford Art Online. Retrieved 28 September 2014. 

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainHerbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company. 

  • Chadwick, Whitney, Women, Art, and Society, Thames and Hudson, London, 1990
  • Harris, Anne Sutherland and Linda Nochlin, Women Artists: 1550-1950, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Knopf, New York, 1976
  • PD-icon.svg "Herrad of Landsberg". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1913.