primus praeceptor Germaniae - Rabanus Maurus

"Creator Spirit, by whose aid
The world's foundations first were laid,
Come, visit every pious mind;
Come, pour thy joys on humankind;
From sin and sorrow set us free,
And make thy temples worthy thee."

(Hrabanus Maurus, "Veni Creator Spiritus")

Rabanus (left), introduced by his mentor Alcuin, presents his work "De laudibus sanctae crucis" to St Martin (from a manuscript crafted at Fulda abbey around 840)

4 February 856: Today, 1157 years ago, (H)Rabanus Maurus
primus praeceptor Germaniae, first teacher of Germania, scholar, theologian and poet, died in the Rhineland.

The pet student of Charlemagne's "most learned man anywhere to be found", the Northumbrian Alcuin, was probably the foremost mediator between the learning of antiquity and the early medieval Christian mindset during the reign of Louis the Pious in what was to become the German speaking part of the Carolingian Empire.

When Louis' rather anti-educational reign threatened the Renaissance his father Charlemagne had initiated, Rabanus did not only shine with clerical poetry and biblical exegesis - he commented more or less on the whole Bible, though - but compiled a natural history in 22 volumes, de rerum naturis to aid the "book-needy" (cit) bishops of Northern Germany in their pastoral ministry, making him one of Europe's first encyclopedists.

Quite an innovation was de rerum naturis's demand, the clergy should possess at least basic medical knowledge to administer to the sick, founding a medieval tradition of serious monastic health care.

Unfortunately, he had neither influence nor obvious interest to preserve the collection of old epics from the times of the Migration Period Charlemagne had encouraged. They were almost completely discarded during Louis' reign.

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