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Historical fact and exegetical fiction in the Carolingian Vita S. Sualonis (1).

The nineteenth-century editor of Ermenrich of Ellwangen's (ca. 814-74) Vita Sualonis, Oswald Holder-Egger, dismissed the Carolingian hagiographer's sermon on the Anglo-Saxon hermit Sualo as historically unimportant because of its heavy reliance on oral traditions, its turgid prose style, and its clumsy Latin grammar. (2) Holder-Egger found fault with the "ahistoricism" of Ermenrich's Vita--a scholarly stance no doubt influenced by the historicism of his day that privileged "the basic story as the primary object or goal of research." (3) For the late-nineteenth century, the recovery and reconstruction of an original source (an archetype or Urtext) from which all other derivative and secondary versions sprang was the ultimate task of historical inquiry. Such an Urtext, once unearthed, would then present the true, uncontaminated story of what had happened in the past, and the historian who successfully excavated an Urtype would assume the role of truth teller.

For scholars of early medieval hagiography--particularly those working within the historicist tradition--Ermenrich is the embodiment of the "unreliable narrator." (4) He possessed no firsthand knowledge of the events he was writing about, he had never met his subject saint, and he invented a foundation narrative for Sualo's obscure hermitage at Solnhofen to legitimize its place among the other communities acquired by the powerful monastery of Fulda. Many of the standard problems associated with Carolingian hagiography plague this text--it is intensely fictional in nature, its author makes liberal use of dubious oral sources, and entire sections of the narrative are derived from pre-existing saints' lives or from biblical stories. It is also, like a large number of Carolingian hagiographies, a foundation narrative designed to solidify the religious and political ideologies of the present rather than to recount the objective story of the past. (5) Furthermore, as in the case of other early medieval texts, the author's Latin style has been a source of academic consternation. A handful of German, French, and Italian scholars have pointed to Ermenrich's prose, particularly that of his epistles, as among the most lamentable examples of Dark Age literary ambitions. (6) These historians and linguists variously have described Ermenrich's small corpus of obscure texts as having the appearance of the late-night ravings of a deranged mind, (7) of being chimerical utterances, (8) and of constituting a pompous muddle. (9) One German historian chided Ermenrich for seeming to find his "best" material among the rubbish bins of famous Carolingian monasteries. (10) According to certain academic specialists, Ermenrich's work is an ahistorical jumble, a proof text of the third-rate academic culture of the Carolingian hinterlands. (11)

But it is precisely this acute ahistoricism that is intriguing. While texts such as the Life of Saint Sualo do not bring to light the exactitude of an authoritative narrative voice, such allegorical works do illuminate the process of early medieval mythmaking and the fluid boundaries that existed between history and exegesis in Carolingian Francia. (12) For Ermenrich, telling the truth about Sualo meant revisiting the site of his bodily experience through the mystical lens of biblical interpretation, an expositive technique he undoubtedly learned from his own teacher, the famous biblical exegete and abbot of Fulda, Hrabanus Maurus (ca. 780-856). (13) The numinous mountain at Solnhofen, the tabernacle-like space of the holy man's cell, and the salvific tomb of the saint become, through Ermenrich's inventive narrative, both the central objects of sacred discourse and the material evidence for the authentic history of Sualo. The fact that Ermenrich is an unreliable narrator makes his sermon on Sualo a perfect vehicle for exploring Carolingian views on the nature of historical writing, the invention of monastic foundation narratives, and the role of the exegetical enterprise in the construction of sacred biography. (14)

Ermenrich of Ellwangen, who was a votary of both Hrabanus and the magister Rudolf of Fulda (d. 865), composed Sualo's life sometime between 839 and 842. A number of manuscript copies preserve the text of the Vita, the earliest of which dates to the ninth century. (15) This hagiographer's career led him to some of the most influential intellectual and political centers of the Carolingian Renaissance. (16) He sojourned at the renowned monastery of Fulda, was a member of the inner circle of the East Frankish ruler Louis the German's court at Regensberg, and stayed briefly at both Walafrid Strabo's Reichenau and at the celebrated St. Gall. In addition to the Vita of Sualo, Ermenrich also penned a Life of Hariolf, the founder of his home cloister at Ellwangen, and he addressed several letters to major monastic figures, including Rudolf of Fulda, Grimald of St. Gall, and deacon Gundram. (17) By the end of his life, Ermenrich had achieved prominence as the missionary-bishop of Passau, who unsuccessfully tried to stem the influence of the Greek churchman Methodius, who had been working to convert the Bulgars. (18)

Sualo, as Ermenrich asserts at the opening of the Vita, accompanied his compatriot, Boniface, to Francia, and there he joined the Bonifatian collegium. (19) During the late 730s and early 740s, Boniface had worked actively to reorganize the church structure of southern Germania and had created new ecclesiastical dioceses, including that of Eichstatt, where the hermitage of Solnhofen was located. (20) Saint Sualo--who had by this time become a priest and monk--decided to abandon active participation in missionary preaching in order to take up the life of cloistered virtue. (21) By the late eighth century, Sualo had constructed a cell (cella Suolenhus, cella Solae, Solnhofen) with the assistance of stonemasons on land that the Emperor Charlemagne had donated to him (ca. 793) in return for the holy man's service as perpetual prayer-machine for the royal family. (22) Just before his death (ca. 794), Sualo bequeathed Solnhofen to the community at Fulda. (23)

Forty years later, the abbot of Fulda, Hrabanus Maurus, found himself embroiled in the bitter conflicts between Louis the German and his brother Lothar over Louis's East Frankish kingdom. Because he had backed Lothar over his victorious sibling Louis, Hrabanus was forced to relinquish his prestigious abbacy in 842. The former abbot spent the next five years as an exiled hermit-scholar, holed up in a cramped cellula at Fulda's mountain refuge, the Petersberg. Before the abbot's political exile to the Petersberg, Louis the German had ordered Hrabanus's nephew, Gundram, a royal court chaplain and deacon, to take up residence at Sualo's Solnhofen. (24) The Life of S. Sualo intimates that Gundram was sent to Solnhofen as a guarantee of Hrabanus's loyalty during the struggles between Fulda and the East Frankish court. (25) Not long after Gundram's departure from Louis's court, his fellow courtier and classmate, Ermenrich, made the trek up the mountain path to visit the new custodian of Solnhofen. There, Ermenrich found his friend deeply depressed and complaining bitterly about both his rugged abode and his wretched political exile. Gundram begged the Swabian scholar to compose a Life of the hermitage's founder, S. Sualo, in an attempt, no doubt, to curry favor in Louis's court by enhancing the reputation of his backwater cloister.

Ermenrich had several other motivations for writing the Vita in addition to the obvious one of fulfilling the request of an embittered colleague. He used the hagiography to bolster Fulda's and Solnhofen's connection to the famous Anglo-Saxon missionary, Boniface (ca. 680-754). Boniface's disciple, S. Sturm, had established Fulda in 744, and after Boniface's martyrdom in Frisia, Fulda housed his relics, which continued to attract pilgrims throughout the ninth century. (26) Solnhofen, founded by another member of Boniface's missionary group, was a stopping-off point for relic hunters traveling between Rome and Francia. (27) Clearly, the hagiographer's portrait of the Anglo-Saxon hermit is part of a larger attempt by the Hrabanus circle to create a new spiritual landscape for Germania with Fulda as its hallowed hub. (28) By depicting the life of an ascetic exile, Ermenrich may also be commenting on the historical circumstances that led to Hrabanus's retreat to a mountain hermitage and Gundram's expulsion to Solnhofen.


A cursory glance at the narrative structure and historical content of Ermenrich's Vita S. Sualonis appears to validate his current reputation among some Carolingian scholars as a marginal literary figure. In the Exordium to the Vita, which is written with a self-conscious display of the author's erudition, Ermenrich verbosely castigates pagan Rome and its demonic theatrical traditions and stresses how classical drama had been, during his lifetime, replaced by the more electrifying deeds of God's saints. (29) He then, as required by the conventions of his genre, confesses his unworthiness to undertake the task at hand but assures the reader that he will do so as far as his mediocre intellectual faculties will allow. (30) The core of the saint's life itself is divided into quasi-linear segments: (a) Vita 1-2 sets up the Bonifatian mission and Sualo's decision to reject the vita activa in favor of the life of self-abnegation; (b) Vita 3-4 details the founding of Sualo's cell at Solnhofen and the ascetic landscape of southeastern Germania; (c) Vita 5-6 connects the cella at Solnhofen with the most important political and spiritual dignitaries of the day (Charlemagne, Boniface, Hrabanus, Willibald, and Winnibald); (d) Vita 7-8 presents the first miracles of the Life, based on the eyewitness testimony of an old man living at Solnhofen (31); (e) Vita 9, the crux of the wonderworking section of the narrative, recasts, in an idiosyncratic manner, the biblical tale of the pagan prophet Balaam and his talking she-ass (Numbers 22:1ff); and (f) Vita 10 summarizes deacon Gundram's account of the sacred terrain of Sualo's mountain and recounts the miraculous archaeological excavation of the saint's tomb (ca. 838-39), an event the deacon claims was supervised by Bishop Altwin of Eichstatt. (32)

Most of the Vita avoids its subject saint, and this narrative circumvention is so striking that it seemingly poses the major stumbling block to any historical analysis of it. The most detailed historical material focuses not on Sualo, but on his magister Boniface. Also, where Ermenrich does venture into the realm of historical facts (the Bonifatian mission, Charlemagne's beneficium, the site of Solnhofen), he immediately retreats into the more esoteric arena of exegesis and allegory (the anagogic landscape, the mystical meaning of the saint's name, the spiritual transformation of the anchorite). Clearly, these kinds of textual maneuvers are not unique to the Vita S. Sualonis, for most hagiographical works fuse historical chronicle with biblical exegesis. Yet two things stand out as anomalous: the saint himself is lost amid a sea of episodic exegesis, and the hagiographer is aware that his rhetorical strategy may not be received favorably by his audience. (33)

Ermenrich's literary dilemma stems from a real historical problem--his friend Gundram had asked him to compose the Vita of a saint about whom he possessed scant factual information. Ermenrich artfully avoids this obstacle to constructing an historical account of the obscure anchorite by focusing on two biblical themes to construct his hagiographical narrative: the topos of concealing and revealing holiness based on gospel accounts of Christ's command to the four witnesses of the transfiguration to remain silent about what they had seen until after his bodily resurrection (Matthew 17:9; Mark 9:9); and the Hebrew metaphor of the narrowness of the salvific road (Numbers 22:26; Joshua 17:15; Matthew 7:14). By cleverly interspersing his narrative with these motifs, Ermenrich subtly transforms the body of Sualo into that of the resurrected Christ, and the four prominent ecclesiastical figures in the Vita--himself, the deacon Gundram, Hrabanus Maurus, and Rudolf of Fulda--into the apostolic observers of the transfiguration. Furthermore, the hagiographer is able to conceal the body of Sualo within the ascetic landscape of southeastern Germania only to reveal his corpus at the climax of the narrative. The unearthing of the body of Sualo is the centerpiece of the Life, for the miraculous excavation of the holy man's tomb provides the ultimate proof text of the veracity of Sualo's life and offers a physical testimony to the Christian doctrine of bodily resurrection.

Sualo's hagiographer thus constructs a narrative in which the earthly facts of the heaven-dweller's (caelicola) life are purposely subsumed by the biblical landscapes of early medieval Germania. In Ermenrich's typological vision, eighth-century Germania becomes the stage on which the new Apostolic age emerges, and he transforms his actors, the Bonifacian circle, into present-day apostles (apostolos praesentes). (34) He draws the portrait of the anchorite himself from the evangelical description of John the Baptist as "the burning and shining lamp" ("lucerna ardens et lucens," John 5:35). (35) Just as John the Baptist eked out an existence on the periphery of Jesus' communally based ministry, Sualo also retreated to the wilderness, where he symbolically stood as a lucerna lucens, emblazing the path of the Christian mission in southern Germania. Furthermore, Sualo's hut and his miraculous gestae provide the hagiographer's audiences, the royal court of Louis the German, the communities of Fulda and Solnhofen, and the diocese of Eichstatt, respectively, with a myth of origins for a hermitage (eremicola) that now had to be understood as a vital member of the Fulda circle.


In order to understand fully Ermenrich's allegorical schema, we must first flesh out the contexts of the Vita, particularly those narrative strands that illuminate the hagiographer's symbolic veiling and unveiling of the inconspicuous Sualo. The sacred biographer's introduction sets up his leitmotiv of obscuring sanctity: Christians--unlike the pagan poets who boisterously worshipped their heroes as false gods--had for too long concealed God's glorious "war-wagers" (belligeratores), the saints. (36) Therefore, the hagiographer emphasizes, it is his duty to make public the secret history of one of these belligeratores, Sualo of Solnhofen.

The first chapter of the Vita continues the theme of concealment, for Ermenrich compares Sualo's decision to accompany his mentor Boniface to the Continent to the sun's withdrawal of its most radiant light from the saint's native land of England. (37) The sun motif furthers the hagiographer's goal of presenting the Bonifatian mission as illuminating Germania with the light of salvation, a rhetorical strategy based on the divine-light topos of the gospel of John. (38) Yet Ermenrich's subject saint chose to abandon this effulgent group and to hide himself among the lonely mountain haunts of southeastern Frankish lands. The hagiographer mitigates Sualo's decision to reject his mentor's vocation by assimilating him to the John the Baptist paradigm. (39) In Ermenrich's vision, missionary activity involves both active engagement with human communities and painstaking positioning of charismatic men at the middle ground of Christian and non-Christian interaction. (40)

The hagiographer justifies Sualo's forsaking the mission for the ascetic life with an exegesis of the mystical meaning of the saint's name, an allegory that points directly to his accepting the divinely given vocation as a new John the Baptist. He devotes the third chapter to renaming the saint Solus (41) ("alone," "solitary," "desert") because of his love of solitude and the wilderness. (42) Here, the hagiographer informs his audiences that some among the vulgar had referred to the anchorite's cell as the Cella Solonis, but that his numinous nomen, Solus, was much more appropriate (and learned) for one who had emptied himself of everything save God. (43) In addition, Solus is the sun (Sol, "sun," "heavenly body," "deity," "extraordinary human being"), and his designation as "shining light" enables the hagiographer to incorporate an ancient tradition of Neoplatonic exegesis (from Origen onwards, Christ as the Sol oriens) into his narrative framework. Sualo--now named Solus/Sol--continues to cloak his spiritual radiance by ensconcing himself in the narrow mountain ranges of southern Germania. From his stone hut near the Altmuhl River, he buries God within the interior chamber of his heart rather than proclaiming Him publicly. (44) By enclosing himself in a tomb-like cell (itself a metaphor for the cramped interior space of the human body), Solus opens his soul only (solus) to divine penetration.

This then is the hagiographer's allegorical explanation for Solus's abandonment of the vita activa--exemplified by S. Boniface's apostolic circle--in order to take up the lonely (solus) life of self-abnegation. (45) The recluse is a shining oil lamp (lucerna lucens) atop a craggy mountain--an obvious reference both to the gospel of John's portrait of John the Baptist and to the biblical Mt. Sinai, the place where the Hebrew prophet married God (Exodus 3). (46) Even the anchorite's clothing speaks to this motif of obscuring the saint's power. According to Ermenrich, Solus never showed his pallium (the sign of his priestly office) to anyone. (47) Of course, the hagiographer here is using the pallium in a metaphorical sense, as hermits typically do not wear institutional garb. By inventing a pallium for Solus, Ermenrich may be stressing the hermit's quasi-institutional role as overseer of a mountain hermitage. Clearly, the hagiographer is at pains to connect his subject saint with the consecrated, male hierarchy, but he is equally careful to underscore the ascetic's humility. Thus, Ermenrich insinuates, Solus was able to walk that fine line between being an extra-institutional charismatic and a member of the ecclesiastical leadership, a major motif in early medieval hagiography. (48)

Just as the saint's pallium--the signum of his institutional authority--is hidden away, so too are the firsthand accounts of the saint's wonderworking powers. Ermenrich, at the end of Vita 6, proclaims that Solus had performed many charismatic deeds, but that he could only find evidence for a few of them, based on the testimony of an old man who had served the saint. (49) The hagiographer attaches the elderly witness's narrative to the seventh chapter of the Life. (50) What follows is a fairly unremarkable litany of healings--his lambent visage sparks the healings of those who were blind from their "first cradles," (51) a metaphor for spiritual illumination. Solus, the light bearer, infuses the "little eyes (ocelli)" of the sightless with the "unfamiliar light" of salvation. (52) He also cures a deaf-mute man by directly addressing and exorcising (in a priestly fashion) demonic diseases: "O Deafness and Muteness, depart from [this] creature of God!" (53) Immediately, the hagiographer reports, "the man was made whole (sanatus est homo)." Ermenrich takes great pains to inform his audiences that this particular miracle was depicted on picture tablets (tabulae pictatoriae) that were then displayed at the entryway to the anchorite's hut, providing further authentication of the hermit's virtus. The holy man's miraculous resume continues, as the hagiographer reports healings of the lame, who had previously been forced to travel with crutches (gestatoria). As incontestable proof of the healing power of Solnhofen, Ermenrich points out that a number of these crutches were still hanging at the cell. (54)

At one point during the fairly brief wonderworking segment of the Life, the sacred biographer stands back from his material and asks: "Why should [these deeds] remain a secret when [Solus] is a doctor of health-giving salvation (ipse salutiferae medicus salutis est)?" (55) Again, the emphasis here is on the secret history of Solnhofen--a story that has, up until this point, been hidden from Christian East Francia. Ermenrich couches his presentation of Solus's charismatic authority in the exegetical themes of divine light and of Christ as medicus, a rhetorical strategy necessitated by the lack of viable information on the saint. The accounts of the miracles themselves are vague--there is no local history detail, such as named recipients of healings, nearby villages, or important officials (fairly standard fare in other early medieval vitae based on the meticulous reckoning of the sacred landscape of Jesus' healings in the gospels). The wonderworking section thus takes the form of a sermon on the dangers of demonic penetration of the human body, on the relationship between the exterior health of the body and the interior piety of the individual, and on the burial sites (busta) of the (unnamed) martyrs as medicine for fallen humanity. (56)


The most extensive treatment of a single miracle appears in the ninth chapter of the Vita, as Ermenrich recreates a story from Torah that has a long exegetical tradition in both Jewish and Christian circles, that of the prophet Balaam and his talking she-ass (Numbers 22:21ff). (57) In Numbers, the King of Moab, Balak, sends a pagan seer named Balaam to curse the Israelites. En route to fids ritual engagement, Balaam's she-ass strays from the road, follows a narrow path, and knocks her rider against a wall. In retaliation, Balaam begins to beat the ass, whereupon the Lord opens the mouth of the ass, and she speaks to her master: "What have I done to you, that you should have struck me these three times? Am I not your donkey, which you have ridden all your life to this day? Have I been in the habit of treating you this way?" And [Balaam] said, "No" (Numbers 22:28-30). Of course, it turns out that an angel was standing in the middle of the road, and that this celestial messenger diverted the she-ass from her route. The pagan prophet, however, cannot see the angel until the Lord unveils his eyes (a textual model for the conversion of S. Paul in Acts 9), and the angel reprimands him for animal abuse. Balaam then acknowledges his wrongdoing and turns back toward Moab, where, atop a mountain, he blesses the Israelites.

Even though the hagiographer, as he did with the other miracula narratives, asserts that several old men in the vicinity of Solnhofen had recalled for him the Balaam-Sualo virtus, he includes little local detail. (58) In his rendition of the Balaam story, Ermenrich describes how one day the saint wanders through neighboring fields, riding his ass, until he comes upon flocks of sheep grazing without any visible sign of their shepherds. Suddenly, the saint's ass begins to prick up its ears and to kick its feet, and it runs through a narrow path. Sualo--obviously aware of the celestial ramifications of his ass's unbridled journey--jumps off the animal and defends himself with the signum crucis. At this point in the narrative, the hagiographer articulates his exegetical meaning--unlike Balaam, a pagan magician, who had remained oblivious to the presence of the angel--Sualo immediately understands the source of his ass's fear. Underneath a nearby bush, a wolf is crouching, waiting to pounce upon the donkey. In response, the holy man prays to God and then instructs his ass to charge the wolf. The ensuing assault causes such an uproar that shepherds run out of their stalls to witness the clash of teeth and hoofs.

Here, the hagiographer furthers his theme of concealment and utilizes the strategy of mystically transforming his audience into witnesses of Christ's miraculous powers--marvelous abilities that were to remain hidden until after the Messiah's resurrection. Sualo extracts from the bystanders a promise not to speak about this bestial onslaught until after his death, and Ermenrich bemoans the fact that he is the first to record such a precedent-setting miracle. The hagiographer legitimizes Sualo's decision to force the shepherds into a vow of silence by invoking Scripture, for Christ had commanded the four disciples to remain silent about his transfiguration until after his bodily resurrection ("Nemini dixeritis visionem, donec Filius hominis a mortuis resurgat," Matthew 17:9 [Vulgate]). Clearly, Ermenrich has in mind a larger, biblical framework for his narrative of shrouding and unveiling. Just as Sualo's body is hidden away in the mountains of southeastern Germania, the testimonies of the spectators of his wonderworking virtus similarly are kept secret until after the holy man's death.

The decision to model the charismatic power of a saint after a pagan soothsayer from Torah is, at first glance, a peculiar one. The Cistercian hagiologer, Jean LeClercq, once suggested that the inclusion of the tale of Balaam in the Vita was but part of a more extensive hagiographical goal to depict the ascetic as Adam in Paradise, as God gave Adam dominion over all living beings ("cuncta animantia," Genesis 2:20 [Vulgate]). (59) There is another possible reading of this miraculum, however, based on closer examination of the allegorical treatment of Balaam. The exegetical history of Balaam, in both Jewish and Christian congeries, speaks to the inventiveness and flexibility of the hermeneutical process. For many rabbis, Balaam embodied gentile depravity: the seer from Pethor was known to have sex with his she-ass, to have cast spells with his phallus, and to have been condemned to Gehenna, where he was punished by being boiled in a vat of semen. (60) The patristic interpretation of Balaam is a conflicted one: while many church fathers used the figure of the pagan prophet to dramatize antimagic invectives and to preach the dangers of avarice, vanity, and bodily pollution, others judged him to be the forerunner of the Magi, a passive conduit of the Holy Spirit, and Christ's prophet. (61)

Before Ermenrich left the royal court and unearthed this secret history of the Anglo-Saxon Balaam, his magister, Hrabanus Maurus, completed a lengthy exegesis on Numbers (ca. 822). Hrabanus's interest in Balaam undoubtedly grew from his more famous fascination with demons, ghosts, and magic. (62) The abbot devotes a large portion of his Enarrationes to justifying the pagan prophet Balaam's role as Christ's mouthpiece and detailing the hidden, allegorical meanings of the mountainous landscape portrayed in this important part of the priestly Torah. (63) For Hrabanus, Balaam posed a major exegetical problem: Why did God choose a pagan diviner (divinus) and necromancer (ministerio daemonum et arte magica) to serve as a receptacle of the divine word? Hrabanus spent a great deal of his career attacking the idolatrous practices that made the biblical Balaam famous--divination through mysterious objects (divinacula), which this Carolingian expert on the diabolical arts calculated must have included cauldrons and occult tripods. (64) Hrabanus reassures those who may have been perplexed by this artful sermon on Balaam as Christ's prophet: "You should not be surprised that we have said that [Balaam] has assumed the role of a doctor of the people, for you will see that he is a prophet of Christ." (65) For Hrabanus, Balaam served as a trope for the conversion process and a biblical model for a prophet who builds sacred shrines on craggy hilltops.

As odd as it may seem, the biblical portrait of Balaam, recast through the lens of allegory, provides fodder for hagiographical invention. For Hrabanus, Balaam is the perfect example of the base sinner transformed into an ascetic conduit of God's power. Hrabanus emphasizes that God comes to Balaam not because he is worthy, but so that he might protect the Israelites from the demonic arts. (66) He is so vile that God chooses to inscribe the words of prophecy not on his heart, but only through his mouth. (67) Even his lowly beast of burden, the she-ass (asina), receives the vision of God's angel before her wretched master does. (68) Hrabanus, following the tradition of rabbinical and early patristic exegesis, believes that the prophet's name should be read as "vain people," for before God empties him of everything save the divine word, he is the embodiment of unrepentant apostasy from the Eternal. Yet, as the abbot points out, the depravity of this prophet makes his transformation from a cursing enemy of Israel to God's navi, even more striking. (69) Once void of perversions that plagued his fleshly existence, Balaam achieves a prophetic status greater than that of his Israelite neighbors, who cannot comprehend the underlying meaning of his utterances because the veil (velamen) of the first covenant blocks their sight. (70) According to Hrabanus, what God reveals to Balaam's spiritual eye is both the prophecy of Christ's birth and the mystical vision of the ethereal tabernacle, a well-established allegory for the resurrection of the faithful during the second covenant. (71)

In addition to being a divinely illuminated gentile prophet, Balaam's life experience also foreshadows the penitential process of becoming a Christian ascetic. The Mesopotamian magician is, according to the Carolingian exegete, caught in the middle of demonic assaults and divine infusions of prophecy, a fairly standard theme in other early medieval lives of hermits. (72) Because the prophet Balaam occupies the liminal space between God's chosen people and idolatrous populations, he is an appealing figure for future biographers of missionary saints. Furthermore, Hrabanus divides the biblical landscape into high hills polluted by pagan shrines and lofty mountains infused with God's presence; to reach such celestial heights, the abbot warns, requires an arduous climb, clearly a metaphor for the spiritual challenges of the life of self-abnegation. (73)

The exposition on Numbers and other biblical texts is an obvious place to begin to understand why Ermenrich chose the pagan Balaam as a model for his saint. The hagiographer, relying on his exegetical training at Fulda, reconstructs chapter 9 of the Vita of S. Sualo into a Frankish retelling of the Balaam story; however, in his narrative, Sualo is the second-covenant prophet, dwelling atop a rugged mountain top, who blesses the "new Israelites," the Franks, who live (symbolically) among the pagan Moabites. As Balaam was privileged to serve as God's mouthpiece (navi) for the coming of a star from the house of Jacob (the messianic prophesy of Numbers 25:2), so Sualo functions as a metaphorical signpost for the spread of Christianity among the Germanic plebs sacra. (74) Finally, as Hrabanus Maurus emphasizes in his allegory of the narrow, mountainous terrain of Numbers, the strenuous route to the high ground is the one that leads to heavenly Jerusalem.

The allegorical landscape of Ermenrich's re-creation of the Balaam story leads directly to another important biblical theme in the Vita--that of the difficult road toward salvation. Unlike Balaam who beat his ass in order to avoid the narrow road, his second-covenant protege voluntarily charges after the donkey in order to embrace the path less traveled. Ermenrich's prose is scattered with references to the narrow path, an hagiographical trope for the ascetic life (arta via, angusta via, cf., Matthew 7:14: "Enter through the narrow gate"), as well as a metaphor for the promised land ("the hill country of Ephraim is too narrow for you," Joshua 17:15), and a topos of paradise. The liminal space inhabited by Sualo--the cramped cell (tugurium) atop his mountainous heavenly abode is accessible only by a confined footpath--so precarious in fact that only one pilgrim could negotiate it at a time. Those hikers fortunate enough to make it to the summit protected themselves from nosebleeds by invoking the name of the altitude-loving saint. (75) Atop the mountain, Sualo shares his residence with biblical beasties--serpents (Genesis 3) and dragons (Revelation 12), further proof of the hagiographer's recasting of a biblical landscape in Germania. (76) Just as Hebrew prophets once roamed the Palestinian wasteland and existed in opposition to civilized society, the Anglo-Saxon Elijah, Sualo, similarly haunted the marginal spaces of the Germanic forests.

The view from Sualo's cella intensifies the hagiographical motif of narrowness, for when the successor to Sualo's Solnhofen, the deacon Gundram, peers out of the little window of the hut, he sees nothing more than a string of monotonous pine forests, rye fields, and rocky overhangs (saxea scopula). (77) For Ermenrich, S. Sualo is also the Germanic John the Baptist, who advocates the "more perilous path among the more level ones." (78) Clearly, the hagiographer is evoking biblical discourses about paradise--the hermit who has emptied himself or herself of everything save God exists in Eden on earth, here personified by the Solnhofen wilderness. The topos of the badlands is an ancient one, with roots stretching back to the Hebrew Bible and the Eastern deserts--the renowned birthplaces of Christian askesis as well as a feral landscape also inhabited by noxious biblical monsters. Sualo therefore is a literary invention, a kind of hybrid Balaam/John the Baptist, who inhabits spaces beyond the scope of the active, Bonifatian missionary movement in southeastern Francia, but serves the important function of illuminating the narrow path toward salvation by ensconcing himself on a figurative Mt. Sinai, where the blazing light of his sanctity (Sol, "sun") enlightens the plebs sacra. This vita therefore recreates an entire narrative by fleshing out one passage from the Gospel of John, which depicts John the Baptist as a "burning and shining lamp" ("Ille erat lucerna ardens et lucens," John 5:35 [Vulgate])--to manifest Sualo as a corresponding lucerna lucens (Vita, 5). (79)


The final section of this brief excursion into the Frankish "desert" takes us to the deacon Gundram's miraculous excavation of the saint's tomb and explains how this unearthing of the saint's corpus furthers the topos of concealing/revealing. As noted above, Ermenrich attached Gundram's account of S. Sualo to the end of his Vita, "with a swifter pen." (80) Gundram, a deacon and royal chaplain, had been sent to Solnhofen by both Hrabanus and Louis the German, who had exiled his chaplain to Sualo's cella. (81) Ermenrich recounts his grueling climb up the narrow mountain path to visit Gundram at Solnhofen (now in the possession of the monastery at Fulda). After a charismatic exchange between the two churchmen--a dialogue based on Saint Jerome's famous vita of the Egyptian anchorites Paul and Antony (which describes the arduous journey of one Egyptian hermit, Antony, to visit the more venerable anchorite, Paul)--Gundram exhorts his friend Ermenrich to write down something about the life of S. Sualo. (82) He then divulges a secret narrative of his own experiences at Solnhofen, which he claims he has never shared with a single soul. Gundram admits to Ermenrich that he had no desire to persist in this "most narrow and sterile space (in artissimum et sterilem locum)," and that he would not have chosen to do so had Louis not ordered him to undertake this penitential mountain ministry. Gundram then provides Ermenrich--at last--with the only observable facts of the Vita--the excavation of the body of the saint, the relics of the tomb, and the continuing existence of the hut. (83) Gundram informs Ermenrich that he had obtained permission from the local bishop of Eichstatt, Altwin, to dig up the body of the blessed Sualo so that he might bury him in a proper oratory. After fasting, Gundram and his party of diggers unearthed the sarcophagus and were overcome by an ambrosial aroma emanating from the dead body (a fairly standard hagiographical trope marking the efficacy of the resurrection of the dead). The excavators peered into the grave and beheld the untouched bones of the saint and a little clod of green earth--still living because of its proximity to the holy body. Gundram then ordered his men to elevate the corpus and place it in a lofty shrine. (84) Only after the unveiling of Sualo's body can the truth of his earthy existence be told.

Today, it is this same material evidence that continues to provide the most historically accurate chronicle of Solnhofen. In a recent article, David Parsons scrutinizes the architectural and archaeological record of S. Sualo's mountain ministry. The extant physical data, according to Parsons, suggests that Solnhofen already housed a Christian basilica as early as 600 C.E. and that this area of southeastern Germania had been Christianized, but that Solnhofen itself had experienced a settlement interruption until the arrival of Sualo (ca. 750s). A temporary church possibly built by S. Sualo in the post 750s, as well as late-eighth-century stone buildings, survive to affirm the holy man's habitation of the place. Parsons argues that the architectural and archaeological remains indicate that the saint had decided to settle at Solnhofen not to proselytize an already Christian region of southern Germania, but to act as a "confirmation of the faith," something that the vita itself intimates, with its focus on Sualo's abandonment of the life of active preaching for the solitude of the Germanic desert. (85)

So how then is the modern hagiologer to read this peculiar and, at times, frustrating Vita? On one level, this is a bad hagiography, flawed by jumbled prose constructions, pompous language, and a calculated narrative circumlocution of historical fact. Even the axis miracle of the Vita, the "Eselswunder (Ass-Wonder)," lacks the exegetical vigor of Hrabanus's own allegorical treatment of Balaam. Yet because the Life does map out the ascetic landscape of ninth-century southeastern Germania--an area of the Carolingian empire only dimly illustrated by primary-text evidence--it should not simply be dismissed as recycled rubbish from distinguished Frankish cloisters. Since the 1960s, hagiologers have concentrated less on the fact that medieval saints' lives do not offer linear, verifiable biographies of their subjects, and more on the social and economic incidental information of these texts as well as the didactic strategies of their authors. (86)

The Vita S. Sualonis is instructive for both avenues of approach to the interpretation of sacred biographies. Besides covering the obviously important information on the Bonifatian mission in southeastern Germania, the influence of Fulda in the South, and the ties between the hagiographer and the royal court at Regensberg, the incidental material gleaned from the Vita is equally significant. Specifically, we learn more about a remote region of East Francia during the time that the Carolingian monarchy was extending its power there, ranging from Charlemagne's attempt to create a waterway between the Main and Donau by connecting the Altmuhl and Rednitz rivers (ca. 790), to Fulda's establishment of a provost at Solnhofen (ca. 830S). (87) Moreover, Ermenrich does provide his audiences with some local history: he describes the Altmuhl River as supporting a lively fishing market specializing in crayfish delicacies, an historical fact mentioned in other Carolingian sources. (88) He also gives topographical information on the region, from its rye fields to its pine forests and stone quarries. (89)

In addition to presenting political, social, and economic information to the reader, the Vita (as do Ermenrich's epistles) also underscores its author's conflicted relationship with the pagan past. While he is aware of the continuing influence of classical culture on his own Christian world, so much so that he wants his readers to believe that Homer and Virgil are still read by Christian men, (90) he simultaneously belittles the overly theatrical traditions of Rome. (91) The Life evinces Ermenrich's connection with the educational traditions of Fulda, for his choice of the Balaam topos for Sualo is more than mere coincidence. Hrabanus Maurus, who wrote a treatise on magic (De magicis artibus) and an exegesis on Balaam (Enarrationes in librum numerorum), belonged to the interpretative strand that considered the pagan magician to be an unwitting Messianic prophet, a theme Ermenrich incorporates into the ninth chapter of the Vita. (92)

Obviously Ermenrich had his audience at Fulda in mind when he chose to model Sualo on the controversial figure of Balaam. For that community, the Vita also communicates a number of other important messages. The hagiographer represents Fulda as the intellectual and monastic center of the Carolingian empire, and by connecting that cloister with the Egyptian-like askesis of Sualo, Ermenrich enables Fulda's cenobites to enjoy a charismatic communion with the Golden Age of Christian asceticism while subtly assuring them that the priest and former monk Sualo was still part of the institution of the church. (93) The Vita demonstrates respect for hierarchical authority (even Gundram, the provost of Solnhofen, asks permission from bishop Altwin of Eichstatt to excavate the saint's tomb). Obviously one of the main didactic agendas of the hagiographer is to negotiate the charged relationships between the institutional church and extra-institutional charismatics. A related theme is Ermenrich's emphasis on Fulda as the head of a monastic network with roots that could be traced back to the famous Boniface and his disciples, including Sualo. A less obvious agenda is Ermenrich's reverence for Carolingian monarchy, a motif designed perhaps to reverse the worsening relationship between the abbey of Fulda and the royal family. By 842, the end date for the composition of the Vita, Fulda and its surrounding territory came under the authority of Louis the German, and Hrabanus, a supporter of Louis's rival, Lothar, eventually retired to the small mountain monastery of the Petersberg. (94) Simultaneously Ermenrich may have focused on the theme of harsh landscapes and ascetic exiles to remind his readers--in a very subtle manner--of Louis the German's attack on Fulda and its leadership. The Life, which was written during the years of conflict, does allow Hrabanus's nephew Gundram to voice his complaint (querimonia) against his political exile. (95)

While the political, educational, and didactic elements of the Vita are crucial for the historian, the ahistoricism of the text is equally compelling. In the introduction to the Vita, Ermenrich proclaims that "the miracles of the saints--which they perform through the power of the Lord--are not fictions but truly are accomplished facts." (96) Yet his sacred biography is fraught with tension between ficta and facta. He cites eyewitness accounts of Sualo's miracula only twice; (97) he is anxious that his audience not find fault with the few exempla he manages to present; and he stresses that even though he is using an allegorical method, biblical typologies can also point to real-life circumstances. (98) Herein lies the importance of Ermenrich's Vita Sualonis, for rarely is a hagiologer presented with such a self-conscious hagiography. The narrative structure of the Vita itself is an allegory--ten chapters for the ten commandments and four named witnesses (Ermenrich, Gundram, Hrabanus, and Rudolf) for the four evangelists. (99) The star of the story is not Sualo, but his Germanic Mt. Sinai, his resurrected corpus, his Egyptian-style cell, and his Balaam-John the Baptist persona. But for Ermenrich, who clearly wanted to invent a foundation myth of Solnhofen for Fulda, allegory must accompany physical proof (body, tomb, votive offerings of crutches [gestatoria] left behind by votaries cured by the saint, and picture tablets illustrating his exorcisms [tabulae pictatoriae]). It is no coincidence that Sualo's mountain itself forms the centerpiece of the narrative, for it would have served as an immutable site on which the medieval pilgrims who trekked up its narrow path could attach the mutable story of the saint. The "sheer materiality" of the mountain, the hermit's cell, and his tomb "confer credibility to the authoritative interpretation [of his life], as if the story itself could be touched and handled." (100) Ermenrich thus provides his audience of pilgrims and ascetics with a stage for memory for their own private, devotional musings on the ascetic life. (101)

When faced with the task of constructing a hagiography about a saint whose only surviving legacy was that he lived in a narrow cell atop a mountain, this seemingly "inept" (Monumenta editor Holder-Egger characterizes the Vita's narrative style as inepta) hagiographer, Ermenrich, demonstrates well how the highly intricate technique of patristic and early medieval exegesis can be employed not only to create allegorical texts that then serve as foundation myths for key monastic institutions (Fulda), but also to provide biblical teaching tools for those dwelling among the impenetrable borderlands of the Carolingian empire.

(1.) The author would like to thank Eric Goldberg, David Appleby, JoAnn D'Alisera, John Arnold, Annette Morrow, Robert Finlay, and Suzanne Maberry for their guidance through the complexities of this hagiographical endeavor.

(2.) For Oswald Holder-Egger's critical edition of the life, see Ermanrici sermo de vita s. Sualonis dicti soli, in Monumenta Germaniae Historica Scriptores (hereafter MGH SS) 15/1.151-63 (BHL 7925-26). For a more recent edition of the Latin text with a German translation, see Andreas Bauch, Quellen zur Geschichte der Diozese Eichstatt, I: Biographien der Grundungszeit, Eichstatter Studien 19 (Regensburg: Friedrich Pustet, 1984), 208-46. For Holder-Egger's views on Ermenrich's style and veracity, see MGH SS 15/1.152: "Gesta Sualonis Ermanrico, qui antea nihil de eo scivit, a Gundhrammo et a quibusdam natu grandioribus, qui sanctum vivum vidisse dicuntur, narrata sunt, sed haec admodum levia et tenuia, partim dubia, partim inepta. Nonnisi quae de auctore et Gundhrammo ex hoc opusculo discimus alicuius momenti sunt. Et haec omnia sermone tam rudi ac mendoso quam turgido ac calamistris vocabulisque inauditis, praesertim Graecis misere corruptis, quasi ornato narrata sunt."

(3.) Edward M. Bruner, "Dialogic Narration and the Paradoxes of Masada," in Text, Play, and Story: The Construction and Reconstruction of Self and Society, 1983 Proceedings of The American Ethnological Society (Washington, D.C.: American Ethnological Society, 1984), 58. Also discussed by Pierre Nora, "Between Memory and History: Les Lieux de Memoire," Representations 26 (1989): 7-25.

(4.) Bruner, "Masada and Dialogic Narration," 65.

(5.) Thomas Head, Hagiography and the Cult of the Saints: The Diocese of Orleans, 800-1200 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), 110-11, discusses the Carolingian hermit paradigm. See also Joseph-Claude Poulin, L'ideal de saintete dans l'Aquitaine carolingienne d'apres les sources hagiographiques, 750-950 (Quebec: Presses de l'Universite Laval, 1975), 67-72.

(6.) Francesco Mosetti Casaretto, "L'Epistola ad Grimaldum abbatem di Ermenrico di Ellwangen: identita e destinazione, scopo, tipologia redazionale," Studi medievali 38 (1997): 647-77, surveys the range of scholarly opinions concerning Ermenrich's literary production.

(7.) "l'elucubration d'une the derange," Brunholzl, Histoire de la litterature latine de moyen age 1/2: L'epoque carolingienne, trans. H. Rochais (Tournhout: Brepols, 1991), 122. Cited by Casaretto, "L'Epistola," 649.

(8.) "Articolato ircocervo," Casaretto, "L'Epistola," 647.

(9.) "guazzabuglio di erudizione disordinatamente profusa quasi senza senso, abbozzato da un maestro che ha la sola evidente intenzione di fare sfoggio delle proprie conoscenze," Giulio D'Onofrio, La teologia carolingia, in Storia della teologia nel Medioevo, 1: I principi, ed. G. D'Onofrio, (Casale Monferrato: Piemme, 1996), 169. Cited by Casaretto, "L'Epistola," 648.

(10.) "der Papierkorb eines karolingischen Gelehrten, der die Bibliotheken von Fulda, der Reichenau und von St. Gallen excerpiert hat," W. Schwarz, Die Schriften Ermenrichs von Ellwangen, in Zeitschrift fur Wurttembergische Landesgeschichte, 28 (Stuttgart: W. Kohlhammer, 1969), 182. Cited by Casaretto, "L'Epistola," 647.

(11.) Bauch, (Quellen zur Geschichte der Diozese Eichstatt, 193) discusses Ermenrich within the context of the Carolingian Schulweisheit. There are some diverging opinions as to Ermenrich's value as an historical source. For example, Casaretto, in his analysis of Ermenrich's epistle to abbot Grimald, underscores that it is much more useful to mine such a source for what it reveals about medieval "alterity" than to attempt to pigeonhole the letter as an example of poor Latin style ("Il problema dell' epistola ad Grimaldum e un problema di "alterita," ovvero di distanza che la separa dal nostro universo semiologico," 649).

(12.) See Head, Hagiography and the Cult of the Saints, 38 and 118 as well as Matthew Innes, "Introduction: Using the Past, Interpreting the Present, Influencing the Future," in The Uses of the Past in the Early Middle Ages, ed. Yitzhak Hen and Matthew Innes (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 1-8.

(13.) Specifically, Ermenrich appears to have incorporated his mentor Hrabanus's teachings on Numbers, the Enarrationes in librum Numerorum (ca. 822) into his Vita Sualonis. For the text of the Enarrationes, see Patrologia cursus completus. Series Latina, ed. J.-P. Migne (Paris, 1886; hereafter PL) 108.587-838. For a discussion of Hrabanus's exegetical works, see Mayke De Jong, "The Empire as Ecclesia: Hrabanus Maurus and Biblical Historia for rulers," in Uses of the Past in the Early Middle Ages, 191-226, and Henri de Lubac, Medieval Exegesis: The Four Senses of Scripture, trans. Mark Sebanc (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1998), 106-12. For more general discussions of Carolingian exegesis, see J. J. Contreni, "Carolingian Biblical Culture," in Iohannes Scottus Eriugena: The Bible and Hermeneutics, ed. Carlos Steel, James McEvoy, and Gerd Van Riel (Leuven: Leuven University Press, 1996), 1-23 and "Carolingian Biblical Studies," in Carolingian Essays: Andrew W. Mellon Lectures in Early Christian Studies, ed. Uta-Renate Blumenthal (Washington, D.C.: Catholic University Press, 1983), 71-98, and Michael Gorman, "The Commentary on Genesis of Claudius of Turin and Biblical Studies under Louis the Pious," Speculum 72.2 (April 1997): 279-329. The first of Hrabanus's works on the Pentateuch, the commentary on Genesis, was finished ca. 822 C.E. (Brunholzl, Histoire de la litterature latine, 93). The dating for Hrabanus's most important biblical commentaries is ca. 818-22, the time when he was working under abbot Eigil of Fulda (see Rabani Mauri, In Honorem Sanctae Crucis, Corpus Christianorum Continuatio Mediaevalis [CCCM] 100, ed. M. Perrin [Turnholt: Brepols, 1997], vi). The chronology and the manuscript tradition of these Torah commentaries are notoriously problematic; see Mayke De Jong, "The Empire as Ecclesia," 193, n. 5. Here, De Jong discusses the manuscript transmission of Hrabanus's exegetical works. The seventeenth-century edition by George Colvenerius (adapted by Migne in the PL version) remains the standard scholarly version of Hrabanus's corpus as there still is no critical text available. For the extant manuscripts of the Enarrationes, see Burton Edwards's Carolingian Biblical Exegesis web site at

(14.) Elizabeth A. Clark discusses the late antique background of the intersection of biblical exegesis and the rhetoric of asceticism: Reading Renunciation: Asceticism and Scripture in Early Christianity (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1999).

(15.) For a discussion of the dating of the Vita and its manuscript history, see Holder-Egger, MGH SS 15/1.151-53. See also Wilhelm Forke, Studien zu Ermenrich yon Ellwangen, in Zeitschrift fur Wurttembergische Landesgeschichte 28 (Stuttgart: W. Kohlhammer, 1969), 6.

(16.) For an introduction to Ermenrich's life and works, see Eric Goldberg, Creating a Medieval Kingdom: Carolingian Kingship, Court Culture, and Aristocratic Society under Louis the East Francia (Ph.D. diss., University of Virginia, 1998), 56-57; Johannes Fried, "Fulda in der Bildungs und Geistesgeschichte des Fruheren Mittelalters," in Kloster Fulda in der Welt der Karolinger und Ottonen, ed. Gangolf Schrimpf (Frankfurt am Main: Josef Knecht, 1996), 33ff; Wattenbach-Levison, Deutschlands Geschichtsquellen im Mittelalter 6: Vorzeit und Karolinger (Weimar: Hermann Bohlaus, 1990), 762-66; Josef Fleckenstein, Die Hofkapelle der deutschen Konig (Stuttgart: Anton Hiersemann, 1959), 179-80; and E. Dummler, "Uber Ermenrich von Ellwangen und seine Schriften," Forschungen zur Deutschen Geschichte, 13 (Gottingen: Verlag der Dieterichschen Buchhandlung, 1873), 473-85.

(17.) The Vita S. Hariolfi (ca. 848-54) was dedicated to Gozbald, bishop of Wurzburg, and based on Boethius's Consolatio. Text is in MGH SS 10.11-15. Bauch, Quellen zur Geschichte der Diozese Eichstatt, 193, discusses this Vita as does Franz Brunhozl, Histoire de la litterature latine, 120-23. For the epistles, see MGH Epp. 5.534-79 (Epistola ad Grimaldum abbatem) and MGH SS 15/1.153-59 (Epistolae ad Gundrammum diaconum and ad domnum Ruadolfum magistrum).

(18.) For a discussion of Ermenrich's views on missionary activity in general as well as his specific involvement in the Slavic missions, see Heinz Lowe, "Ermenrich von Passau, Gegner des Methodius. Versuch eines Personlichkeitsbildes," in Salzburg und die Slawenmission: zum 1100. Todestag des hl. Methodius, ed. Heinz Dopsche, Beitrage des internationalen Symposions vom 20. bis 22. September 1985 in Salzburg (Salzburg: Gesellschaft fur Salzburger Landeskunde, 1986), 221-41.

(19.) Vita 1 (MGH SS 15/1.157): "quo ipse de gente Anglorum magistrum suum, sanctum scilicet Bonifacium archiepiscopum, prosecutus, hanc in patriam." See also Friedrich Prinz, Fruhes Monchtum im Frankenreich: Kultur und Gesellschaft in Gallien, den Rheinlanden und Bayern am Beispiel der monastischen Entwicklung, 4 bis 8. Jahrhundert (Munich: R. Oldenbourg, 1988), 511.

(20.) See Wood, Merovingian Kingdoms, 306. Goldberg (Creating a Medieval Kingdom, 5, n. 9) argues that it is impossible to use Germany in its modern geographical sense for the Frankish empire, but that Carolingian writers did ocassionally use the classical designation Germania. Solnhofen itself was located in southeastern East Francia near the borders of Bavaria. Its diocesan center, Eichstatt, was in Bavaria.

(21.) Vita 2 (MGH SS 15/1.157-58): "At vero iste soli Domino ymnis ac orationibus vacare desiderans--et ob puto eum Solum ex divina providentia nuncupatum--heremum petiit et solitudinem amavit." For Ermenrich's treatment of the hagiographical topos of the conflict between the active life and the contemplative life, see Jean LeClercq, "Problemes de l'eremitisme, Studia monastica 5 (1963): 197-212.

(22.) Vita 5 (MGH SS 15/1.158). For a discussion of the archaeological evidence at Solnhofen, see David Parsons, "Some Churches of Anglo-Saxon Missionaries in Southern Germany: A Review of the Evidence," Early Medieval Europe 8.1 (1999): 31-67.

(23.) Vita 6 (MGH SS 15/1.159).

(24.) Vita 10 (MGH SS 15/1.161). Gundram was not the first successor to Sualo's little hut, for he replaced another provost named Santharat. See Bauch, Quellen zur Geschichte der Diozese Eichstatt, 192. For a brief discussion of the monastic history of Solnhofen, see Josef Hemmerle, Die Benediktinerkloster in Bayern, in Germania Benedictina 2 (Augsburg: Kommissionsverlag Winfried-Werk, 1970), 292-94.

(25.) Vita 10 (MGH SS 15/1.161). Noted by Goldberg, Creating a Medieval Kingdom, 57.

(26.) For discussions of Boniface and his mission, see Ian N. Wood, The Merovingian Kingdoms, 450-751 (London: Longman, 1994), 304-6 and J. M. Wallace-Hadrill, The Frankish Church (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1983), 150-61. For pilgrimage to Fulda, see Bat-Sheva Albert, Le pelerinage a l'epoque carolingienne, Bibliotheque de la Revue d'histoire ecclesiastique 82 (Bruxelles: Editions Nauwelaerts, 1999), 215.

(27.) See David F. Appleby, "Rudolf, Abbot Hrabanus, and the Ark of the Covenant Reliquary," The American Benedictine Review 46.4 (1995): 428.

(28.) The author would like to thank Eric Goldberg (Williams College) for this point. This "larger attempt" also would include Rudolf of Fulda's more famous Vita of the holy woman and missionary, Leoba (MGH SS 15/1 122-31) and his Miracula sanctorum in Fuldenses ecclesias translatorum (MGH SS 15/1.328-41). Also, there are many parallels between the Vita of Sualo and the Life of the missionary S. Gall, a member of the Columbanus circle (MGH SRM 4.251-337).

(29.) Vita, introduction (MGH SS 15/1.157): "Et dum usque hodie Maronis ac Homeri inutiles fabulae a christianis viris lectitantur, cur non magis libet perscrutari dicta ac facta maiorum, ad quorum tumbas sedulo procumbimus, divinam clementiam implorantes, quatenus per intercessionem eorum qui iam sunt in caelo cum eo coronati nos, qui adhuc in dubio scammate assistimus, auxiliare ad gloriam sui triumphi dignetur?" Forke discusses Ermenrich's conflicted relationship with the classical past (Studien zu Ermenrich von Ellwangen, 75 and 95).

(30.) Vita, introduction (MGH SS 15/1.157): "Et quia magnorum heroum omnium acta pensare dignum me fore haud censeo, mei honorabillimi beati Soli sacerdotis Christi vitam ex parte tangendo, licet super meas vires sit, propalare tamen aggrediar."

(31.) Vita 6 (MGH SS 15/1.159): "ex quibus pauca, quae ex quodam sene, ipsius sane servitore, in decrepita iam aetate superstite agnovi, annectam narratione subbrevi."

(32.) Vita 10 (MGH SS 15/1.162): "Cum itaque ego a viro venerabili domno Altino episcopo, ad cuius diocesim locus ipse pertinet, rogarem, uti sepulchrum beati viri effodiendi et in eodem pavimento aliquanto melius humandi licentiam daret, concessit ut rogavi."

(33.) Ermenrich repeatedly defends his use of allegory and bemoans the fact that little is known of the saint's miraculous activities, save for the testimony of a few old men who were living at Solnhofen. Vita 4 (the defense of allegory), Vita 6, 9 (the testimony of the aged witnesses to Sualo's virtus).

(34.) Vita 1 (MGH SS 15/1.157).

(35.) This and all subsequent references to the Vulgate Bible are from Alberto Colunga and Laurentio Turrado, eds., Biblia Vulgata (Madrid: Biblioteca de Autores Cristianos, 1994)

(36.) Vita introduction (MGH SS 15/1.156).

(37.) Vita 1 (MGH SS 15/1.157): "hanc in patriam ceu iubar solis clarissimum delatus est."

(38.) Vita 1 (MGH SS 15/1.157): "totam Franciam ac Alamanniam luce fidei."

(39.) LeClercq, "Problemes de l'eremitisme," 203ff, discusses Ermenrich's treatment of the tension between the vita activa/vita contemplativa.

(40.) Phrase middle ground taken from U.S. environmental historian Richard White, The Middle Ground: Indians, Empires, and Republics in the Great Lakes Regions, 1650-1815 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991). White defines the middle ground as an abstract cultural space where social, economic, and political accommodation--not acculturation--occurs between two rival groups.

(41.) The remainder of this section uses the exegetical name, Solus, instead of Sualo.

(42.) Vita 2 (MGH SS 15/1.158): "et ob hoc puto eum Solum ex divina providentia nuncupatum--heremum petiit et solitudinem amavit."

(43.) Vita 3 (MGH SS 15/1.158): "Nempe et ipse locus, quem incoluit, ex eius nomine solitudo dici potest, quem tamen quidam vulgarice Cellam Solonis vocant. Ast ego, salva caeterorum estimatione, dico eum melius monachum, id est Solum, quam Solonem, et cellam ipsam beati Soli quam cellam Solonis posse nuncupari, dum et ipse solus a mundi actibus sequestratus, Deo solo sit coniunctus, solitudo ipsa eo cultore nomen superstite habeat." Vita 2 (MGH SS 15/1.158): "vero iste soli Domino ymnis ac orationibus vacare desiderans."

(44.) Vita 3 (MGH SS 15/1.158): "Plus enim in secreto pectoris sui cubiculo conati sunt Deo placere, quam superficietenus actus suos propalare mallent." Clearly, Ermenrich is here using a strategy of Neoplatonic exegesis--by enclosing himself in a tiny cell, the holy man opens his body only to divine penetration. For an example of this kind of exegesis, see Origen, Homilies on Leviticus, Marcel Borret, trans., Origene: Homilies sur le Levitique, Sources Chretiennes 286-87 (Paris: Editions du Cerf, 1981). Origen's homilies were extremely influential during the Carolingian Renaissance, particularly on the writings of Hrabanus Maurus. See Lubac, Medieval Exegesis, 166, and Robert G. Babcock, "Haresie und Bibliothek: Die Fuldaer Handschrift von Origenes' Peri Archon," in ed. Schrimpf, Kloster Fulda, 299-313.

(45.) Vita 3 (MGH SS 15/1.158): "dum et ipse solus a mundi actibus sequestratus, Deo solo sit coniunctus." Leclercq's work on Sualo focuses on the motif of the conflict between the vita activa and the vita contemplativa. He notes that the hagiographer subtly juxtaposes the term illi ("those ones") for the active ministers vs. ille ("that man") for the reclusive Sualo. Furthermore, he argues that this is the key to the vita, for Ermenrich negotiates carefully between these two seemingly opposed forms of asceticism without privileging one over the other. See "Problemes de l'eremitisme," 203ff.

(46.) Vita 5 (MGH SS 15/1.158).

(47.) Vita 5 (MGH SS 15/1.158): "sub sincerissimo humilitatis pallio occultante."

(48.) A major theme of Raymond Van Dam, Leadership and Community in Late Antique Gaul (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985).

(49.) Vita 6 (MGH SS 15/1.159): "Coeperunt autem et multa miracula Domini gratia tribuente per eum fieri; ex quibus pauca, quae ex quodam sene, ipsius sane servitore, in decrepita iam aetate superstite agnovi, annectam narratione subbrevi."

(50.) Vita 6 (MGH SS 15/1.159): "annectam narratione subbrevi."

(51.) Vita 7 (MGH SS 15/1.158): "a primis cunabulis."

(52.) Vita 7 (MGH SS 15/1.159): "incognitum lumen."

(53.) Vita 8 (MGH SS 15/1.159): "Surde et mute, exi a plasma Dei."

(54.) Vita 7 (MGH SS 15/1.159): "Cuius hactenus gestatoria in loco datae salutis pendentia ad signum sunt." J. F. Niermeyer, Mediae Latinitatis lexicon minus (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1976), 467, translates Ermenrich's use here of gestatoria as "crutches" (vs. the more usual translation of "sedan chair" or "bier").

(55.) Vita 7 (MGH SS 15/1.159): "Sed cur hoc de eo clanculum videtur, cum ipse salutiferae medicus salutis est."

(56.) Vita 7-8 (MGH SS 15/1.159-60). For a discussion of the hagiographical theme of saint as medicus, see Raymond Van Dam, Saints and Their Miracles in Late Antique Gaul (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1993), 82-115.

(57.) For a discussion of Jewish and Christian exegeses of Balaam, see Judith R. Baskin, Pharaoh's Councellors: Job, Jethro, and Balaam in Rabbinic and Patristic Tradition (Chico, Calif.: Scholars Press, 1983), 75-113. See also Geza Vermes, Scripture and Tradition in Judaism: Haggadic Studies, Studia Post-Biblica, vol. 4 (Leiden: E. J. Brill,

1973), 127-77. The Balaam/Sualo narrative is the main feature of Vita 9 (MGH SS 15/1.160-61).

(58.) Vita 9 (MGH SS 15/1.160): "Sane et hoc miraculum huic opusculo inserendum censui, quod multi vetustiores accolae se meminisse ferunt supradicti pagi."

(59.) LeClercq, "Problemes de l'eremitism," 206: "domination exercee sur les animaux."

(60.) See Baskin, Pharoah's Counsellors, 89-91 for the rabbinical traditions concerning Balaam. For a discussion of the relationship between Jewish and Christian exegetical traditions, see Clark, Reading Renunciation, 62-68.

(61.) For example, Ambrose Epistle 50 (PL 16.1155-59), Gregory the Great, Moralia in lob, 27.2 (PL 76.399) and Homiliae in Hiezechielem, 9.26 (PL 76.882), and Isidore of Seville, Allegorie quaedam S. scripturae, 67 (PL 83.110). Hrabanus Maurus, who incorporates many of the above patristic interpretations of Balaam into his Explanations of Numbers 822 understood Balaam to be a forerunner of the Magi (PL 108.735): "posset quidem et de illo Balaam intelligi, sed hoc quod Magi illi, qui de Oriente venientes, primi adoraverunt Jesum." Baskin (Pharoah's Counsellors, 101-13) discusses the history of patristic exegesis on Balaam. See also Valerie I. J. Flint, The Rise of Magic in Early Medieval Europe (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1991), 152, 165-6.

(62.) Flint, Rise of Magic, 55-56.

(63.) Enarrationes in librum Numerorum, PL 108.587-838, section on Balaam, 725-67. In his Epistle 11 (MGH Epp. 5, 397-98) Hrabanus explains that Bishop Freculph of Liseux had asked him to compose a spiritual account of Numbers. For Hrabanus's knowledge of Jewish exegetical traditions, see Jean-Louis Verstrepen, "Raban Maur et le Judaisme dans son commentaire sur les quatre livres des rois," Revue Mabillon 7 (1996): 23-55. And, for an anthropological discussion of Numbers, see Mary Douglas, In the Wilderness (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1993).

(64.) PL 108.727. In this passage, Hrabanus attempts to understand what the objects (divinacula) the Elders of Moab brought to Balaam were. He therefore muses that perhaps Balaam practiced his art on fairly standard "gentile" magical tripods (tripodas) and caldrons (cortinas).

(65.) PL 108.730: "Nec mireris, si eum quem diximus scribarum et doctorum populi formam tenere, videas prophetantem de Christo."

(66.) PL 108.727: "Igitur Balaam divinculis acceptis, cum solerent daemones ad se venire, fugatos quidem daemones videt, sed adesse Deum; et ideo dicit interrogare se Deum, quia consuetos sibi parare nusquam daemones videt. Venit ergo ipse ad Balaam, non quod dignus esset ad quem veniret Dens, sed ut fugarentur illi qui ei ad maledicendum et male faciendum adesse consueverant. Iam hinc enim providebat Deus populo suo."

(67.) PL 108.729: "Si dignus fuisset Balaam, verbum suum Deus non in ore eius, sed in corde posuisset."

(68.) PL 108.731. In this passage the abbot describes the role reversal that occurred between the magician and his ass: "quam quodam ipse Balaam, id est, seductori idololatriae, quasi brutum animal et nulla ratione retinens, quo voluit errore, substravit."

(69.) Hrabanus is quite insistent on Balaam's depravity: the Mesopotamian prophet is God's enemy ("inimicus Dei," PL 108.738); he is illuminated by Lucifer ("[Balaam] illuminatus sine dubio ab illo Lucifero," PL 108.732:); he is a practicioner of the demonic arts (PL 108.727); and Hrabanus also likens him to a brute animal (PL 108.731).

(70.) PL 108.746: "quae nunc propter velamen quod positum est super cor eorum neque vident, neque intelligunt."

(71.) PL 108.736.

(72.) On the hermit topos of the struggle between demonic and divine powers, see Head, Hagiography and the Cult of Saints, 111.

(73.) PL 108.731-32 details the conflict between the mons corrupte and the holy mountains of biblical discourse.

(74.) Ermenrich refers to the Germanic peoples as a plebs sacra in the little hymn to Sualo he attaches to the end of the Vita (MGH SS 15/1.163). The messianic interpretation of Numbers 25:2 was upheld by Jewish and Christian exegetes alike, from Talmud to Hrabanus Maurus. For Hrabanus Maurus's exegesis on Balaam as Christ's prophet, see PL 108.730: "Prophetavit ergo et Balaam de Christo." Hrabanus, like Origen before him, viewed Balaam's ass as a forerunner of the Christian church. See Baskin (Pharoah's Counsellors, 106) for Origen's interpretation.

(75.) Vita 10 (MGH SS 15/1.161): "nisi Dei omnipotentis auxilio atque intercessione beati Soli suffulciremur, vel in articulis pedum vel naribus cruentaremur."

(76.) Vita 4 (MGH SS 15/1.158).

(77.) Vita 10 (MGH SS 15/1.161).

(78.) Vita 4 (MGH SS 15/1.158): "Sed vox in deserto clamantis direxit viam asperiorem in planiorem."

(79.) Vita 5 (MGH SS 15/1.158) adopts the language of the Vulgate description of John the Baptist.

(80.) Vita 9 (MGH SS 15/1.161): "annectere ociori pennula curavi."

(81.) Vita 10 (MGH SS 15/1.161): "Ego namque, frater karissime, impetrante domino meo rege, ex oboedientia patrui ac domini mei karissimi et fratrum eius."

(82.) Jerome, Vita Pauli, PL 23.17-30. Gundram, in an epistle to Ermenrich, compares the wonderworking abilities of S. Sualo to those of the great anchorites Antony and Paul: "ita ut aliquem ex prioribus heremicolis, vel Antony vel Paulum in eo mirares, (MGH Epp. 5, 54)." Noted by Fried, "Fulda in der Bildungs und Geistesgeschichte," 34.

(83.) For a discussion of tugurium as an architectural structure built over the tomb of a saint, see John Crook, The Architectural Setting of the Cult of the Saints in the Early Christian West, c. 300-c. 1200 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), 254, n. 61.

(84.) For the Carolingian ritual of elevatio of a saint's body, see Vauchez, Sainthood in the Later Middle Ages (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 20.

(85.) Parsons, "Some Churches of the Anglo-Saxon Missions," 57-62 and 66-67.

(86.) In the 1960s Frantisek Graus (Volk, Herrscher und Heiliger im Reich der Merowinger: Studien zur Hagiographie der Merowingerzeit [Prague: Nakladatelstvi Ceskoslovenske akademie, 1965]) explored the social ramifications of hagiography as well as its propagandistic qualities. Patrick Geary ("Saints, Scholars, and Society," in his Living with the Dead in the Middle Ages [Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1994], 12-13) discusses Graus's contribution to the field of hagiology. For an exploration of the rhetorical and didactic implications of hagiography, see Averil Cameron, Christianity and the Rhetoric of Empire: The Development of a Christian Discourse (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991).

(87.) See Friedrich Prinz, Fruhes Monchtum, 256-57.

(88.) Vita 4 (MGH SS 15/1.158): "In pago namque Sualafeldonio ipse locus situs est, habens orientali ex parte flumen quod Altmona nuncupatur, piscibus copiosum et maxime bimanes cancros ebulliens navalique mercimonio aptum." Charles Bowlus (Franks, Moravians, and Magyars: The Struggle for the Middle Danube, 788-907 [Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1995], 33-35) discusses the Carolingian expansion into what is modern-day southern Germany. He also notes that fishing fights "were among the most sought after privileges in this region" (43).

(89.) Vita 4 (MGH SS 15/1.158). Solnhofen remains a famous stone quarry to this day.

(90.) Vita introduction (MGH SS 15/1.157): "Et dum usque hodie Maronis ac Homeri inutiles fabulae a christianis viris lectitantur."

(91.) Vita introduction (MGH SS 15/1.156): "In paganorum itaque multorum panagericis dum multos scenico more viventes ita poeticis figmentis conperimus, perlectis eorum actibus, laudatos, ut stolida mente et penitus a lumine fidei caeca eos in deos transtulissent."

(92.) De magicis artibus (PL 110.1095-1110) and Enarrationes in librum Numerorum (PL 108.725-67).

(93.) Maria-Elisabeth Brunert, "Fulda als Kloster in eremo," in Schrimpf, ed., Kloster Fulda, 59-78, discusses the hagiographical representations of Fulda as an ascetic "desert."

(94.) Prinz, Fruhes Monchtum, 511: "So bestatigen die Quellen die Notwendigkeit der Trennung zwischen der herrscherfreundlichen frankischen Historiographie und Hagiographie under der angelsachsischen, hinsichtlich des Herrscherkultes wesentlich `neutraleren' Hagiographie des Festlandes. Ebenso bezeichnend ist es auf der anderen Seite, dass im Sola-Leben, das Ermenrich of Ellwangen um 839/842 verfasste, die Karolinger ruhmliche Erwahnung finden. Ermenrich war ein Schuler des Hrabanus Maurus und des Magisters Rudolf in Fulda und verbrachte spater langere Zeit am Hofe Ludwigs des Deutschen in Regensburg; so nimmt es nicht Wunder, dass in dieser Vita aus karolingischer Sicht die fruhere angelsachisische Distanz zum Herrscherhaus fehlt." For Louis the German's acquisition of Fulda and Hrabanus's subsequent retirement, see De Jong, "Hrabanus Maurus and Biblical Historia for Rulers," 208-9, and Goldberg, Creating a Medieval Kingdom, 75

(95.) Vita 10 (MGH SS 15/1.161): "Simul et hoc scito, quod hanc querimoniam nulli hominum antea planxi, sed neque tibi, nisi quod obtrusa angustia familiariter dissoluta solet deinceps frequenter levius portari."

(96.) Vita, introduction (MGH SS 15/1.156): "non ficta, sed veraciter facta."

(97.) Vita 6 (MGH SS 15/1.159) and Vita 9 (MGH SS 15/1.160).

(98.) Vita 4 (MGH SS 15/1.158): "Quae quamvis typica sint, huic tamen caelicolae loco non inconvenienter aptari possunt."

(99.) Vita 10 (MGH SS 15/1.163): "quod denarius et quaternarius numerus figurat, scilicet ut, qui in concordia decalogi et evangelii totam vitam suam duxerat, tali sylogismo subiaceat."

(100.) Bruner, "Masada and Dialogic Narrative," 72-73, explores the relationship between the immovable mountain of Masada and the authoritative interpretation of the events that took place there in 73 C.E..

(101.) For a discussion of the role of memory in medieval culture, see Mary Carruthers, The Book of Memory: A Study of Memory in Medieval Culture (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), especially chapter 1, "Models for the Memory," 16-45.

Lynda L. Coon is an associate professor of History at the University of Arkansas.
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Author:Coon, Lynda L.
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Date:Mar 1, 2003
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