Never seen in the trade: sealed document by Wolfger von Erla, patron of Walther von der Vogelweide

Wolfger von Erla, patriarch of Aquileia (1140-1218). Document.

Antro (near Cividale del Friuli), 25 April 1206.

Latin document on southern vellum with plica. 29 lines, unruled. Ca 366 × 206 mm, carefully trimmed, with seal in dark brown wax, ca. 85-90 mm in diameter, fastened on a yellow silk cord drawn through two lozenge-shaped holes in the plica (lower edge of seal chipped with loss of a section of ca. 70 mm length and no more than ca. 15 mm width in the lower left quarter). 2 horizontal and 3 vertical folds, a tiny hole of ca. 3 × 2 mm. No writing under plica. Dorsal inscription from the 14th century ("P[rivilegium] absoluc[i][onis] s[e] Theoloneii in toto patriarchatu", "etc." in faded ink), additional early modern shelfmarks. Stored in custom-made half morocco box.


The only document by Wolfger von Erla ever seen in the trade, in excellent state of preservation. At the request of abbot Ulrich, Wolfger, writing as patriarch of Aquileia, confirms to St Paul's Abbey, Lavanttal, privileges of toll exemption granted by his predecessors Ulrich II and Gottfried to the abbot Pelegrine and his monks.

The research of Reinhard Härtel (Graz) has traced a total of fifty documents and letters by Wolfger von Erla, who served first as bishop of Passau and then, from 1204 until his death, as patriarch of Aquileia. Not one of them appeared in the trade of the last 100 years. 22 of the documents were sealed, one of which was a duplicate: hence, we know of 23 sealed documents, of which - apart from the present one - only ten or eleven have survived as originals. In spite of its defects, the present well-preserved patriarchal seal therefore significantly expands the known sphragistic source material.

In his travel account book, Wolfger famously noted a generous gift of 5 shillings, given on St Martin's Day 1203 to "Waltherus cantor de Vogelweide" for purposes of purchasing a fur coat - a journal entry which provides not only the only certain date in the life of the Minnesinger, but also the only document at all that refers to a German poet of the High Middle Ages citing his profession. Wolfger enjoyed a reputation as a skilful diplomat and negotiator. He participated in the highest levels of the politics of the Holy Roman Empire, travelling frequently between Germany and Italy, where he served as Imperial legate: among other missions, he was involved in negotiating the release of Richard the Lionheart in 1194. In 1197/98 he took part in the Crusade of Henry VI, in the course of which he played a role in founding the Teutonic Order.

The present document was missing at least since St Paul's Abbey was dissolved by Emperor Joseph II in 1782/87; it was known only from later copies. The original, which has now resurfaced from a private collection, has been examined by Professor Dr Mark Mersiowsky of the University of Stuttgart, editor of the documents of King Henry (VII), the son of Frederick II, for the Diplomata series of the MGH, and we are indebted to him for the description.

Vidimus of the Vienna Hofkammerarchiv from 1791 in St. Paul. Mon. duc. Car. 4/1, 29, 1587. Fontes rer. Aust. II., 39, 108. Härtel, WA 4, 186.

Stock Code: BN#53041