A Meistersinger (German for "master-singer") was a German lyric poet of the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries, who carried on and developed the traditions of the medieval Minnesingers.
These singers, who mostly belonged to the artisan and trading classes of the German towns, regarded as their masters and the founders of their guild twelve poets of the Middle High German period, including Wolfram von Eschenbach, Konrad von Würzburg, Reinmar von Zweter, and Heinrich Frauenlob. Frauenlob is said to have established the earliest Meistersinger school at Mainz, early in the 14th century. The schools were established first in the upper Rhine district, then elsewhere. In the 14th century there were schools at Mainz, Strasbourg, Frankfurt, Würzburg, Zurich, and Prague; in the 15th at Augsburg and Nuremberg. Nuremberg, under the leadership of Hans Sachs, became the most famous school in the 16th century, by which time Meistersinger schools had spread all over Germany and farther north, to Magdeburg, Breslau Görlitz, and Danzig.
Each guild had various classes of members, ranging from beginners, or Schüler (corresponding to trade-apprentices), and Schulfreunde (who were equivalent to Gesellen or journeymen), to Meister. Meisters were poets who could both write new verses to existing melodies and invent new melodies. The poem was technically known as a Bar or Gesetz, the melody as a Ton or Weis. The songs were all sung without accompaniment. The rules of the art were set down in the so-called Tabulatur or law-book of the guild. The meetings took place either in the town hall (Rathaus) or, more frequently, on Sundays in the church. Three times a year, at Easter, Pentecost, and Christmas, special festivals and singing competitions were instituted. At such competitions or Schulsingen, judges (Merker) were appointed to criticize the competitors and note their offences against the rules of the Tabulatur.
Meistersinger poetry played a large part in German town life of the 15th and 16th century. The poets paid much attention to the external forms of poetry: number of syllables, melody, etc. Poetry was to them a mechanical art that could be learned through diligent study, not something relying on divine inspiration. Their songs cover a variety of strophic forms corresponding to the many new tunes which the Meistersingers invented and gave complicated names such as Gestreiftsafranblumleinweis, Fettdachsweis, Vielfrassweis, geblümte Paradiesweis, etc. More attention was paid to fitting the syllables to the melody than to the text's meaning, sentiment, or message. Nonetheless, the tradition often reinforced German burgher values; as such, it was middle-class popular art rather than high art. The "Meistergesang" culminated in the 16th century and declined shortly thereafter, though Meistersinger traditions lingered in southern Germany as late as the 19th century.
Meistersinger in German: Meistersinger
Meistersinger in Spanish: Meistersänger
Meistersinger in Esperanto: Majstrokantisto
Meistersinger in French: Meistersinger
Meistersinger in Italian: Meistersinger
Meistersinger in Russian: Мейстерзанг