Benedictine abbot, missionary bishop, founder of reichenau; d. Hornbach, c. 754. His ninth-century vita indicates he was a Visigoth from either Aquitaine or Spain. A Benedictine, Pirmin centered his missionary activity in the Upper Rhine region, and instead of being bishop of Meaux, as was earlier alleged, he was a chor-bishop, residing probably at some time in Medelsheim, a village near Hornbach. In order to evangelize the area of the Upper Rhine, Pirmin founded a number of monasteries in the area, notably Reichenau, c. 724, perhaps on a commission from charles martel. He founded there also Hornbach, Gengenbach, Schwarzach, and in Alsace, while in exile, murbach (726). He reformed Schuttern and Maursmünster. Although a contemporary of boniface, he seems to have had little contact with him. Pirmin was buried in the monastery of Hornbach. His cult began in the early ninth century, and rabanus maurus placed him in his martyrology for November 3 in the mid-ninth century.
Pirmin is almost certainly the author of the Dicta Pirminii or Scarapsus [G. Jecker, Die Heimat des hl. P. (Münster 1927) 34–73], a brief account of salvation history, as well as a commentary on the Apostles' Creed and a summary of Christian duties. The work is significant as an example of an eighth-century missionary's manual.
He is the patron of the Rhenish Palatinate, Alsace, and Innsbruck; he is invoked against rheumatism, rats, and snakes; the cities along the Inn River sought his intercession against the plague. In art he is portrayed as a monk and bishop holding a staff that is entwined with snakes.
Feast: Nov. 3.
Bibliography: Acta Sanctorum Nov. 2.1:2–56. Monumenta Germaniae Historica: Scriptores (Berlin 1826–) 15.1:17–35. a. angenendt, Monachi peregrini; Studien zu Pirmin und den monastischen Vorstellungen des frohen Mittelalters (Munich 1972). u. engelmann, ed., Der heilige Pirmin und sein Missionsbüchlein (Constance 1959); Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner (Freiburg 1957–65); suppl., Das Zweite Vatikanishe Konsil: Dokumente und Kommentare, ed. h. s. brechter et al. (1966) 8:517–518.
[c. e. sheedy]