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Paschasius Radbertus' funeral oration for Wala of Corbie
Authors: and

This book presents a new and accessible translation of a well-known yet enigmatic text: the ‘Epitaph for Arsenius’ by the monk and scholar Paschasius Radbertus (Radbert) of Corbie. This monastic dialogue, with the author in the role of narrator, plunges the reader directly into the turmoil of ninth-century religion and politics. ‘Arsenius’ was the nickname of Wala, a member of the Carolingian family who in the 830s became involved in the rebellions against Louis the Pious. Exiled from the court, Wala/Arsenius died Italy in 836. Casting both Wala and himself in the role of the prophet Jeremiah, Radbert chose the medium of the epitaph (funeral oration) to deliver a polemical attack, not just on Wala’s enemies, but also on his own.

Abstract only
Mayke de Jong
and
Justin Lake

This chapter focuses on the biographical, political and literary aspects of the Epitaphium Arsenii. It introduces the author, Paschasius Radbertus, who was a monk of Corbie and later its abbot, and his subject, Abbot Wala of Corbie (d. 836), who was Charlemagne’s controversial cousin. It explains the different political context in which the two books of this work originated. Whereas the first book was probably composed while the Emperor Louis the Pious was still alive, the second followed only in the mid-850s, when Louis’ son Charles the Bald ruled the West-Frankish kingdom. The changed perspective of the second book and the author’s polemical stance stand in contrast to the more reticent first book, which makes this such an interesting text. Furthermore, this introduction also explicates this funeral oration for Wala as a literary work, and comments on the author’s Latin and his use of classical and patristic sources.

in Confronting crisis in the Carolingian empire
Abstract only
Alison I. Beach
,
Shannon M.T. Li
, and
Samuel S. Sutherland

An ad hoc extension, comprising sporadic annual entries, begins with the author’s first-hand experience of being cured from a spiritual malady by a drink from a chalice holding the tooth of the monastery’s founder. The author also discusses the monastery’s involvement in and experience of larger events in the mid-twelfth century, including the Second Lateran Council, the Second Crusade (and St. Bernard’s journey through Germany), and an extended period of famine and scarcity that compelled the monks to sell many prized works of art and other goods. A brief hagiography on St. Ratpero, whose oratory was located on land owned by Petershausen, is included. Several chapters that describe the death of religious women and men and other later entries offer a rare acknowledgement in the CP of religious women and men of various sorts at Petershausen, including those the chronicler identifies as hermits and inclusi. This section closes with a dramatic description of the fire that destroyed the monastery in 1159. In offering an eyewitness account of the extent of the devastation and the efforts of the monks to rebuild, the chronicler spins a narrative of trauma that lays the blame with the monks for their many moral failings.

in Monastic experience in twelfth-century Germany
Abstract only
Alison I. Beach
,
Shannon M.T. Li
, and
Samuel S. Sutherland

A fifth book, partly the work of a continuator, begins with the continued efforts of the monks to rebuild after the fire. After a brief description of Frederick Barbarossa and the Alexandrian Schism, most of the rest of the book focuses on Abbot Conrad (r. 1127–1164) and his exploits, including some pointed critiques of his many missteps.

in Monastic experience in twelfth-century Germany
Abstract only
Alison I. Beach
,
Shannon M.T. Li
, and
Samuel S. Sutherland

Book Four continues the history of the monastery from the death of Theodoric to the author’s own time with an eclectic collection of colorful stories continuing many of themes introduced in Books Two and Three – conflicts with bishops and lay patrons, internal politics, relations with daughter houses, and various miracles. Twice the bishop-proprietor Ulrich I of Constance attempts to intervene in the election or abdication of an abbot, spurring the monastery to assert its libertas in active resistance. Hints of profound troubles in the wake of reform are introduced, including violence in the abbey, economic mismanagement, and failed attempts to found and reform other houses. The monastery is miraculously spared from fire on multiple occasions.

in Monastic experience in twelfth-century Germany
Abstract only
Alison I. Beach
,
Shannon M.T. Li
, and
Samuel S. Sutherland

Book One tells of the origins of the monastery, beginning with a hagiographical account of the monastery’s founder Bishop Gebhard II of Constance (r. 979–995). After an imaginative retelling of Gebhard’s illustrious ancestry and early life, the author describes his founding of the monastery, including information about the provisions of land and laborers, the original art and architecture of the church, the procurement of a papal privilege, and the acquisition of saints’ relics. The first book concludes with stories from Gebhard’s later years and an account of his death and burial at Petershausen.

in Monastic experience in twelfth-century Germany
Abstract only
Alison I. Beach
,
Shannon M.T. Li
, and
Samuel S. Sutherland

The brief sixth book opens with the election of Abbot Gebhard I (1164–1171) and continues with sporadic entries in various hands, ending in 1203. Donations by and conflicts with lay patrons are discussed in brief. A short entry informs us that Abbot Gebhard, who was possibly the original chronicler, was deposed.

in Monastic experience in twelfth-century Germany
Abstract only
Alison I. Beach
,
Shannon M.T. Li
, and
Samuel S. Sutherland

Book Three begins with the arrival of the Hirsau reformers at Petershausen, including a brief biography of the reforming abbot Theodoric (r. 1086–1116) and a detailed description of his material renovation of the monastery. An extended series of miracles, visions, and anecdotes follow, many of which serve as subtle commentaries on the success and challenges of the reform. The book then describes the efforts of the monks to establish and manage daughter houses, which presents many setbacks and challenges for the monastery. In the midst of these efforts, the investiture controversy emerges again, but this time at the local level. Conflict and even a short exile ensue when a pro-imperial bishop is installed at Constance. After the conflict ends in Theodoric’s favor, an account of his death follows, commemorating his unique character and contributions to the library.

in Monastic experience in twelfth-century Germany
Abstract only
Alison I. Beach
,
Shannon M.T. Li
, and
Samuel S. Sutherland

Book Two describes the subsequent growth of the monastery and the various challenges it faced along the way. At many points, the monks come into conflict with the bishops of Constance or their own lay patrons, often with God or St. Gebhard intervening or exacting vengeance on their behalf. The book also includes an account of the early Investiture Controversy, which is heavily biased against the emperor and intriguingly problematic in its reconstruction of specific events. The book closes by introducing the Hirsau Reform.

in Monastic experience in twelfth-century Germany
Abstract only
Alison I. Beach
,
Shannon M.T. Li
, and
Samuel S. Sutherland

Introduces chronicle and places into its historical context. The Hirsau Reform and its role at Petershausen is discussed at length, and a broad overview of the social landscape of Swabia in the central Middle Ages is provided. The manuscript of the chronicle is discussed briefly, and important notes about the translation are provided.

in Monastic experience in twelfth-century Germany