Johannes von Narrenstein

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Master Johannes von Narrenstein holdng the Codex.
Status: No longer in East Kingdom
Awards: Order of Precedence
Device needed.jpg
Heraldry Needed
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Companion of the Order of the Laurel


Holy Roman Empire, Bohemia, Teutonic Knights

I, Johannes von Narrenstein, was born on the Feast of St. John the Baptist, in the village of Neuern/Nyrsko, in the kingdom of Bohemia, in 1368.

A Bohemian love-knot, which I bear on my device; from the Psalter section of the Wenceslas Bible, Austrian National Library Cod. 2759

Into the World of Letters

My childhood was typical of any among the German-speaking peasants along the Czech border with Bavaria at that time. After my father died and my mother remarried, I found myself disinherited by older step-brothers. My uncle Andreas helped send me to school in nearby Domazlice. From there I went to university at Prague – the big city, for which I was completely unprepared, and I fled from my debts in company with a rather abusive wandering scholar. I left his company near Utrecht, and joined the Brethren of the Common Life, to whom I owe so much, especially my love of books and book-making. They trained me as a scribe, and sent me to university in Cologne, and after a year there I began my career in chanceries. I served in various chanceries in the Rheinland, and received arms by letters patent in 1396 (Laurel). I was at work in Emperor Ruprecht’s chancery in 1402 when he went on his Italian campaign; I accompanied him as herald. While we were besieging Brescia I met Anna Ludovica, an educated lady of Padua. I was embarrassed at the paucity of my knowledge compared to hers, and upon returning to Heidelberg I worked gain my degree at the university; in 1408 I became at last a master of arts.

Medieval Vienna; detail from "Flight from Egypt" ca. 1470, by the Master of the Vienna Schottenaltar,

The World Beyond Letters

But for many reasons I decided against a career in the Church, and I took up an opportunity to serve Friedrich von Hohenzollern as an agent in the Mark of Brandenburg, which Friedrich would eventually receive from King Sigismund as a fief. Seeing that, as a chancery scribe, I carried little weight, I signed up as a mercenary gunner with the Teutonic Knights for the Polish campaign of 1410. I was ransomed after Tannenberg, and spent my last two more years in the Mark holding greater respect. In return for my service Friedrich recommended me to Sigismund, who in turn appointed me to his chancery, charged with the accounts for the royal artillery. I taught for a while at the short-lived University of Obuda, but teaching was not my strong point. I married Anna Ludovica in 1416. My last task for Sigismund was helping manage the wedding of Duke Albrecht of Austria to Sigismund’s daughter. After this Anna and I settling down in Vienna, where I run a book-painting workshop. We do work for Vienna’s university and its monasteries, for Sigismund and for Albrecht, and for the city of Vienna. Recently I travelled to the Rheinland to help with the establishment of Habsburg administration in Alsace. Lately, because of Hussite raids, I am now and then away with the city militia. Anna and I have no children; she has never complained, but I wonder now and then how we’ll get by in our old age without them. You can only expect so much from an apprentice.

Offices & Positions