I have been researching Konrad’s of Würzburg ‘Partonopier and Meliur’. This chivalric romance,put to writing around the second half of the 12th century, tells the story of a mortal, Partonopier, falling in love with a faerie, Meliur.

Faeries in the Middle Ages

This motif is called “Mahrtenehe” in German; a marriage with a supernatural being. In the middle ages, genealogical stories that claim the descent of a house from a fay often offered justification for legitimate reign. It sets the lineage apart from common mortals. In a nutshell; they want to feel different. For example,  Artus (King Arthur) is said to have a fay, Terre de la schoie, as an ancestor in Wolfram’s of Eschenbach ‘Parzival’. Another example is Thüring’s of Ringoltingen ‘Melusine’, who is said to have founded the house of the French Lusignans.

Melusine turns into a serpent or fish once in a while. Her husband, Raymond, has made a vow never to look at her while she locks herself up. When he can’t control his curiosity anymore, Melusine departs through the window, never to be seen again.

The Frescoes of Runkelstein Castle

I read several claims now that claim that Partonopier and Meliur are painted in the frescoes of the Castle Runkelstein, also known as Castell Roncolo in Italy. Its frescoes are world famous because they depict scenes of high middle german literature and, unlike other castles, it has not been totally modernized and kept a lot of its medieval characteristics. The English Wiki article is sort of short, but here you go anyway. There are several rooms, each with a different theme, such as The Jousting Hall, the Hall of the Coat of Arms, a chapel depicting e.g. the Story of St. Katharina and the Room of Tristan (from Tristan and Isolde, of course).

One room tells the story of “Garel vom blühenden Tal” by the Pleier, another famous Arthurian romance. Sorry for all the namedropping, but this is just what this castle is; a who is who in literature of the time and a treasure of culture.

Scenes of ‘Garel’ at Runkelstein Castle; note the two lovers to the right.

Those are the two old lovers I was looking for. Here is the enhancement.

I enhanced some more and kind of deciphered something that could read Partonopyr, so I guessed that must be it.

Inversion helped a little.

I tried to match the outlines, this is what comes out.

Same goes for what supposedly is meant to read “Melivr“.

I took a course in palaeography once. But I certainly am not the most leet graphic nerd out there. If anyone has any CSI “Enhance this, and we know who the killer is”-knowledge to share with me, please do. I keep guessing my way through these pictures. Most of you will say, “What, you are a medievalist. Isn’t that what you do all the time? Guessing?”

Bits & Pieces

Of course, a lot of research into things that happened a thousand years or so in the past is terra incognita. There often is very few material to go on, because time is cruel, especially to paper and painting. You may gasp in shock now when I tell you that for ‘Partonopier and Meliur’, there is only one manuscript left and it doesn’t even have a proper ending. Often, things are fragmented. So it needs someone to piece them back together This is what I do most of the time; puzzling.

There are many other lovers in this cycle. Some I could read, the very first couple is Adam and Eve. But most of the names on paintings are so faded you can’t read them, like this one.

There is still something here, but what does it mean?

This one, I actually know the name of the woman. It is Secundille, a queen in India, wed to Parzival’s half-brother Feirefiz.

But the name of the man definitely starts with an A.

Fishing & Adultery

It could be  Anfortas, the Fisher King and the keeper of the Holy Grail. He was not always so holy though; he just wasn’t made for chastity. While committing adultery, he was wounded and got a – ouch! – spear through the nuts. The wound did not heal and festered and must have reeked incredibly terrible. That’s why they took him out to the lake to ‘air’. That is why he is called the Fisher King. True story.

Anyway, one woman in particular was suiting him, and it was said Indian Queen Secundille. He was fond of another, Orgeluse, tough. Since this is not the typical pair of lovers at all (compared to the rest of them) I doubt that it is Anfortas, though.


Having read ‘Parzival’ again, I think it could read Anschevin, which is Feirefiz’s last name, as well. He is Gahmuret’s son and his kingdom was Anschouwe. He is Secundille’s “Minneritter” and does great deeds in her name, but he renounces Secundille when he meets Repanse de Schoye, becomes baptized and marries her.

Help needed

What does it mean? I want to know! If anyone could help me to get more advanced enhancing techniques with Gimp or Photoshop or anything, please contact me. I would be ever so grateful for knowing Partonopier’s and Meliur’s neighbours.