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Walafrid Strabo

walafrid strabo photo, walafrid strabon
Walafrid, alternatively spelt Walahfrid, surnamed Strabo or Strabus, ie "squint-eyed" c 808 – 18 August 849, was an Alemannic Benedictine monk and theological writer who lived on Reichenau Island


  • 1 Works
    • 11 Theological works
      • 111 De exordiis et incrementis quarundam in observationibus ecclesiasticis rerum
    • 12 Historical and poetical works
    • 13 Ascribed works
  • 2 Notes
  • 3 References
  • 4 Primary sources
  • 5 External links


Walafrid Strabo's works are theological, historical and poetical

Theological worksedit

There is an exposition of the first 20 psalms published by Pez in Thes Anecdota nova, iv and an epitome of Rabanus Maurus's commentary on Leviticus An Expositio quatuor Evangeliorum is also ascribed to Walafrid

De exordiis et incrementis quarundam in observationibus ecclesiasticis rerumedit

Of singular interest also is his De exordiis et incrementis quarundam in observationibus ecclesiasticis rerum, written between 840 and 842 for Reginbert the Librarian1

It deals in 32 chapters with ecclesiastical usages, churches, altars, prayers, bells, pictures, baptism and the Holy Communion Incidentally, he introduces into his explanations the current German expressions for the things he is treating of, with the apology that Solomon had set him the example by keeping monkeys as well as peacocks at his court Of special interest is the fact that Walafrid, in his exposition of the Mass, shows no trace of any belief in the doctrine of transubstantiation as taught by his famous contemporary Radbertus; according to him, Christ gave to his disciples the sacraments of his Body and Blood in the substance of bread and wine, and taught them to celebrate them as a memorial of his Passion

In the last chapter, Walahfrid describes a hierarchical body of both lay and ecclesiastical officers, using Pauline metaphors 1 Cor 12:11-27 to underline the importance of such a body as an organic unity In so doing, he articulates a view on the nature of public office, ideally based on a sense of responsibility with respect to society as a whole2 While Johannes Fried is wary of associating this idealised scheme too much with current ideas about state and court in Louis' reign, Karl Ferdinand Werner and Stuart Airlie are rather more sympathetic to its relevance for contemporary thought at court: what gives the text added interest is that it was written by a courtier Walahfrid, representing a "view from the centre"2

Historical and poetical worksedit

Walahfrid's chief historical works are the rhymed Vita sancti Galli The Life of Saint Gall, which, though written down nearly two centuries after this saint's death, is still the primary authority for his life, and a much shorter life of Saint Othmar, abbot of St Gall died 759 A critical edition of them by E Dümmler is in the Monumenta Germaniae Historica "Poetae Latini", ii 1884, p 259 ff

Walafrid's poetical works also include a short life of St Blathmac, a high-born monk of Iona, murdered by the Danes in the first half of the 9th century; a life of St Mammas; and a Liber de visionibus Wettini This last poem, like the two preceding ones written in hexameters, was composed at the command of "Father" Adalgisus, and based upon the prose narrative of Heto, abbot of Reichenau from 806 to 822 It is dedicated to Grimald, brother of Wettin, his teacher At the time he sent it Walafrid had, as he himself tells his audience, hardly passed his eighteenth year, and he begs his correspondent to revise his verses, because, "as it is not lawful for a monk to hide anything from his abbot", he fears he may be beaten with deserved stripes In this curious visionclarification needed, Wettin saw Charles the Great suffering purgatorial tortures because of his sexual incontinence The name of the ruler alluded to is not indeed introduced into the actual text, but "Carolus Imperator" form the initial letters of the passage dealing with this subject Many of Walahfrid's other poems are, or include, short addresses to kings and queens Lothar, Charles, Louis, Pippin, Judith, etc and to friends Einhard; Grimald; Rabanus Maurus; Tatto; Ebbo, Archbishop of Reims; Drogo, bishop of Metz; etc

His most famous poem is the Liber de cultura hortorum which was later published as the Hortulus, dedicated to Grimald It is an account of a little garden in Reichenau Island that he used to tend with his own hands, and is largely made up of descriptions of the various herbs he grows there and their medicinal and other uses, including beer brewing3 Sage holds the place of honor; then comes rue, the antidote of poisons; and so on through melons, fennel, lilies, poppies, and many other plants, to wind up with the rose, "which in virtue and scent surpasses all other herbs, and may rightly be called the flower of flowers"

The curious poem De Imagine Tetrici takes the form of a dialogue; it was inspired by an equestrian statue depicting a nude emperor on horseback believed to be Theodoric the Great which stood in front of Charlemagne's palace at Aachen

Codex Sangallensis 878 may be Walafrid's personal breviarium, begun when he was a student at Fulda

Ascribed worksedit

Johannes Trithemius, Abbot of Sponheim 1462-1516, credited him with the authorship of the Glossa Ordinaria or Ordinary Glosses on the Bible The work dates, however, from the 12th century, but Trithemius' erroneous ascription remained current well into the 20th century4 The work is now attributed to Anselm of Laon and his followers5


  1. ^ Airlie, "The aristocracy in the service of the state in the Carolingian period", p 97
  2. ^ a b Airlie, "The aristocracy in the service of the state in the Carolingian period", pp 98-9
  3. ^ decodedpastcom
  4. ^ See Karlfried Froehlich, "The Printed Gloss," in Biblia Latina cum Glossa Ordinaria, Facsimile Reprint of the Editio Princeps Adolph Rusch of Strassburg 1480/81, intro Karlfried Froehlich and Margaret T Gibson Brepols: Turnhout, 1992
  5. ^ Lindberg, David 1978 Science in the Middle Ages Chicago: University of Chicago Press


  • Airlie, Stuart 2006 "The Aristocracy in the Service of the State in the Carolingian Period" In W Pohl, H Reimitz and S Airlie Staat im frühen Mittelalter Forschungen zur Geschichte des Mittelalters 11 Vienna pp 93–111 
  •  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed 1911 "Walafrid Strabo" Encyclopædia Britannica 28 11th ed Cambridge University Press 

Primary sourcesedit

  • Liber de exordiis et incrementis quarundam in observationibus ecclesiasticis rerum
    • ed and tr Alice L Harting-Correa 1995 Walahfrid Strabo's Libellus de exordiis et incrementis quarundam in observationibus ecclesiasticis rerum A Translation and Liturgical Commentary Mittellateinische Studien und Texte 19 Leiden: Brill ISBN 978-90-04-09669-1 
    • Visio Wettini, tr comm Francesco Stella, Pisa, Pacini 2009
    • ed Alfred Boretius and Viktor Krause 1897 Visio Wettini MGH Capitularia 2 Hannover 
  • Visio Wettini 1

External linksedit

  • Catholic Encyclopedia
  • Opera Omnia by Migne Patrologia Latina with analytical indexes

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Walafrid Strabo

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