1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Hrabanus Maurus Magnentius

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HRABANUS MAURUS MAGNENTIUS (c. 776–856), archbishop of Mainz, and one of the most prominent teachers and writers of the Carolingian age, was born of noble parents at Mainz. Less correct forms of his name are Rabanus and Rhabanus. The date of his birth is uncertain, but in 801 he received deacon’s orders at Fulda, where he had been sent to school; in the following year, at the instance of Ratgar, his abbot, he went together with Haimon (afterwards of Halberstadt) to complete his studies at Tours under Alcuin, who in recognition of his diligence and purity gave him the surname of Maurus, after St Maur the favourite disciple of Benedict. Returning after the lapse of two years to Fulda, he was entrusted with the principal charge of the school, which under his direction rose into a state of great efficiency for that age, and sent forth such pupils as Walafrid Strabo, Servatus Lupus of Ferières and Otfrid of Weissenburg. At this period it is most probable that his Excerptio from the grammar of Priscian, long so popular as a text-book during the middle ages, was compiled. In 814 he was ordained a priest; but shortly afterwards, apparently on account of disagreement with Ratgar, he was compelled to withdraw for a time from Fulda. This “banishment” is understood to have occasioned the pilgrimage to Palestine to which he alludes in his commentary on Joshua. He returned to Fulda on the election of a new abbot (Eigil) in 817, upon whose death in 822 he himself became abbot. The duties of this office he discharged with efficiency and success until 842, when, in order to secure greater leisure for literature and for devotion, he resigned and retired to the neighbouring cloister of St Peter’s. In 847 he was again constrained to enter public life by his election to succeed Otgar in the archbishopric of Mainz, which see he occupied for upwards of eight years. The principal incidents of historical interest belonging to this period of his life were those which arose out of his relations to Gottschalk (q.v.): they may be regarded as thoroughly typical of that cruel intolerance which he shared with all his contemporaries, and also of that ardent zeal which was peculiar to himself; but they hardly do justice to the spirit of kindly benevolence which in less trying circumstances he was ever ready to display. He died at Winkel on the Rhine, on the 4th of February 856. He is frequently referred to as St Rabanus, but incorrectly.

His voluminous works, many of which remain unpublished, comprise commentaries on a considerable number of the books both of canonical and of apocryphal Scripture (Genesis to Judges, Ruth, Kings, Chronicles, Judith, Esther, Canticles, Proverbs, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Maccabees, Matthew, the Epistles of St Paul, including Hebrews); and various treatises relating to doctrinal and practical subjects, including more than one series of Homilies. Perhaps the most important is that De institutione clericorum, in three books, by which he did much to bring into prominence the views of Augustine and Gregory the Great as to the training which was requisite for a right discharge of the clerical function; the most popular has been a comparatively worthless tract De laudibus sanctae crucis. Among the others may be mentioned the De universo libri xxii., sive etymologiarum opus, a kind of dictionary or encyclopaedia, designed as a help towards the historical and mystical interpretation of Scripture, the De sacris ordinibus, the De disciplina ecclesiastica and the Martyrologium. All of them are characterized by erudition (he knew even some Greek and Hebrew) rather than by originality of thought. The poems are of singularly little interest or value, except as including one form of the “Veni Creator.” In the annals of German philology a special interest attaches to the Glossaria Latino-Theodisca. A commentary, Super Porphyrium, printed by Cousin in 1836 among the Ouvrages inédits d’Abélard, and assigned both by that editor and by Hauréau to Hrabanus Maurus, is now generally believed to have been the work of a disciple.

The first nominally complete edition of the works of Hrabanus Maurus was that of Colvener (Cologne, 6 vols. fol., 1627). The Opera omnia form vols. cvii.-cxii. of Migne’s Patrologiae cursus completus. The De universo is the subject of Compendium der Naturwissenschaften an der Schule zu Fulda im IX. Jahrhundert (Berlin, 1880). Maurus is the subject of monographs by Schwarz (De Rhabano Mauro primo Germaniae praeceptore, 1811), Kunstmann (Historische Monographie über Hrabanus Magnentius Maurus, 1841), Spengler (Leben des heil. Rhabanus Maurus, 1856) and Köhler (Rhabanus Maurus u. die Schule zu Fulda, 1870). Lives by his disciple Rudolphus and by Joannes Trithemius are printed in the Cologne edition of the Opera. See also Pertz, Monum. Germ. Hist. (i. and ii.); Bähr, Gesch. d. römischen Literatur im Karoling. Zeitalter (1840), and Hauck’s article in the Herzog-Hauck Realencyklopädie, ed. 3.