RABANUS, rā-bā'nus (HRABANUS, RHABANUS), MAURUS: Life. One of the most important churchmen of the Carolingian period; b. at Mainz between 776 and 784; d. at Winkel (on the Rhine, 10 m. w. of Mainz) Feb. 4, 856. He writes his name Magnentius Hrabanus Maurus, Magnentius probably referring to his Mainz origin; Hrabanus is connected with Old High German hraban, "raven," and the surname Maurus was given him by Alcuin. He was educated in the abbey of Fulda, where he entered the Benedictine order, and was ordained deacon in 801. Then he was sent to Tours to study not only theology, but the liberal arts with Alcuin, and, returning to Fulda, taught in the school, which flourished under his care. He was ordained priest in 814, and became abbot of Fulda in 822, showing marked capacity for the manifold duties imposed upon him as the head of a great monastery. He completed the rebuilding of the abbey, begun under his predecessor, and erected a number of churches and oratories in the surrounding country, besides caring for the development of various artistic talents among the monks, and turning them to good account in the decoration of his churches. He increased the property and the immunities of the abbey, and defended them from attacks; but his principal attention was given to his spiritual duties. As abbot he found time to give instruction in the Scriptures, and preached zealously to the people round about, stirring up the neighboring clergy to a like zeal. After twenty years of rule, he resigned the abbacy in the spring of 842, and retired to a church which he had built on the Petersberg, not far away, where he divided his time between devotional exercises and literary activity. He was drawn from his retirement in 847 by the call to succeed Otgar as archbishop of Mainz, and held his first provincial synod in October. Others followed in 848 and 852. Besides showing the same zeal for the welfare of souls that he had exhibited at Fulda, he impressed his contemporaries by his acts of charity, feeding more than 300 people daily in the famine of 850. He still managed to continue writing, and took part in the controversy aroused by the eucharistic teaching of Paschasius Radbertus (q.v.). He was acknowledged as the leading authority on Holy Scripture, later ecclesiastical literature, and canon law in the whole Frankish empire. His greatest services were to the cause of education; it was he who first made literary and theological culture at home east of the Rhine. His life was blameless, and eminent in the purity of his ideals.
His Commentaries. His writings fall into various classes. Among those of an exegetical nature, the earliest is his commentary on Matthew, composed between 814 and 822. It is less an original work than a compilation, especially from Jerome, Augustine, and Gregory the Great. During the period of his abbacy, at the request of Freculf, bishop of Lisieux, he dealt with the Pentateuch in a similar manner, though here the allegorical method of interpretation came into greater prominence. Commentaries followed on the other historical books of the Old Testament, with the exception of Ezra and Nehemiah, and including Maccabees. Then he explained Wisdom and Ecclesiasticus, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel. To a later period probably belong the commentaries on Proverbs, the Pauline epistles, and the Gospel of John. Of these there are yet unpublished Isaiah (a twelfth-century manuscript in the possession of Erlangen University), Daniel and John (Munich Library).
Ecclesiastical Works. For the two collections of his homilies, one dedicated to Haistulf (before 826) and one to the Emperor Lothair, see HOMILIARIUM. In the same connection should be mentioned the treatise De videndo Deo (after 842). The De modo pnitenti sometimes included with this as a third book is an independent work, warmly exhorting the reader to true repentance. While sti1l only a monk, he composed his De clericorum institutione dedicated to Archbishop Haistulf, written to instruct the clergy on the significance of their office and things connected with it. The first book treats of the Church, holy orders, clerical vestments, the mass, and the sacraments; the second of liturgics; and the third of the theological and general education of the clergy. Though an original work in substance, it yet owes a good deal (as Rabanus himself says) to older treatises, especially the Institutiones of Cassiodorus and the De doctrina Christiana of Augustine. To the same period belong a grammatical work after Priscian and a chronological Liber de computo (820). While abbot of Fulda, he seems to have put together his Martyrology, and after he had retired to the Petersberg to have employed his leisure in writing the twenty-two books De universo, a sort of encyclopedic compendium of knowledge. To the same interval of quiet belongs the De ecclesiastica disciplina, partly based on Augustine and partly a recasting of the De clericorum institutione; only the last book, entitled De agone Christiano, a compendium of ethical teaching, is independent. During his episcopate he expanded the first book of the De clericorum institutione into a more extended treatise De sacris ordinibus, sacramentis divinis et vestmentis sacerdotalibus, and wrote a treatise De anima, dedicated to the Emperor Lothair. Of uncertain date is the Allegori, a collection of terms used allegorically in Scripture, with explanations and examples. A few writings on ecclesiastical discipline remain to be mentioned--the Pnitentium liber, dedicated to Otgar of Mainz; a Pnitentiale composed during his episcopate at the request of Heribald of Auxerre; a letter, and a treatise addressed to Hatto of Fulda, on degrees of consanguinity; another De magicis artibus; and a letter to the chorepiscopus Reginbald on various disciplinary questions.
Controversies of the time gave rise to the De oblatione puerorum, an affirmation of the perpetuity of monastic principles under all conditions occasioned by the decision of the Council of Mainz to release Gottschalk (q.v.) from his vows, and a number of letters dealing with the whole controversy associated with his name; a memorial to Drogo of Metz on the position of Chorepiscopi (q.v.); a defense of Louis the Pious against his sons and the bishops after the events of 833, and the somewhat later De vitiis et virtutibus. In verse he showed himself, though not a great poet, a competent artist; to this division belong his earliest work, In laudem sanct crucis, and a number of epitaphs and other inscriptions.