Poems and prayers in geometric patterns and figures: a Carolingian masterpiece by Hrabanus Maurus, today preserved in the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana

De Laudibus Sanctae Crucis

Fulda (Germany) — First half of the 9th century

De Laudibus Sanctae Crucis

De Laudibus Sanctae Crucis

Fulda (Germany) — First half of the 9th century

  1. Hrabanus Maurus (ca. 780–856) was a monk from Fulda who became Bishop of Mainz

  2. The most famous of his works is a series of sophisticated "picture poems" glorifying the cross

  3. It was brought to Rome by Queen Christina of Sweden (1626-89), a convert to Catholicism

De Laudibus Sanctae Crucis

Alternative Titles:
  • Kreuzeslob
  • Hrabanus Maurus - De Laudibus Sanctae Crucis
  1. Short Description
  2. Codicology
Short Description

Already hailed as the Praeceptor Germaniae in his own time, Hrabanus Maurus was a Frankish monk, Bishop of Mainz, and a prolific author of the Carolingian Renaissance. One of his most popular works is the Liber de laudibus sanctae Crucis, a series of sophisticated "picture poems" in the style of the great Alcuin. Originally written ca. 810-14, the 28 picture poems are sort of like biblical word-jumbles containing individual letters and groups of letters which compose self-contained poems or sequences of words referring to the basic concept of the composition, the glorification of the Cross. The Vatican Library houses a specimen that is arguably the finest and originated in Fulda Monastery ca. 825/826.

De Laudibus Sanctae Crucis

Hrabanus Maurus (ca. 780–856), a monk from Fulda who eventually became Bishop of Mainz, achieved great fame for his work Liber de laudibus sanctae Crucis, which was widely-distributed throughout the Carolingian Empire. It contains a series of 28 picture poems taken from the first version of the treatise on the Holy Cross written by Hrabanus as early as 810–14. In fact, some 80 manuscripts of the work survive, many of them made during the lifetime of Hrabanus in the monastery of Fulda. The finest and most artful of these originates from ca. 825/826 is stored today in the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana under the shelf mark Reg. Lat. 124 and even features black- and purple-dyed pages.

Fantastic Visual Poetry from the Carolingian Royal Court

Hrabanus, praised at his time as the praeceptor Germaniae, wrote this book in the literary form of picture poems as was formerly practiced in Tours by Alcuin, his famous teacher. Hrabanus raised this literary genre to a new peak, referring less to recent Carolingian models than to the classical source of this form. The text, inscribed on a grid-like system, is presented in a square frame in the manner of a picture. From this text box emerge individual letters and groups of letters which compose self-contained poems or sequences of words referring to the basic concept of the composition, the glorification of the Cross.

A Coveted Hrabanus Manuscript

This copy may have been originally intended for Haistulf (825) the Archbishop of Mainz but was dedicated to his successor Otgar (d. 847) after his death. It remained in the Mainz Cathedral Library before returning to Fulda Monastery at an unknown time. A letter dated June 15th, 1598 indicates that the manuscript was borrowed from Fulda by Emperor Rudolf II (1552-1612), who had it brought to his court in Prague where the manuscript was copied. It was then captured by the Swedes in the course of the Thirty Years’ War (1618-48). It came into the possession of Queen Christina of Sweden (1626-89), who succeeded her father Gustavus Adolphus (1594-1632) after his death in the Battle of Lützen when she was only 18 years old. Christina created a scandal when she announced her intention never to marry, then abdicated her throne, converted to Catholicism, and moved to Rome where she became a celebrity patron of the arts. Her library, including the Hrabanus manuscript, was bequeathed to Pope Innocent XI (1611-89) upon her death and thus came into the possession of the Vatican.

Codicology
Alternative Titles
Kreuzeslob
Hrabanus Maurus - De Laudibus Sanctae Crucis
Size / Format
62 folios / 36.5 × 29.5 cm
Date
First half of the 9th century
Language
Script
Carolingian Minuscule
Illustrations
4 full-page miniatures; 28 picture poems
Content
Hrabanus Maurus' De laudibus sanctae crucis ( On the Praise of the Holy Cross); Dedication Poem to Gregory the Great; Dedication Poem to Emperor Louis the Pious
Previous Owners
1 available facsimile edition(s) of „De Laudibus Sanctae Crucis“

Kreuzeslob. Frühmittelalterliche Bildgedichte. Hrabanus Maurus. Reginensis Latinus 124. Facsimile

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Kreuzeslob. Frühmittelalterliche Bildgedichte. Hrabanus Maurus. Reginensis Latinus 124. Facsimile

1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size)
Publisher
Belser Verlag – Stuttgart, 2019
Limited Edition
999 copies
Commentary
1 volume (122 pages) by Klaus Gereon Beuckers
Language: German
More Information
Reproduction of the entire original document as detailed as possible (scope, format, colors). The binding may not correspond to the original or current document binding.
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