Skip to main content



The accepted editorial title of a ninth-century Old Saxon alliterative poem of 5,983 lines written, possibly at fulda, by an unknown monk. The poem is preserved almost completely in two MSS (Munich and London), and fragmentarily in two others (Jena and Vatican). The Heliand, meaning Savior, is a product of missionary activity under louis i the Pious (814840). It is thought to be the Gospel part of a larger project presenting the entire Bible in vernacular verse. References to such a project and to its almost legendary poet survive in a Praefatio and Versus published in 1562 by the Protestant apologist, flacius illyricus. Whether the documents, now lost, that he cites are authentic or not, there are extant many verses of an Old Saxon Genesis usually linked with the Heliand. Curiously, some of these Genesis verses were translated into Anglo-Saxon and constitute the interpolated Genesis B passage of the Junius MS. The Heliand and the Genesis fragments are the most important Old Saxon poetic documents in existence. The literary and scholarly associations of the Heliand are rich and broad: in general outline the poem follows the Diatessaron (Gospel Harmony) of tatian; in theological emphasis it reflects not only the scriptural commentaries of bede and alcuin but the more contemporary In Matthaeum of rabanus maurus; its poetic tradition has two observable sources, the Latin poems of Juvencus and prudentius, and the heroic songs and paraphrases of the Anglo-Saxons. Some scholars see considerable Germanization of Biblical materials in the Heliand, particularly of Christ and his Apostles, who become heroic figures in a Germanic comitatus, and of the countryside of Palestine, which becomes Saxony and northern Europe. Though there is substance to the observation, the poet is still very much the traditional Christian homilist, marking the close rather than the beginning of an era.

Bibliography: Sources. MS Cgm. 25, Staatsbibliothek, Munich, (S. IX); MS Cotton Caligula A VII, Brit. Mus., London, (S.X). o. behaghel, ed., Heliand und Genesis (6th ed. Halle 1948). Literature. j. k. bostock, A Handbook on Old High German Literature (Oxford 1955). g. ehrismann, Geschichte der deutschen Literatur bis zum Ausgang des Mittelalters, 2 v. in 4 (Munich 191835) 1:150166.

[l. k. shook]

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Heliand." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . 25 Sep. 2018 <>.

"Heliand." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . (September 25, 2018).

"Heliand." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . Retrieved September 25, 2018 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.