March 27 is the feast of an important saint from the Germanic world, Rupert of Salzburg. He is one of the saints referenced below in a paper from 1900 on 'Erin's Saints and Monks in Germany'. I reprint this with the caveat that one has to be careful in claiming Irish antecedents for continental European saints. Although there are many Irish saints whose careers in Europe are well-documented, Columbanus, Gall and Virgil, to use some examples from this text, there was also a fashion among European monasteries in the middle ages to claim Irish founders. Seventeenth-century martyrologists working in exile on the continent were only too keen to talk up Ireland's European links and nineteenth-century Irish writers only too happy to accept such claims at face value. The ever-sceptical Father John Lanigan (d.1825), however dismissed claims that Saint Rupert and his relatives should be numbered among the Irish saints, a verdict which modern historians would uphold. That said, this paper is still an enjoyable read, particularly the address made to Daniel O'Connell in 1844 from the heads of the German Universities, acknowledging their country's debt to Ireland:
By M.R. Taylor.
“Let us now praise men of renown and our fathers in their generation."— Eccl xliv: i.
"From the Queen Island of the West,
As from a source of light,
Went forth the Gospel messengers
That chased the old world's night.
Nay, God's good Providence decreed
That o'er the world's wide face.
Her exiles still should sow Faith's seed,
An apostolic race."
IN April, 1844, the immortal Daniel O'Connell received from the distinguished heads of German Universities an address of sympathy, in which Germany's debt to ancient Ireland is acknowledged in the following graceful language: "We entertain towards the ill-treated people of your beloved isle the deepest and sincerest sympathy. A land sighing under the yoke of bondage, a land red with the blood of martyred patriots, necessarily enlists the pity of men not yet dead to human instincts. Indifference to misfortune of this sort would argue total loss of nature's finer feelings. Want of sympathy in the present crisis would besides render us guilty of another and a deeper crime — that of the blackest ingratitude. We can never forget that your fond country is our mother in the Faith. From the remotest period of the Christian era she commiserated our people. To rescue our pagan ancestors from idolatry and secure to them the blessings of the true Faith she generously sent forth her heroic sons, sacrificing her own wealth and her children's blood. Along with a rich store of merit for the people of Ireland, Catholicity in Germany is the result of their labors, and we can never, but by the basest kind of indifference, lose memory of the fact. When we behold the native land of these faithful apostles delivered over to undeserved misfortune, the fact rises all the more vividly to our mind.”
This affectionate expression of gratitude to Erin, voiced by the learned men of Germany, must make every true Irish heart throb with new emotions of pleasure. Faith and civilization are of a truth God's highest gifts to man. Hence the propriety of forever holding sacred the memory of such holy missionaries as heralded the advent of these heavenly blessings among a people. The Church has already raised the greater number of them to her altars, to receive, as saints, the homage and veneration due their heroic lives of virtue, self-sacrifice and Godlike love.
When St. Patrick preached to her roving inhabitants the truths of salvation, imparting to them belief in the Triune God, Erin saw the dawn of her golden age, and for centuries after she was great and glorious among the nations of the world. Schools and monasteries arose, towns and cities were built. Universities attracted the flower of Europe's youth, who, like St Fulgentius,
“Exemplo patrum, commotus amore legendi
Ivit ad Hibernos, sophia mirabile claros"
"What way in search of lore his fathers went,
To Erin, wisdom's shrine, his steps he bent."
That was a period of peace and prosperity, when liberty stamped the golden harp upon the emerald banner, an age of fervent simplicity, alive in the one true Faith upon which the happiness of heart and mind centred.
In this golden age Ireland stretched a merciful hand across the wide waters, sent her sons to distant lands to lavish upon others the abundant blessings she enjoyed, to bring to tribes submerged in barbarism the light of salvation, true religion allied with civilization.
Strange, too, that in those portions of Germany where Irish saints planted the tree of Christianity it has neither withered nor died, while in other parts it has bent, broken and fallen, and only scattered fragments suggest its early existence. There are indeed few lands as thoroughly Catholic as little Bavaria, once St. Rupert's spiritual field; as Tyrol, in whose towering mountains a St. Virgil (Feargal) scattered the seed of religion; as Southern Baden, or beyond the lake in northern Switzerland, where a St. Fintan, a St. Gall, a St. Fridolin, brought heaven's grace to the Teutonic tribe inhabiting the region.
St Columban is rightly termed "The Father of Ireland's Foreign Missions." Born in 539, he was reared a monk, and learning the science of true asceticism became the lawgiver of a host of spiritual disciples.
He set out in 589 for the continent, selecting for himself twelve companions. The fact that Irish apostles invariably chose that number of disciples is another proof, that in every particular they followed the example of the God-Man, who with twelve followers began the world's christianization.
Northern Europe was then sitting in the "shadow of death;" in Italy and France, from the Alps to the Baltic, paganism reigned supreme.
Landing in France, they founded the monasteries at Aurgray and Luxeuil, piously aided by Sigebert, King of Austrasia and Burgundy. But their stay here was of short duration. Theodoric, Sigebert' s successor, ordered their expulsion from his dominions. They travelled to Germany and settled in a place called Tucconia, near Lake Turicin, now known as Zurich, in Switzerland.
The great apostle was not alone in his misfortune. Devoted followers shared his exile, and foremost among them was the zealous St. Gall. He was the son of parents possessing a goodly store of blessings spiritual and temporal, and as conspicuous for piety and charity as for riches. To God, the giver of all good things, who had manifested so many unmistakable signs of favor towards them, they offered Gall in the days of his infancy and sent him at an early age to the monastery of Bangor to be educated under the tutelage of the holy Abbots Comgal and Columban. Within this hallowed abode sacred learning flourished, and Gall made rapid progress in the study of Holy Scripture, the liberal arts and in the observance of regular discipline.
Abandoning his native land, he shared St. Columban's apostolic labors and trials.
Together they reached Tucconia, where St. Gall set fire to a pagan temple and caused the offerings to be thrown into a neighboring lake. The idolaters, exasperated at this conduct, resolved to put the missionary to death, but he had the good fortune to escape from their hands with St. Columban. Reaching the castle of Arbona, situated on a river of that name which flows into Lake Constance, both were hospitably detained seven days by a holy priest, Willimar. During this time plans were discussed for a place of retreat in the interior.
They learned from their host of an old building called Bregantium in Rhaetia, later known as Bregent in the country of the Grisons, and thither they journeyed.
St. Gall preached the Gospel to the inhabitants of the canton, converting many. Those who remained obdurate persecuted the monks and slew two of their number. Gunzo, governor of the country, declared himself their enemy and Theodoric, by the death of Theodebert, becoming master of Austrasia, St. Columban was forced to abandon his undertakings in this territory and seek refuge in Italy.
Gall determined to go with him, but a serious fever prevented his departure and forced a separation. St. Columban left for Italy and Gall returned to Willimar, with whom he remained until his complete recovery. The desire of leading a solitary life induced him to return to the desert. Here he built cells which were the foundation of the famous abbey bearing his name. Becoming acquainted with the language of the natives, St. Gall made so many converts among the idolaters that he may he justly regarded the “Apostle of the Alemanni”. A beautiful daughter of Gunzo, the governor, possessed by a devil, was delivered by the saint and acting on his advice, consecrated her virginity to God, in the monastery of St. Peter at Metz.
At the time of this miracle the Bishopric of Constance was vacant. Constance bears the distinction of being one of the most ancient cities of Germany, and its splendid cathedral is a model of medieval architecture. In 1417 a council assembled in this venerable town to settle a dispute as to the lawful successor of St. Peter.
Gunzo wrote to our hermit begging his assistance at a synod, held for the purpose of electing a prelate for the aforesaid Bishopric. The duke, bishops, clergy and people, earnestly desired to put the saint in this exalted position. He repaired thither at their urgent request, attended by a deacon named John, who for three years had been his disciple. St. Gall refused the honor and desired the clergy and people to make John, his companion and a descendant of a royal family of Ireland, their bishop, and his election followed. At the consecration St. Gall delivered the sermon, considered a model of ancient Irish oratory. On October 16, 646, St. Gall departed this life at the age of ninety-five.
The abbey known by his name changed the rule of St. Columban for that of St. Benedict in the eighth century. It was enriched by the liberality of Charles Martel, Louis Debonnaire and Louis the Large. The estates and civil jurisdiction possessed by the monastery became so considerable that Henry I. raised it to a principality of the empire. Its domain was curtailed during the civil wars, waged by the Calvinists. The town of St. Gall, by embracing the religion of the insurgents, deprived the abbot of what rights he before enjoyed. These were the rank of prince, the right of suffrage in the general Diet, an extensive jurisdiction and an annual income of one hundred thousand ducats. He had, besides, a mint, and when the Helvetic Diet required auxiliaries, could raise an army of twelve thousand men.
St. Gall's Abbey, one of the most striking of the primitive foundations, is famous for the galaxy of learned men it produced, and for its library, which abounded in valuable manuscripts and printed books. A great number of these, however, were stolen and lost in the civil wars.
Of the writings of St. Gall extant we have the sermon before mentioned; a discourse upon Church Government, and a Psalter, of which Joachim Vadiamus speaks in his treatise on colleges and monasteries. To-day this abbey is almost a ruin. Like Ireland, the holy house had its age of blessings and prosperity when its influence was felt from sea to sea.
The monasteries founded by the monks of St. Gall's were numerous and distinguished, notably Richeman, on a little island in Lake Constance, which like the first institution, was one of the most influential abbeys of the Empire. It, too, has fallen into decay. A portion of the abbey is reserved for the residence of the Bishop, who administers the affairs of the still flourishing see of St. Gall's.
As the apostle of Bavaria and German Austria, the Church venerates St. Rupert, also called Rudbert or Robert. Irish historians declare him their countryman, though the French deny this claim. However, the deepest research rather favors the former.
Son of the Hy-king of Hibernia, he was born in the year 537 and baptized by a nephew of St. Patrick. Early in life he dedicated himself to the service of religion, making a compact with his brother Trudbertus and sister Erentrude to forsake home and labor for souls in a pagan land. They reached Rome by way of the Alps. While in the Eternal City, Rupert was enlightened by the Holy Spirit to make that portion of Europe later known as Germany the scene of his labors. Trudbertus separated from his companions, proceeding to the territory of the Rauraci. Rupert with Erentrude finally arrived at Worms, celebrated in the civil and ecclesiastical vicissitudes of central Europe.
Childebert, son of Sigebert, was king of Austrasia, one of the three divisions of "Greater Gaul." He bade Rupert welcome, and he straightway set to work. Numbers, hearing of his miracles and teachings, came to receive instruction and baptism at his hands.
So filled with admiration for the saint were princes and people that Rupert was, shortly after his arrival, elevated to the dignity of Bishop of Worms. The rebukes of the prelate provoking the hatred of a tyrant, named Borcharius, a deputy governor of the province, he was assailed by the vilest calumnies and ultimately driven from his Bishopric in 580.
Worms, in the Middle Ages, was glorious as a residence of Charlemagne, who called Irish monks to construct its venerable cathedral, as well as that of Aix la-Chapelle. The famous round towers awaken pleasant recollections of similar architectural adornment in Ireland. " Salvete Turres " we may say today; but alas! Catholic voices and prayers have ceased within. Worms expelled the Irish saint, her faith fell a victim to the Reformation and the city is now Protestant.
For many months the meek and holy Rupert lingered near the confines of Austrasia, hoping his persecutors would relent, but in vain. Then the prelate returned to Rome. Again he was admonished to select Germany as the field of his endeavors, and obedient to the Heaven-sent command, departed in 582 for Bavaria.
At this time Theodore the Elder was duke of that district. Although a pagan, through the influence of his wife Regintrude, a fervent Christian, his heart was favorably disposed to receive the counsels of the zealous Rupert, and he summoned him to Ratisbon. The saint was welcomed with all possible marks of honor, and invited to preach the truths of the Gospel to the people. The old Roman city of Reginium, now called Ratisbon, was then the capital, and thither the Bishop journeyed to appear before the ducal court. Theodore and his courtiers acted as escort and the saint's entry was a signal triumph.
The inhabitants of Bavaria had previously received the tenets of Christianity from St. Severin ; but had entirely fallen away from his teachings. The work of evangelizing had therefore to be begun anew. Rupert turned his first attention to the ruling classes. Within a brief period his eloquence, learning and versatile genius so captivated the hearts of the nobles, that they straightway determined to embrace the religion taught by the wonderful Irish missionary.
The baptism of Duke Theodore and his court was attended with the greatest impressiveness and splendor. He became the prelate's most enthusiastic co- operator, accompanying him on his visits to the villages, town and castles of the nobles, and, at the solicitation of the prince, Rupert traversed the whole extent of his dominions, paganism fleeing at his approach.
Ratisbon claims St. Rupert as its first bishop. There he commenced his apostolic labors in Southern Germany, and for nearly forty years his work was an uninterrupted success. This city, retaining much of its medieval character, is pleasantly situated on the right bank of the Danube, while the first hill of the Bohemian forest almost touches its gate. German Emperors, in the Middle Ages, made it their residence and it became a centre of learning and religion, as well as of political and commercial influence. The magnificent cathedral, a counterpart of Cologne's famous cathedral, was begun in the thirteenth century, the present illustrious Bishop accomplishing the work of its completion. It is dedicated to the Prince of the Apostles, but a beautiful Gothic altar is consecrated to St. Rupert, and his statue surmounts the smaller tower. No city of the continent is richer than Ratisbon in monuments of the Irish saints and monks. One of the parish churches contains the tomb and relics of St. Mercherdach, who came from Erin in 1040, with twelve companions. Blessed Marianus founded a renowned monastery, under the Rule of St. Benedict, exclusively tor Irish monks. To-day its life is extinguished, though the buildings and handsome church remain. This abbey is usually known among the natives as the Scots' church. That it was an Irish institution, as were other grand establishments at Vienna, Wurzburg, etc. , no historian doubts. The ancient Irish were called Scots. Witness the following couplet:
"Phoenio Phoenius adbhearta brighgan dochta.
Gavidhel o Gavidhal-glas ganta, Scuit o Scota”
'Beyond question we are called Phaenians from Phaenius,
Gadelians from Gadelglas, and Scots from Scota. '
In the British Museum there is an ancient German manuscript, dating probably from the eleventh century, which describes in a quaint way, the ecclesiastical foundation in Ratisbon, by pious men from Hibernia:
“Darnach ze Kurtzer zeit geschach,
Daz man trolich chomen sach,
Manich schar guter manne vil,
Als ich evch beshaiden wil.
Sie furen von yberina
In pilgreins weise dort und da,
Ze Rome wollten sie gahen
Und gutlichen da empfahen
Von gots genad pabstlichen segen."
“Soon afterwards it happened that many a band of good men came, joyful and glad, as I wish to relate. They came from Hibernia in pilgrims' garb on their way to Rome. They desired then to receive God's grace and the Pope's blessing." These were heartily welcomed in St. Rupert's city, and in 1120 the monastery and church of St. James were built. At this time Prince Connor, of Ireland, spared neither money nor labor to render the abbey worthy of his countrymen. Old chronicles say, “The erection of so spacious a cloister, of such remarkable workmanship, abounding in stately turrets, walls, pillars and vaults, so expeditiously constructed, must be wholly attributed to the immense sums of money appropriated for that pious purpose by the King of Ireland and by other nobles of the realm.”
St. James’ is still a stately monument of medieval Irish architecture. The massive interior columns are surmounted with capitals, carved to represent angels, birds, oak leaves, vines, and figures innumerable. The windows bear images of the principal Irish saints, Patrick, Columban, Bridget and Gertrude. The grand entrance has a cornice ornamented with the shamrock, or, as a German sculptor expresses it, "St. Patrick's leaf”. Letters of the Irish alphabet are chiseled in many stones of the edifice, on some also the cross. The same workmanship is displayed on the Irish church at Gocking, Bavaria; and the portal of St. Emerari's Abbey, in Ratisbon, dating from this period, reminds one of Cormac's Chapel, in Ireland.
Let us now return to St. Rupert and his labors.
A splendidly equipped vessel was placed at his disposal by Duke Theodore, and he with his missionary companions sailed down the Danube, preaching at every port. On this auspicious voyage
lower Pannonia was reached, and a wonderful harvest of souls reaped.
Later he founded a mission at Lauricum, now called Lorch, and the Alpine region of Carinthia was also blessed with the presence of the saint It was on this journey St. Rupert established the famous shrine of Our Blessed Lady at Alt Ottingen. It is to Southern Bavaria what Loretto is to Italy and Lourdes to France. Venerable with age, the chapel, once a pagan temple, contains the image which tradition says he brought with him. Perhaps it was the sacred Palladium conveyed from Ireland. Ireland's love for Mary is part of history, and many of her most beautiful titles, such as Gate of Heaven, Morning Star, Queen of Angels, had their origin in the loyal hearts of Erin. Even to the present Alt Ottingen has preserved its ancient glory. Thousands of pilgrims visit annually St. Rupert's Madonna, black yet beautiful," “Nigra sed formosa”.
The Duke desiring the Bishop to found a monastery in his kingdom, he again set out and passing the lake shore of the Waller-zee, entered Juvavia. A rude cross was planted on one of the slopes called Monchsberg, and a church was erected. The church in due time was consecrated under the invocation of St. Peter. On its completion the prelate sailed for the country of his birth. He visited Ireland's great centres of learning and from them chose twelve able scholars who returned with him to Germany. The monastery was built for them with all possible haste, and received its name from the rushing torrent of the Salz. Before many months a city began to grow about those hallowed walls, and Salzburg, under the administration of its first Bishop, St. Rupert, became populous and renowned. It is the present capital of Upper Austria, and is said to have the most beautiful situation in Europe. In grandeur or environment it stands unrivaled, and abounds in interesting recollections.
The holy Bishop built his sister Erentrude a convent at Nunberg, of which she became abbess. She died in the odor of sanctity and is venerated throughout Bavaria as a saint. Duke Theodore enriched the monastic church of Salzburg with donations of royal munificence, and it was through his intervention with the Holy See that Rupert was named its Bishop.
Our saint was miraculously warned of his approaching end and with prophetic lips foretold the day of his death. Clergy, religious and people heard the announcement with unfeigned sorrow. He appointed Vitalis his successor, and on the morning of Easter day asked for the Holy Viaticum. Recommending his monks to be faithful to their vows, bequeathing the welfare of his flock to God's Providence, his pure soul took its flight to the realm of eternity, March 27, 623, in his eighty-sixth year. He lived to see the entire Bavarian nation converted to the Faith, and ruled the Sees of Salzburg and Ratisbon for forty years.
The remains of St. Rupert were interred in the Abbey Church of St. Peter, where his tomb may still be seen. In the adjoining cemetery his rock-hewn cell is shown, enclosed within a little chapel. Monks of the Benedictine Order now occupy the abbey founded by St. Rupert. It is rich in manuscripts and literary treasures, its library comprising one hundred thousand volumes.
St. Rupert was more than a spiritual benefactor to Southern Germany. On the mountain sides, near Ratisbon, he planted vines, brought from the province of the Rhine, reopened the salt springs at Reichenhall, organized commerce on the Danube, commenced the working of gold and silver mines in the south, encouraged agriculture in the lowlands and on the Alps, and laid out the public highway at Noreja and the famous Kaernter road.
One of the most celebrated successors of St. Rupert was Virgil, a native of Ireland and a man distinguished for learning and virtue. His true name is Feargall. Adamnanus of the race of Conall Gulban, and house of O' Donnell, elected in 679 abbot of Hay, was his kinsman.
Animated with a desire of visiting the Holy Land and seeing the places described by his august relative, Virgil travelled in company with seven bishops to France. The need of reform and the abject state of Christianity in the kingdom induced him to remain among the Gauls, for a brief period at least. Childeric III. was titular king, with Pepin, the Short, major domo for the entire kingdom, at the advent of St. Virgil in Gaul. All writers are loud in their praise of Pepin's princely virtues. His zeal for religion and love of the Church were equalled only by his consummate wisdom and valor. This prince accorded to Virgil a most courteous reception, making him the recipient of his confidence and bestowing upon him the post of confessor. At the expiration of two years Virgil was sent by Pepin on a mission to Bavaria, bearing letters of recommendation to Duke Odilo, a friend and brother-in-law. Here he labored with unremitting zeal for the conversion of souls.
In this short sketch, I shall pass over the controversy between St. Boniface and St. Virgil. Able historians have freed the apostle of Germany from wicked imputations cast upon his character by Protestants and other enemies of the Church. Virgil certainly possessed a more thorough acquaintance with science. We ascribe to him the theory that "the earth is spherical, instead of flat, and we have our antipodes," a marvelous doctrine in that early age. It was nevertheless taught by this distinguished scholar, the fearless exponent of secular and religious tenets, and a living proof that Irish universities of the Middle Ages deserved their widespread reputation for learning.
On Pepin's recommendation, Virgil was named for the vacant See of Salzburg. Reluctant to accept the appointment, he for two years commissioned Dobba, a bishop whom he had brought from Ireland, to perform the episcopal functions, reserving for himself the office of preaching and instructing, until compelled by his colleagues to receive the episcopal consecration in 766.
Childeric the Third, surnamed the Stupid, after enjoying an empty title for nine years was deposed and consigned to St. Bertin's Abbey, where he became a monk in 752. Dying in 755, he ended the Merovingian line of kings. Pepin in 751 was unanimously chosen sovereign and crowned at Soissons by St. Boniface. This is the first instance of the use of royal anointing in France, and the practice was suggested by St. Virgil.
The Metropolitan rebuilt on a scale of magnificence the monastery of St. Peter, at Salzburg, and translated thither the body of St. Rupert. On his return from an apostolic journey to Carinthia he was seized with a slow fever, and, after a fervent preparation, cheerfully departed this life on November 27, 784. Many and great saints have governed the diocese of Salzburg, but none to whom the Church is so deeply indebted as to St. Virgil.
The city of Wurzburg, on the Main, one of the most distinctively ecclesiastical towns of medieval Europe, was for more than a thousand years the capital of an ecclesiastical principality, ruled over by eighty-two bishops who were princes of the empire, and exercised great influence in the affairs of Germany.
Its cathedral in the Domstrasse was erected on the spot where St. Kilian suffered martyrdom. He was the city's first bishop and an Irish missionary, apostle and patron of Franconia.
The annalists tell us little of the early life of Kilian. He was of noble descent, and, after years of study in a famous school, received Holy Orders. Entering the monastery of Iona, he subsequently sailed for France.
We next find him in the Irish monastery of Florentius, on the banks of the Moselle and later in Rome. Kilian made known to the Holy Father his desire to preach the Gospel in Germany.
The Sovereign Pontiff, joyfully acceding to his request, invested him with the episcopal dignity. He at the same time conferred full power for the prosecution of his work and commissioned him to proceed to Wurzburg in Franconia. From the outset his efforts were successful.
Gosbert, a learned prince, ducal throne of Wurzburg. Inviting Kilian to visit him, he became a docile candidate for baptism and the saint's devoted friend. Prior to his conversion he married Geliana, the wife of a deceased brother, and learning that the union was llicit, he determined to break down the barrier to eternal happiness.
From the moment Geliana learned of Gosbert's resolution, she sought a way to be revenged upon his holy preceptor. The Duke was suddenly summoned to war. Geliana decided to rid herself in her lord's absence of the interfering Bishop and his two companions. For this purpose she bribed two wretches to carry out the heinous project. But the vile conspiracy was made known to Kilian. It is related that in his sleep a venerable form appeared to him saying :
"Beloved Kilian, a little longer shalt thou labor, to then be victor with me."
Immediately the saint arose and calling his brethren addressed them:
“Let us watch and pray. In a little while the Lord will knock at the gate, Let us take heed lest we be found sleeping."
Before many hours, the assassins broke into the place, where the Bishop and his companions were kneeling, wrapt in prayer's ecstatic joys,
“Friends," he said, turning, to the miscreants, "what do you want? And yet you are only obeying commands, and must accomplish your work." These were his last words. With drawn swords the murderers rushed on their victims and soon had them weltering in their blood. A grave was hastily dug and the corpses, together with books and sacred vestments, cast in. The perpetrators of the horrible deed vainly imagined that the crime would remain forever hidden. They deceived themselves. The unholy deed was revealed to a pious virgin, inhabiting a cell near by, and she was often seen near the martyrs' graves. Geliana, fearing detection, had the remains of her victims removed and buried in a stable.
Gosbert returned, and seeking the Bishop made inquiries of her as to his whereabouts. She professed innocent ignorance. Soon, however, one of the assassins was seized with madness and made away with himself. The woman also became a raving maniac, dying in horrible agony.
Fifty years after the death of St. Kilian, in 689, Burchard, Bishop of Wurzburg, removed the relics of the murdered prelate and his two companions to the beautiful church he erected for their reception, and here their tombs may now be seen. The monastery of Wurzburg long continued to preserve its connection with Ireland.
Few shrines on the Continent have undergone so little change as that of St. Kilian. Save for the deepening shadows time has thrown around the old church, it remains as it was when the martyr was
laid in the Neue Minster, twelve hundred years ago.
* * *
St. Arbogast was a native of Ireland, according to the chronicles of that country, and was the son of a noble family. Traveling into Alsace, in 630, he led an anchorite's life in the Sacred Forest, the interpretation of the Teutonic name Heiligesforst. Charity sometimes induced him to leave his retreat, to instruct the. people in knowledge and fear of God. His conduct attracted the attention of King Dagobert II., who frequently invited the pious hermit to his court and secured his succession to St. Amand in the See of Strasburg, 646.
After Arbogast' s elevation to the episcopacy, he raised to life Dagobert' s son, killed by falling from a horse. Assisted by the liberality of his royal friend, the Bishop enriched the church of Strasburg with several large estates and Dagobert, filled with affection for the humble Metropolitan, bestowed upon his See the manor and town of Rufach, with an extensive domain situated on the River Alse or Elle, in conjunction with the royal palace of Isenburg.
St. Arbogast endowed several monasteries, the principal being Surburg and Shutterau. Having occupied the episcopal See for twelve years he died, according to Bosch, the Bollandist, in 678. In his will he ordered his body to be interred in the place of public execution, called Mount Michael, in imitation of his great model, Jesus Christ, who suffered outside the walls of Jerusalem. His wishes were respected and subsequently a monastery was founded over the spot and dedicated to his memory. The magnificent church of Strasburg was erected at no great distance. To St. Arbogast are ascribed a book of homilies and learned commentaries on the epistles of St. Paul.
Of St. Findan, another of those noble missionaries, we know only a few facts from his life, published in 795 by Melchior Goldastus. He was son to a Prince of Leinster, and when the Danes invaded Ireland, was made prisoner. Escaping in a miraculous manner, he went to Rome. From Rome he traveled to Germany, remaining in that country twenty-seven years. For years he lived as a hermit. Later on he became abbot of the monastery of Richnaw, erected by himself on a peninsula in the Rhine, where he died 827.
In the calendar of saints, a fact, remarkable in these latter days, may have been noted, viz. : the prominent part the sons of kings and scions of noble families played in the Christianization of Europe.
That Ireland furnished her quota to the service of Heaven's Sovereign is obvious. Another prince of blood royal, who labored in Germany, was St. Fridolin, sometimes known as “The Traveler." His father was one of the rulers of Ireland, but the glamor of the court failed to attract the youth and he dedicated his life to Christ in the solitude of the cloister.
Advancing years brought him the preferment of abbot. He resigned the honor and abandoned his native land to found monasteries in various portions of Burgundy, Austrasia and Helvetia. The Abbey of Sekingen, located on an isle in the Rhine, afterwards one of the four forest towns belonging to the house of Austria, was the culmination of his heroic achievements. Here he died venerable in God's service.
Fridolin flourished at the close of the seventh and commencement of the eighth century, and his memory has been preserved with veneration in many parts of the Continent. He was the titular patronof the Swiss canton of Glavis, whose inhabitants carried his picture on their coat of arms. He is clad in the Benedictine habit, though he was not of that order.
Albuin, an Irish monk, filled with zeal for the propagation of the faith, left his country in 742 and went to Thuringia, a portion of Upper Saxony, where the mildness of his preaching and persuasive eloquence, converted numbers of Gentiles to Catholicity. The Pope nominated him Bishop of Fritzlar, or rather Buraburgh. He is appropriately named the Apostle of the Thuringians.
When considering the lives of the founders of German monasteries, we observe that houses following the Rule of St. Columba gradually adopted that of the Father of Western Monasticism, St. Benedict. This supplantation may be accounted for by the fact, that the Rule of the Irish saint was rigid, allowing no concessions, no mitigations, while St. Benedict's was milder.
For centuries, and in many ways, Ireland has been glorious, but more resplendently does she shine by the reflected light of sanctity, which emblazons the names of numbers of her sons, upon the pages where are perpetuated the lives of Erin's saints. These, then, are some of the renowned men whom the Church and the world may well praise.
“Their bodies are buried in peace and their names liveth unto generation and generation." — Eccl. xliv: 14.
Messenger of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Volume 35, (1900), 604-618.
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