Transnational Access : Hymnbook Archive (JGU Mainz)

Gesangbucharchiv/Hymnbook Archive at the Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz/Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU Mainz), Germany

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Free Access to Physicial and Virtual Sources

This archive is offering free access to physical and virtual sources under the guidance of experts in the framework of ReIReS.


The Gesangbucharchiv/Hymnbook Archive Mainz at the Johannes Gutenberg-University is unique in Germany (cf. It holds perhaps the world’s most important collection of more than 7,000 German hymnbooks from the 16th century until the present time with about three fourths of Protestant and one fourth of Catholic origin. The focus is on the Protestant tradition of the 16th century as well as the Catholic tradition in the period from the 17th century onwards, the eastern part of the German-speaking world, and hymnbooks specially compiled for armed forces. Furthermore, there is an ongoing project on prayer books, currently holding nearly 1,000 prayer books.

The archive is a most active centre of research and has acquired funding for projects worth 5,000,000 Euro between 1996 and 2016. It is also leading in digitalization of hymnbooks: The bibliography of hymnals contains 29,000 data units and will be enlarged into a Hymnological Database in cooperation with the University of Strasbourg. The “Hymn catalogue” contains 36,000 hymns from 500 hymnals, which are central for reception processes. The (now digitized) Gotzen-Kartothek contains 55,000 index cards on hymnals and hymns. The archive has produced numerous studies by doctorands and researchers and publishes two series: Mainzer Hymnologische Studien (28 vols) and Pietas Liturgica. Studia (24 vols.).

Hymnbooks reflect history in a unique way. They reach all social classes and they are subject to constant revisions. Over the centuries, the songs contained therein have always been reworked, shortened, lengthened, adjusted to conform to the zeitgeist.

Fields of Research (Non-obligatory Suggestions)

Using the collection at the archive as well as the databases it is possible to trace the processes of tradition and reception, e.g.: How do hymns migrate between geographical areas? When and how do they cross lines between confessions? How and where are texts modified?

Go here to the English interview with Prof. Dr. Hermann Kurzke about the Hymnbook Archive Mainz:

Bibliography (Selection)

The Hymnbook Archive at the JGU has produced numerous studies by researchers and doctorands and publishes two series: Mainzer Hymnologische Studien (28 vols.) and Pietas Liturgica.Studia (24 vols.).

Becker, Hansjakob/Franz, Ansgar a.o. (ed.): Geistliches Wunderhorn. Große deutsche Kirchenlieder, München 32009.

Franz, Ansgar/Kurzke, Hermann/Schäfer, Christiane (ed.): Die Lieder des Gotteslob: Geschichte – Liturgie – Kultur. Mit besonderer Berücksichtigung ausgewählter Lieder des Erzbistums Köln, Stuttgart 2017.

Fuhrmann, Siri: Der Abend in Lied, Leben und Liturgie. Studien zu Motiven, Riten und Alltagserfahrungen an der Schwelle vom Tag zur Nacht (Pietas Liturgica. Studia 18), Tübingen 2008.

Kurzke, Hermann: Kirchenlied und Kultur (Mainzer hymnologische Studien 24), Tübingen 2010.

Kurzke, Hermann/Schäfer, Christiane: Mythos Maria. Berühmte Marienlieder und ihre Geschichte, München 2014.

Schäfer, Christiane: „Wunderschön prächtige“ – Geschichte eines Marienliedes (Mainzer Hymnologische Studien 18), Tübingen und Basel 2006.

Zerfaß, Alexander: „Mysterium mirabile“. Poesie, Theologie und Liturgie in den Hymnen des Ambrosius von Mailand zu den Christusfesten des Kirchenjahres (Pietas Liturgica.Studia 19), Tübingen/Basel 2008.


  • Access to the digital and physical materials and instruments, files and databases available through the provider (with respect of the authorial and intellectual property rights);
  • Contact to experts that assist them in dealing with the services of the provider institution and in using these services for the proper development of their research project;
  • Support in dealing with the services of the provider institution and in using these services for the proper development of their research project.


Alexandra Nusser M. A.

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Image: Bookshelf in the Hymnbook Archive Mainz, Photo: Thomas Hartmann, University Library Mainz.