Foreign harps

Wartburg harp
image from Wikimedia

The Wartburg harp


Also known as the Wolkenstein harp or the Eisenach harp.

Dated to the late 14th or early 15th century

Kept at Wartburg Castle, Eisenach, Germany.

"Gothic" design;
26 strings, 104cm high.

This instrument, approximately contemporary with the Trinity & Queen Mary harps, exemplifies the Continental late medieval harp making tradition. Its original strings would have been made of gut, and each string would have been fitted with a buzzing 'bray pin' which makes all of the strings buzz like a sitar. The harp is of maple wood and has lavish inlay decoration. (strings and bray pins shown in the photo are modern replacements)

It was made in the Tirol area and is said to have belonged to Oswald von Wolkenstein (1376/7-1445).

Further Reading: Wolfgang Wenke, Nancy Thym-Hochrein and Yves d'Arcizas, ‘Die gotische Harfe der Wartburg’ Wartburg-Jahrbuch 1997: Herausgegeben von der Wartburg-Stiftung. Schnell und Steiner, Regensburg, 1998, p. 223-240. Includes 2 B&W photos, a side view plan, detailed dimensions, description, history, attribution to Oswald von Wolkenstein, etc. German text.

More photos: simplearp.

German harpmaker Eric Kleinmann makes superb replicas of this instrument. Unfortunately many harpists today playing replicas carefully adjust the bray pins so that they are not engaged, to produce a delicate modern sound very different from the pungent tone of the original.

Simon Chadwick