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Sunday, March 18, 2012

Benedictines and Books, part 3

An angel points the way for St. Etheldreda or Audrey (ca. 636-679), queen and virgin.

"Benedictine READ Posters"

As my title indicates, I have already written a couple times on the importance of the relationship between the Benedictines and the history of the book. It is a story that could take many years to describe--more years than I have to be a blog writer. These posters are small, so that they can be easily viewed on a computer. Most of the original pictures in this posting have been adapted from a book in Vivarium, the online image database of the Hill Museum & Manuscript Library: Imagines Sanctorum Ord. S. Benedicti by Karl Stengel (Augsburg, 1625); see:,15000. Only the picture of Saint Benedict (below) comes from a different source.

As always, you can click on any picture to see it enlarged and to see a gallery of images in this blog post.

So, today I would like to offer a little something (something rather "corny" as they say) for the enjoyment of others:  Following the example of celebrities with books instructing us to read, I thought I might offer up a few Benedictine celebrities with their books.  Since I was not authorized to do this on work time, I created these "posters" at home, using pictures from books in the Saint John's Rare Collections. I hope others will enjoy these. Should anyone find fault with my Latin, please direct comments to me, not the public at large!

Blessed Abbot Alcuin of York (ca. 735-804) teaching his community.
Alcuin was a famous educator and author who also helped Emperor Charlemagne establish an important collection of classical literature in his capital in the late 8th century. As the biographer Einhard tells us:

"Another deacon, Albin of Britain, surnamed Alcuin," a man of Saxon extraction, who was the greatest scholar of the day, was his teacher in other branches of learning. The King spent much time and labour with him studying rhetoric, dialectics, and especially astronomy; ..." (Life of Charlemagne, by Eginhard (i.e., Einhard). New York: American Book Co., 1880. Available in Google Books.)

Benedict of Nursia (ca. 480-ca. 547) with his favorite reading, the Bible,
in the Sacro Speco (Holy Cave) at Subiaco, Italy.

In most pictures of Saint Benedict, the founder of Benedictine monasticism, he is depicted holding a book--often a Bible or a copy of his rule for monks. In the poster of Benedict at Subiaco, it is clear that the book is a Bible, since the Rule had not yet been written. The original picture comes from a book on the Sacro Speco in the Saint John's Rare Books Collection. While the Rule of Benedict says relatively little about books per se, it does call upon his followers to read as a regular part of their life as individuals and as community.

Even the Virgin Mary encourages us to read. Rupert von Deutz
receives a book from the Virgin and Christ Child.

Rupert von Deutz (1075-1129) was a famous preacher and theologian in the high Middle Ages. Even though his work was later questioned by Church authorities, he is still studied today.

Saint Walburga with her special "oil" and her book in one hand
and an abbess' staff in the other.

Saint Walburga (ca. 710-777 or 779) also promotes reading in her portrait. Born in England, her remains rest today in Eichstätt, Germany, which is also home to a woman's monastery named in her honor.  The Hill Museum & Manuscript Library has digitally photographed a German-language biography of Walburga which has been added to its image database, Vivarium (,20805).

Finally, to demonstrate the tenacity of the Benedictine readers, I offer this image of Saint Eulogius of Cordoba (martyred in 859):

Saint Eulogius of Cordoba (died 859) who gathered works by Augustine
and ancient Latin authors and brought them to his home in Cordoba.

Happy reading!