What Is the Story of “Carmina Burana”?

“Carmina Burana” is a collection of 228 poems written by three German medieval scribes by the names of Peter of Blois, Walter of Chatillon and an anonymous poet known as the Archpoet. The poems were of a secular nature, a rarity for medieval times. In 1935, German composer Carl Orff used 24 of the poems to create a musical composition of the same name.

“Carmina Burana” was discovered in 1803 in the Bavarian monastery of Benediktbeuern. It has been determined that while the poems were found there, it is likely “Carmina Burana” originated in the Seckau Abbey. According to About.com, the poems were composed by a special band of wandering poets called “goliards.” The manuscript is separated into six sections: “Carmina ecclesiastica,” “Carmina moralia et satirica,” “Carmina amatory,” “Carmina potoria,” “Ludi” and “Supplementum.” The sections cover religious themes, satirical songs, love songs, drinking songs and religious plays. “Supplementum” features revisions of the earlier songs with altered text. Carl Orff based the lyrics of his composition on the 24 poems chosen from “Carmina Burana,” but did not use the original melodies. His 1937 presentation has been interpreted by many other composers and was very popular in Nazi Germany. Orff’s version of “Carmina Burana” is still used in television advertisements and programs.