Jana Ilnicka edits rediscovered manuscript MS Eisenach 1361

The German Research Foundation (DFG) is supporting a research project by Dr. Jana Ilnicka at the Max-Weber-Kolleg of the University of Erfurt with funding totalling up to around 328,000 euros. It is entitled „The rediscovered manuscript MS Eisenach 1361 of the Wartburg Foundation and its partial parallels: Edition and Situations in Space and Time“ and is to be worked on over the next three years.

The Wartburg manuscript Ms Eisenach 1361-50 is a codex of 108 single-column leaves written on both sides (216 pages), 115×85 mm in size, produced in the XIV century and written in a West Middle High German dialect. It was originally in the Premonstratensian convent of Altenberg, before it first came into private ownership and then into the holdings of the Wartburg Foundation. The manuscript begins with thirteen psalms (2r-24v), all translated into Middle High German. This is followed by an anonymous sermon on the feast of the Assumption (25r-33r). From leaf 34r a series of 70 text pieces begins (34r-108v), some of them very short, the others longer. The last piece of text (n. 70) begins on fol. 108v and is not complete, as one leaf in the manuscript has been torn out. From fol. 34r on, the manuscript has partial parallels with the manuscript Berlin, SBB-PK, Ms. germ. fol. 986, and there are still some similar fragments in a Munich manuscript, Munich Cgm. 5235 (4th v. XIV Cologne?, M60).

Some of the 70 text pieces begin with the author’s name: Thomas Aquinas and Meister Eckhart are the two authorities mentioned by name as authors in this manuscript („Meister Thomas sagt“ or „Meister Eckhart sagt“), the others are anonymous („Ein Meister sagt“, „Einige Meister sagen“, „Es gibt eine Frage“). Some of the texts attributed to Meister Eckhart were edited by the first editor of Meister Eckhart’s German works, Franz Pfeiffer, as „sayings“ in his Eckhart edition of 1857. Some of these sayings were then identified by Heinrich Denifle (about 30 years later) and Josef Koch (about 100 years later) as edited translations of Eckhart’s Latin works translated into German, but the manuscript itself was considered lost since 1909 and Eckhart’s authorship of these pieces was widely disputed. The other texts, which were known at least from the partial parallel manuscript in Berlin, had not been researched since then. But a few years ago, Balázs J. Nemes and Markus Vinzent discovered this manuscript in the library of the Wartburg Foundation. As part of her research project, Jana Ilnicka will prepare a critical edition of this manuscript and make these texts accessible to researchers.

„The sample analysis of the manuscript so far has shown that these texts cannot be understood directly on their own, but must be introduced into the context of the philosophical-theological debate of the time, and that it is only out of this context that their precise contents emerge,“ Ilnicka reports. Such a contextualising analysis would then also make it possible to correct the information on authorship and contribute to research on the state of the debate in the 14th century.

„The language of the Wartburg manuscript, Middle High German, shows that the highly speculative theological themes were recorded in a vernacular, i.e., in a non-university setting. Therefore, the precise analysis of these texts will allow us to take a completely new look at lay education in the 14th century. Among other things, this concerns women’s education at the time, which, as the Wartburg manuscript suggests, cannot be reduced to „women’s mysticism“ alone.

For her work, Jana Ilnicka, who has already worked intensively on Meister Eckhart as part of her dissertation, will find competent discussion partners for these questions at the Max-Weber-Kolleg of the University of Erfurt, or more precisely, at the Meister Eckhart Research Centre located there. She will begin her work on 1 February 2021 – in the first step with the transcription of the manuscript. At the end of her research, she will present an annotated edition of the manuscript.

Dietmar Mieth gives a working paper on ‚Not at one´s disposition – Inaccessibility‘

The thesis of this contribution – resulting from an oral presentation in the City of Bochum where I have lived since 2017 – , focuses  on  the connection between the dramatic loss of members in  the Christian Churches  in Europe on the one hand and the preoccupation with the relevance of “religious” feelings in the society on the other side, detected and elaborated   by sociologists like Latour, Joas, Rosa. This approach seems – for me – to be very near to the project of “Weltbeziehung” which promotes some approaches in the Max Weber Institute. My intention is to identify and discuss some of the  roots of this contemporary “religious” sensitivity in the medieval tradition of mysticism and especially in the literary reception of Meister Eckhart in the first half of the 20th century.

Sarah Al-Taher presents a working paper on ‚Meister Eckhart – a second Socrates?‘

In this paper I compare (the platonic) Socrates with Meister Eckhart regarding four comparative criteria. First I describe their life from the perspective of the circumstances surrounding the end of their lives. Second I describe a central aspect of both philosophies. The unity with the good in the concept of Plato, and the unity with God in the concept of Eckhart. This leads to the third step, in which I analyse the way both Plato und Meister Eckhart pursue in order to reach their goals: the unity with good or God. And lastly, I turn to the methodology used by Plato und Eckhart to convey their way of knowledge.
These procedure allows to give a first answer to the question whether Meister Eckhart can be understood as a second Socrates.

A Workshop is taking place at the Max Weber Kolleg on „Geschichten und Legenden um Meister Eckhart“

Within the Meister Eckhart Tage in Erfurt the Max Weber Kolleg offers a Workshop:

For more Information please see the following link:


Jana Ilnicka presents a working paper on ‚Augustine in the Wartburg manuscript‘

In the newly discovered Wartburg manuscript (Ms Eisenach
1361) small texts are collected, which Franz Pfeiffer
classified in his edition of the works of Meister Eckhart as
„Proverbs“. These „sayings“ have so far been predominantly
inauthentic and inspired by Meister Eckhart. The latest
research into the content of the manuscript has shown that
these texts must have been written by Meister Eckhart
himself. It is often quoted in Augustine, and the analysis of
these citations shows that they correspond to the manner of
the citation in Meister Eckhart and can be included in the
index Auctorum Patristicorum.

Martina Roesner gave a working paper on ‚The Grammar of the Divine. Philosophy of Language and Exegesis in Meister Eckhart‘

Judging by the standards of 13th/14th century Scholastic exegesis, Meister Eckhart’s Bible commentaries appear quite unusual in more than one respect. Rather than giving a consistent, continuous interpretation of each Biblical book, Eckhart bases his analyses on a very limited number of chapters and sometimes even isolated verses, while apparently disregarding the rest of the text. The guiding hypothesis of my project is that this extremely lacunary commenting style is the result of a fundamental methodological option: Instead of interpreting the Biblical text itself, Eckhart focuses on those passages that contain the hermeneutic keys to the correct understanding of the whole text. While his two commentaries on Genesis deal with the fundamental principles of created reality as such, his commentary on Exodus raises the question of how divine Revelation can be articulated in human language and how, consequently, the different names and titles of God have to be interpreted. Drawing on Moses Maimonides, as well as on modistic language theory, Eckhart develops a speculative grammar that allows him to understand
God as pure being that constitutes the transcendental fundament and horizon of the semantic relationship between words, concepts, and reality. God, therefore, is not above all names and radically transcendent in relation to human language but, on the contrary, can be referred to by any name, albeit imperfectly. Thus, the Hebrew and Greek original of the Biblical text cannot claim greater “authenticity” over its various translations into other languages. For Eckhart, each and every human language is a place where the divine word (verbum) can become incarnate without ever exhausting its infinite semantic potential.