Blessed Rabanus Maurus,
Feast day: February 4
Born at Mainz, Germany, 776-784.
Died at Winkel, Germany, 856.
While Rabanus was probably a German by birth, there is a possibility that he may have been from Ireland or Scotland. He was offered as a child to the abbey of Fulda, was educated and spent most of his life there. After receiving his early education at the abbey school of Fulda under Abbot Bangulf, he completed his studies at Tours under Alcuin, whose favorite he became.
He returned to Fulda as a monk, became known for his learning and knowledge of the early Church Fathers and the Bible, and in about 799 became headmaster of Fulda's school. He was ordained a deacon in 801 and a priest in 815, and became abbot in 822. As abbot he completed the monastery buildings, and founded several churches and monasteries.
He resigned his abbacy in 847 to go into retirement, but that same year--at age 71, he was name archbishop of Mainz (Mayence), which he governed with remarkable ability. He imposed strict discipline on his clergy (which led to an abortive conspiracy on his life), held two synods that condemned the heretical teachings of Gottschalk, a monk in his see. He was noted for his charity to the poor, 300 of whom he entertained daily at his house, which helped alleviate a famine.
Rabanus was the outstanding scholar of his century and one of the most prolific writers of any age. Under Alcuin, who nicknamed him Maurus in memory of Saint Benedict's favorite disciple, he learned Greek, Hebrew, and Syriac. His biblical commentaries and other works are still considered valuable. His martyrology; poetry, including the hymn Veni creator spiritus; and some 64 of homilies are still extant
He was the author of the encyclopaedia De rerum naturis (On the Nature of Things). He also wrote treatises on education and grammar and commentaries on the Bible. He was one of the most prominent teachers and writers of the Carolingian age, and was called "Praeceptor Germaniae," or "the teacher of Germany." On the Roman calendar (Martyrologium Romanum, 2001, pp. 126f.),
Rabanus was born of noble parents in Mainz. The date of his birth is uncertain, but in 801 he received a deacon's order at Fulda in Hesse, where he had been sent to school. In the following year, at the insistence of Ratgar, his abbot, he went together with Haimon (later of Halberstadt) to complete his studies at Tours. He studied there under Alcuin, who in recognition of his diligence and purity gave him the surname of Maurus, after the favourite disciple of Benedict, Saint Maurus. Returning to Fulda two years later, he was entrusted with the principal charge of the school, which under his direction became one of the most preeminent centers of scholarship and book production in Europe, and sent forth such pupils as Walafrid Strabo, Servatus Lupus of Ferrières, and Otfrid of Weissenburg. At this period he probably compiled his excerpt from the grammar of Priscian, a popular text book during the Middle Ages.
In 814 Rabanus was ordained a priest. Shortly afterwards, apparently on account of disagreement with Ratgar, he was compelled to withdraw for a time from Fulda. This banishment has long been understood to have occasioned a pilgrimage to Palestine, based on an allusion in his commentary on Joshua. The passage in question is taken from Origen's Homily xiv In Librum Jesu Nave. It is Origen, not Rabanus, who was in Palestine.He returned to Fulda on the election of a new abbot (Eigil) in 817, upon whose death in 822 he himself became abbot. He was efficient and successful in this role until 842, when, in order to secure greater leisure for literature and for devotion, he resigned and retired to the neighbouring cloister of St Petersberg.
In 847, Rabanus was again constrained to enter public life by his election to succeed Otgar in the archbishopric of Mainz. He died at Winkel on the Rhine in 856.