Rabanus Maurus

c.776-856. Archbishop of Mainz. Born of a noble family at Mainz and educated at Fulda where he was made deacon in 801, he went the following year to Tours. There he studied under Alcuin,* from whom he received the name “Maurus,” referring to St. Maur, disciple of St. Benedict, in recognition of his scholastic abilities. He became master of the monastery school at Fulda, one of the most influential in Europe, where Walafrid Strabo* and Otfrid of Weissenburg were pupils. Ordained in 814, he was abbot of Fulda from 822 to 842, advancing its intellectual, spiritual, and temporal welfare, erecting buildings, collecting manuscripts and art, and engaging in writing. In the struggle between Louis the Pious and his sons he supported Louis and then Lothair I, but with the defeat by Louis the German (840) he fled the monastery, returning briefly before retiring to nearby Petersberg for prayer and study. In 847 he became archbishop of Mainz, where he instructed clergy and laity, combated social disorders, and defended sound doctrine. He held three provincial synods: on ecclesiastical discipline (847), on Gottschalk* and his doctrine of predestination (848), and on the rights and disciplines of the church (852).

His writings are immense in subject and number: a study on grammar, a collection of homilies for the church year, two penitentials, a martyrology, and Latin poetry. A manual for monks and clerics in three books (De institutione clericorum) dealt with, e.g., sacraments, public prayer, and fasts, and relied much on Augustine, Gregory the Great, and Isidore. He also wrote many commentaries on Scripture. Learned in Scripture and patristics, he was not an original thinker; his writings are largely compilations, more important for their place in the Carolingian Renaissance* than for themselves. Not canonized but honored as a saint, he was acclaimed praeceptor Germaniae.