Rabanus Maurus

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Rabanus Maurus Magnentius (c. 780 - 4 February 856), also known as Hrabanus or Rhabanus, was a Benedictine monk, the archbishop of Mainz in Germany and a theologian. He was the author of the encyclopaedia On the Nature of Things. He also wrote treatises on education and grammar and commentaries on the Bible. He was one of the most prominent teachers and writers of the Carolingian age. He has been incorrectly referred to as St Rabanus.

Rabanus was born of noble parents in Mainz. The date of his birth is uncertain, but in 801 he received a deacons order at Fulda in Hesse, where he had been sent to school. In the following year, at the insistence of Ratgar, his abbot, he went together with Haimon (later of Halberstadt) to complete his studies at Tours. He studied there 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 to Fulda two years later, 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 at Walafrid Strabo, Servatus Lupus of Ferrières and Otfrid of Weissenburg. At this period it is most probable that his excerption from the grammar of Priscian—a popular text book during the middle ages—was compiled.

In 814 Rabanus was ordained a priest. 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. He was efficient and successful in this role until 842, when, in order to secure greater leisure for literature and for devotion, he resigned and retired to the neighbouring cloister of St Peters.

In 847, Rabanus was again constrained to enter public life by his election to succeed Otgar in the archbishopric of Mainz. He died at Winkel on the Rhine in 856.

Rabanus' works, many of which remain unpublished, comprise commentaries on canonical and of apocryphal Scripture (Genesis to Judges, Ruth, Kings, Chronicles, Judith, Esther, Canticles, Proverbs, Wisdom,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. In De institutione clericorum he brought 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 unwerso 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 ecciesiastica 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 inidits d'Abélard, and assigned both by that editor and by Haurau to Hrabantis 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 ber Hrabanus Magnentius Maurus, 1841), Spengler (Leben des heil. Rhabanus Maurus, 1856) and Kohler (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.); Böhr, Gesch. d. römischen Literatur im Karoling. Zeitalter (1840), and Hauck's article in the Herzog-Hauck Realencyklopädie, ed. 3.


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