Friday, August 15, 2014

The Gardener Monk

Walafrid Strabo (c.808 - 849) was born in Swabia to a poor family. He studied under Hrabanus Maurus, and became a monk. He entered the court of Louis the Pious as teacher to his son Prince Charles (the Bald). When the sons of Louis warred with each other, however, Walafird sided with Lothair (the losing side). He had to flee to Speyer, but was later reconciled with the winning side, Louis the German.

Once all that was over, he settled down and did a lot of writing, both theological works and on secular subjects. He wrote the definitive Vita Sanctus Galli ["Life of St. Gall"], even though it was 200 years after St. Gall lived. One of the secular poems was Hortulus ["Little garden"] in which he discusses the pleasures of gardening
If you do not let laziness clog
Your labor, if you do not insult with misguided efforts
The gardener’s multifarious wealth and if you do not
Refuse to harden or dirty your hands in the open air
Or to spread whole baskets of dung on the sun-parched soil--
Then, you may rest assured, your soil will not fail you.
Layout of Walafrid's garden
He also described the layout of the garden.

He also revised Einhard's Life of Charlemagne in such a way that it is considered one of the outstanding biographies of the Middle Ages.

As for his theological works, one of the most famous (and useful) has the unwieldy title of Liber de exordiis et incrementis quarundam in observationibus ecclesiasticis rerum ["Book on the Origins and Development of Certain Matters in Church Practice"]. In 32 chapters, he deals with several sacraments and the accoutrements of church services, and church buildings. Along the way, he uses some of the less formal German terms for ecclesiastical subjects. He apologizes for his use of two sets of terms by comparing it to King Solomon's practice of keeping not only peacocks at his court, but also monkeys.

Walafrid died on 18 August.

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