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Herman Joseph of Steinfeld, St.


Premonstratensian mystic and author; b. Cologne, Germany, 1150; d. Hoven convent, near Cologne, April 7, probably 1241. A visionary from a very early age, he joined the premonstratensians at Steinfeld Abbey in the Eifel when he was 12 years old but, being under age, was sent to one of the order's houses in Frisia for schooling. He then returned to Steinfeld, where he was sacristan and a skilled clockmaker, and also served as chaplain to the cistercian nuns in the neighborhood. His blameless life as a canon at Steinfeld earned him the epithet "Joseph," which name was most appropriate because of his "mystical marriage" to Mary, mother of Jesus. One of the most noteworthy mystics in the history of medieval spirituality, he wrote a treatise on the song of songs, now lost as is his life of Elizabeth of Hoven. He may have written the Summi regis cor aveto (Patrologia Latina, 184:132224), the earliest hymn on the Sacred Heart. His modern reputation is based on his surviving prayers and hymns, one in honor of St. ursula, in both prose and verse. His piety, remarkable for the tender affection it projects, presaged the devotio moderna. He was with the Cistercian nuns at Hoven for Holy Week and Easter when he was taken ill and died. His vita (Acta Sanctorum April 1:682723) was written several months after his death by his prior and friend. His relics are at Steinfeld; his cult was approved in 1958 (Acta Apostolicae Sedis 51[1959] 830) in an action equivalent to canonization.

Feast: April 7.

Bibliography: Hermanni opuscula, ed. j. van spielbeck (Namur 1899). Bibliotheca hagiographica latina antiquae ct mediae aetatis, 2 v. (Brussels 18981901; suppl. 1911) 1:384549. f. petit, Un Mystique rhénan du XIII esiècle, Le Bx. Hermann-Joseph (Juaye-Mondaye 1930); La Spiritualité des Prémontrés aux 12 eet 13 esiècle (Paris 1947) 102115. a. butler, The Lives of the Saints, ed. h. thurston and d. attwater, 4 v. (New York 1956) 2:4849. k. koch and e. hegel, Die "Vita" des Prämonstratensers Hermann Joseph von Steinfeld (Cologne 1958). h. j. kugler, Hermann Josef von Steinfeld: im Kontext christlicher Mystik (St. Ottilien 1992). j. c. didier, Catholicisme 5:660661.

[m. j. hamilton]

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