Catholic Encyclopedia (1913)/Bl. Maurus Magnentius Rabanus

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Catholic Encyclopedia (1913), Volume 12
Blessed Maurus Magnentius Rabanus

by Michael Ott


Rabanus (Hrabanus, Rhabanus) Maurus Magnentius, Blessed, Abbot of Fulda, Archbishop of Mainz, celebrated theological and pedagogical writer of the ninth century, born at Mainz about 776 (784?); died at Winkel (Vinicellum) near Mainz on 4 February, 856. He took vows at an early age in the Benedictine monastery of Fulda, and was ordained deacon in 801. A year later he went to Tours to study theology and the liberal arts, under Alcuin. He endeared himself to his aged master, and received from him the surname of Maurus in memory of the favourite disciple of St. Benedict. After a year of study he was recalled by his abbot, became teacher and, later, head-master of the monastic school of Fulda. His fame as teacher spread over Europe, and Fulda became the most celebrated seat of learning in the Frankish Empire. In 814 he was ordained priest. Unfortunately, Abbot Ratgar's mania for building temporarily impeded the progress of the school, but under Abbot Eigil (818-82) Rabanus was once more able to devote himself entirely to his vocation of teaching and writing (see CAROLINGIAN SCHOOLS; FULDA, DIOCESE OF). In 822 Rabanus was elected abbot, and during his reign the monastery enjoyed its greatest prosperity. He completed the new buildings that had been begun by his predecessor; erected more than thirty churches and oratories; enriched the abbey church with artistic mosaics, tapestry, baldachina, reliquaries, and other costly ornaments; provided for the instruction of the laity by preaching and by increasing the number of priests in country towns; procured numerous books for the library, and in many other ways advanced the spiritual, intellectual and temporal welfare of Fulda and its dependencies. In the political disturbances of the times he sided with Louis the Pious against his rebellious sons, and after the emperor's death he supported Lothair, the eldest son. When the latter was conquered by Louis the German, Rabanus fled from home in 840, probably to evade taking the oath of allegiance. In 841 he returned and resigned his abbacy early in 842, compelled, it is believed, by Louis. He retired to the neighbouring Petersberg, where he devoted himself entirely to prayer and literary labours. In 845 he was reconciled with the king and in 847 succeeded Otgar as Archbishop of Mainz. His consecration took place on 26 June. He held three provincial synods. The 31 canons enacted at the first, in the monastery of St. Alban in October, 847, are chiefly on matters of ecclesiastical discipline (Acts in Mansi, "Conc. Coll. Ampl.", XIV, 899-912). At the second synod, held in October, 848, in connection with a diet, the monk Gottschalk of Orbais and his doctrine on predestination were condemned. The third synod, held in 852 (851?), occupied itself with the rights and discipline of the Church. Rabanus was distinguished for his charity towards the poor. It is said in the "Annales Fuldenses" that, during the famine of 850, he daily fed more than 300 persons. Mabillon and the Bollandists style him "Blessed", and his feast is celebrated in the dioceses of Fulda, Mainz, and Limburg on 4 February. He was buried in the monastery of St. Alban at Mainz, but his relics were transferred to Halle by Archbishop Albrecht of Brandenburg. Rabanus was probably the most learned man of his age. In Scriptural and patristic knowledge he had no equal, and was thoroughly conversant with canon law and liturgy. His literary activity extended over the entire field of sacred and profane learning as then understood. Still, he cannot be called a pioneer, either as an educator or a writer, for he followed in the beaten track of his learned predecessors. A complete edition of his numerous writings is still wanting. Most of them have been edited by Colvenerius (Cologne, 1627). This uncritical edition is reprinted with some additions in PL 107-112. His poems were edited by Dümmler in "Mon. Germ. Poetae lat. aevi Carol.", II, 154-244. He was a skillful versifier, but a mediocre poet. His epistles are printed in "Mon. Germ. Epist.", V, 379 sq. Most of his works are exegetical. His commentaries, which include nearly all the books of the Old Testament, as well as the Gospel of St. Matthew and the Pauline Epistles -- a commentary on St. John is probably spurious -- are based chiefly on the exegetical writings of St. Jerome, St. Augustine, St. Gregory the Great, St. Isidore of Seville, Origen, St. Ambrose, and St. Bede. His chief pedagogical works are: "De universo", a sort of encyclopedia in 22 books, based on the Etymologies of Isidore; "De computo ", a treatise on reckoning; "Excerptio de arte grammatica Prisciani", a treatise on grammar, etc. Other important works are: "De ecclesiastics discipline"; sermons, treatises, a martyrology, and a penitential.

MICHAEL OTT