Braulio, St.

views updated


Bishop and writer; b. probably c. 585; bishop of Zaragoza 631651; d. Zaragoza 651.

Braulio was the outstanding figure of an ecclesiastical dynasty in northeastern Spain. His father, Gregory, was a bishop, possibly of Osma. (At this time it was acceptable for married men of high standing to join the clergy, leading a celibate life after ordination.) John, Braulio's elder brother, preceded him as bishop of Zaragoza, the most important see in the Ebro valley, from 619631. There is evidence for another brother, Fronimian, who rose to be an abbot, but no real justification for the claim that Basila and Pomponia, with whom Braulio corresponded, were his sisters.

Little is known of Braulio's early life. His education probably started within his family. At some point he moved to Seville where he studied for several years with St. Isidore, the towering figure of Visigothic Spanish culture. The two men developed a close and lasting friendship as is shown in their surviving correspondence. Braulio encouraged Isidore to compile his great encyclopaedia, the Etymologies, and was responsible for its division into books, although he was to complain at his friend's apparent evasiveness in failing to send him a copy (epp. 3, 5). As an addition to Isidore's own 'On Famous Men,' Braulio composed a brief encomium of the author and a list of his literary work, with 17 items, which serves as the basic corpus of Isidoran writing. Braulio's education gave him a thorough grounding in scriptural and theological matters as well as a familiarity with some classical authors, if only through their use by later Christian writers. An enthusiastic collector of books, he developed an extensive library.

Around 619 Braulio returned to Zaragoza. It is most likely that he became an archdeacon there, possibly in connection with the episcopate of his brother John. At this time, following John's suggestion, Braulio began writing a Life of St. Aemilian, which was completed during his own episcopate. After succeeding John as bishop of Zaragoza, Braulio served as an influential figure in the life of Visigothic Spain. He participated in three national church councils held at Toledo: IV (633), V (636), VI (638), but was not present at VII (646). Braulio was evidently a respected figure within the Spanish church although it is not possible to assess his precise role. On behalf of his colleagues at VI Toledo, Braulio sent a dissenting but respectful reply to a letter from Pope Honorius I (625638), rejecting papal criticisms of the lax attitude towards Jews shown by Spanish bishops (ep. 21). Braulio was involved in secular politics, holding office under several Visigothic kings and corresponding with two of them on various matters. He urged Chindaswinth (642653) to share the throne with his son, Recceswinth (649672), as a way to avoid problems of succession. Overall, Braulio's relations with Recceswinth seem to have been warmer and it may be that he was asked to draft the Liber Iudiciorum, a law code promulgated during that king's reign.

As many of Braulio's letters have survived, it is possible to discern something of his personality, which appears as firm, friendly and learned. His writings establish him as second only to Isidore and alongside Julian of Toledo as a figure of outstanding influence and prestige in seventh-century Spain. In Zaragoza, Braulio transmitted Isidoran traditions to Taio, his successor as bishop, and Eugenius, the future metropolitan of Toledo. Following the death of Braulio, Zaragoza came to be eclipsed by Toledo as the intellectual centre of Visigothic Spain. The cult of St. Braulio developed in the thirteenth century. He is honoured as the patron saint of Aragon.

Braulio's writings. The Life of St. Aemilian was begun at the request of his brothers, John and Fronimian, and completed during Braulio's own episcopate, it is essentially a collection of miracle stories relating to the life of a hermit who lived in the upper Ebro valley in the second half of the sixth century. All three brothers promoted the cult of St. Aemilian, perhaps suggesting a family origin in the district of La Rioja where the saint had been active. Besides The Life, Braulio also wrote a hymn in honour of St. Aemilian and urged the deacon Eugene, later metropolitan in Toledo (636646), to compose a mass for the saint.

Epistolary: A single manuscript from Leòn preserves a collection of 44 letters sent to and by Braulio. It far exceeds what has survived from any comparable figure in Visigothic Spain. Besides revealing their author's sympathetic personality, the letters invoke over twenty men and women in covering matters as varied as grief-counseling, theological questions and the royal succession.

List of the Books of Isidore of Seville: This is a short work, praising Isidore of Seville and naming his literary output. It is always found in association with his book, On Famous Men.

Hymn of St. Aemilian : Although Braulio was a noted hymn-composer who wrote in honour of the saint, his authorship of this particular work has been questioned.

Feast: March 26.

Bibliography: braulio, Vita s. Aemiliani, ed. l. parga (Madrid 1943); tr. Life of St. Emilian in c. w. barlow, Iberian Fathers v. 2 (Washington 1969) and The Life of St. Aemilian the Confessor in a. t. fear, The Lives of the Visigothic Fathers (Liverpool 1997). Epistolario de San Braulio, ed. l. terrero (Seville 1975), tr. Letters of Braulio in c. w. barlow, op.cit. Patrologia Latina: Renotatio librorum divi Isidori 80, 699714, tr. c. w. barlow, op.cit. Hymn of St. Aemilian, ed. Patrologia Latina 80, 713716. c. h. lynch, Saint Braulio, Bishop of Saragossa (Washington 1938); Span. ed. rev. p. galindo, San Braulio, Obispo de Zaragoza (Madrid 1950).

[j. wreglesworth]