A musical journey through Europe and the Middle East in the Middle Ages

The knight Arnold von Harff, Lord of Nierhoven, hereditary chamberlain in Geldern was born in 1471 at Harff Castle near Kaster near Bedburg. In 1496 he set out from Cologne on an adventurous journey around the world that took him to the great pilgrimage destinations of Christendom to Rome, Jerusalem and Santiago de Compostela via France, Italy, the Balkans, Palestine, Syria, the Ottoman Empire and the Iberian Peninsula. He covered several thousand kilometres and was on the road for a total of two full years from his departure in Cologne on 7 November 1496 until his return on 10 October 1498.

He kept a meticulous diary about this "pilgrymmacie", as he himself called it. There Arnold calls himself a "poet", because this diary was only written after the journey, drawing on his own texts and those of others. He even went so far as to describe a journey he had not undertaken. He claims to have travelled from St. Catherine's Monastery on the Sinai along the coast of the Red Sea to Mecca … and in doing so referred to the travel descriptions of Marco Polo, among others.

Arnold's travel diary also differs from the pilgrimage reports of his contemporaries in other aspects, as he describes many things that did not interest others as much: city planning, fortifications, economic life, customs, costumes, flora, fauna and curiosities of the countries through which he travelled. He compiled a dictionary of the language of the country he visited, documenting the Albanian language for the first time. But this was by no means the intention of our Rhenish nobleman. He also wanted to know in every new language he encountered: "Woman, can I sleep with you?"

In our programme we dedicate ourselves to the music of the stations of his pilgrimage and read from texts from the book: Rome, Jerusalem, Santiago – Das Tagebuch des Ritters Arnold von Harff (1494-1498) by Helmut Brall-Tuchel (Böhlau Verlag).



Cologne, departure 7.11.1496
Ympnis laudem preconiis

from North-Italy via Rome (Holy Week 1497) to the coast
Ave Maria
Laudario di Firenze, 13th century

and further over the Balkans
La rosa enflorece
sephardic song from the Balkans

to Cairo, June 1497 and further
Bassem Hawar

to Jerusalem, december 1497
Irme quiero, madre, a Yerushalajim
sephardic song
oriental song


to Konstantinopel in april 1498 and from there further
Kassia, Konstantinopel 9th century
Con la cuba y la furcha
sephardic song from Konstantinopel

to Burgos in spring 1498
Flavit auster
Codex Laus Huelgas, 13th century

and at least arriving in Santiago de Compostela in juli 1498; and from there
Dum pater familias
Codex Calixtinus

to Paris, summer 1498
Beata Viscera
Notre Dame Schule, 13th century

and finally return to Cologne on 11.10.1498
Wail up ich moes van hynnen
song book of Anna von Köln