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Walafrid Strabo


The "Squinter" abbot, carolingian renaissance scholar; b. c. 808; d. Aug. 18, 849. Born of a poor Swabian family, he was educated at reichenau under Tatto, Wettin, and Grimaldus, and later at Fulda under rabanus maurus. He thus received a thorough foundation in secular and religious learning. From 829 to 838 he was tutor of Charles the Bald, son of Emperor Louis the Pious. As a reward, he was made abbot of Reichenau in 838. Although expelled from Reichenau in 840 by Louis the German for supporting Emperor lothair I after the death of Louis the Pious, he was reinstated in 842. He died on an embassy from Louis the German to his former pupil, Charles the Bald.

The long poem in hexameters, Visio Wettinis, composed when Walafrid was 18, records visions of hell, purgatory, and paradise that anticipate those of Dante. In a delightfully charming and simple manner that marks Walafrid as alcuin's worthy successor in Latin lyric, the De cultura hortorum (better known as Hortulus ), his most famous poem, describes 23 herbs or flowers, their mythological or Christian associations, and their healing properties. Two hagiographies in verse (of St. Blaitmaïc and St. Mamas), as well as poems in praise of the Empress Judith, Louis the Pious (De imagine Tetrici ), and other important personages, reveal Walafrid's mastery of intricate lyric meters, his use of alliteration, assonance, end and internal rhyme, and his skill at acrostics. His best known theological work is the Liber de exordiis et incrementis quarundam in observationibus ecclesiasticis rerum (c. 841), which gives considerable insight into contemporary liturgical rites and customs. The Glossa ordinaria of the Bible, a compilation of exegetical excerpts from patristic sources that remained in use throughout the Middle Ages, is now generally thought to be only partiallyif at allthe work of Walafrid. He revised einhard's Life of Charlemagne, Thegan's life of Louis the Pious, perhaps Wettin's life of St. gall, and Gozbert's life of St. othmar.

See Also: medieval latin literature.

Bibliography: Complete works, Patrologia Latina, ed. j. p. migne, 217 v., indexes 4 v., (Paris 187890) 113114. Poems, Monumenta Germaniae Historica: Poetae (Berlin 1826) 2:259473. w. strabo, Hortulus; vom Gartenbau, tr. w. nÄf and m. gabathuler (2d ed., St. Gallen 1957), bibliog. m. manitius Geschichte der lateinischen Literatur des Mittelalters, 3 v. (Munich 191131) 1:302314. h. peltier, Dictionnaire de Théologie catholique, ed. a. vacant et al., 15 v. (Paris 190350; Tables générales 1951) 15.2:34983505. a. hauck, Kirchengeschichte Deutschlands, 5 v. (9th ed. BerlinLeipzig 1958) 2:674677. f. l. cross, The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (London 1957) 1434, bibliog. w. kosch, Deutsches Literatur-Lexikon, ed. b. berger in 1 v. (Bern 1963) 468, bibliog.

[m. f. mccarthy]

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