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Eigil: Life of Sturm, early 9th Century


[Talbot Introduction]

Though Eigil is called "Saint ", his name is not to be found in any martyrology. He was born in Norica of noble parents, and shortly after the martyrdom of St. Boniface he was sent to Fulda to be educated under the supervision of his relative Sturm, first abbot of the monastery. As he is careful to point out, he remained at his side for twenty years. After Sturm's death in 779 the abbey was ruled first by Bangulf, then by Ratgar, but the latter's mania for building impeded the progress of the school and brought on other troubles which led to his deposition and banishment. In his place Eigil was elected about the year 8I8, and he continued in office until his death in 822. There is reason to believe that Eigil shared in the movement which demanded the deposition of Ratgar and which placed a request before Charlemagne in 8II for the enforcement of stricter monastic discipline. But one of Eigil's first acts after his installation as abbot was to demand the return of Ratgar from Louis the Pious.

The Life of Sturm was written at the request of the virgin Angildruth. It contains interesting details about the foundation of the Abbey of Fulda and the various changes that took place there. Eigil's own biography was drawn up by his disciple Candidus and survives in two forms: one in Prose the other in verse.

Sources. The first edition of the Life of St. Sturm came from the hands of Chr. Browerus, Vita Sancti Stumi Primi Abbatis Fuldensis, in Sidera Germaniae (Mainz, 161:6), pp. 5-24. The critical edition is found in Monumenta Gernurniae Historica, Scriptores, vol. ii, pp. 366-77. This is, as far as I am aware, the first English translation.


THE LIFE OF ST. STURM
BY EIGIL, ABBOT OF FULDA

[181] I have always known, O Angildruth, that you were fired with divine love and filled with a desire for better things. And for this reason I comply with your request. For you ask me to recount the life of the holy and venerable Abbot Sturm and to put into writing the early beginnings of the monastery of the Holy Saviour which he founded and which is known by the name of Fulda. You also ask me to describe the events connected with the monastery as I have heard or seen them. As far as my capabilities allow, I have carried out your request and I have compressed into this little book both the early days and life of Sturm as reliable witnesses have recounted them to me, and the foundation of the aforesaid monastery. I have also added some details about the changes effected in the course of time, such as I have heard from others or seen with my own eyes. For I, Eigil, was his disciple for more than twenty years, and I was brought up and trained in the observance of his monastery from childhood. Some of the events, therefore, which I describe can be vouched for from my own experience.

So here you have what you asked for, a slip of parchment inscribed with your name to be kept or laid aside as you choose. It rests with you to answer for me to the criticisms of my enemies: defend me as one moved more by goodwill than presumption, and sustain me by your holy prayers with Christ as your true Spouse.

At the time the venerable Archbishop Boniface set foot in Norica, imparting the faith to the priests and people of the Church, suppressing there the errors of the heretics and curbing with the true doctrine of Christ those people who, although already Christians, were infected with the evil teaching of the pagans, certain nobles came to him vying with each other to offer their sons to be brought up in the service of God. Among those whom he accepted at the instance of his parents was Sturm, a native of [182] Norica and a member of a noble Christian family. Leaving behind all his relatives and following the Father of our redemption) he set out joyfully on a journey with the bishop who had accepted him, much to the grief of his father and mother. After they had traversed several provinces they reached Frizlar in the land of the Hessians, where the bishop entrusted him to the care of a certain priest named Wigbert. This holy priest took great pains to instruct the boy Sturm in the service of God.

After he had learned the psalms by heart and mastered many books by repeatedly going over them in his mind, the boy began to understand the spiritual meaning of the Scriptures and set himself to learn the hidden secrets of the four Gospels of Christ, and, as far as he was able, to fix in his mind by colltinual reading the Old and New Testaments. His meditation was upon the law of God, as Scripture says, night and day. His understanding was profound, his thoughts full of wisdom, his words of prudence. Pleasant in countenance, modest in bearing, good­mannered, irreproachable in his conduct, charitable, humble, mild, ready to perform any service, he drew to himself everyone's affection. After a certain length of time he was, with common consent, ordained priest, and as opportunity presented itself he began to explain to the people the hidden words of Christ. Through the power of the Holy Ghost many miracles were wrought by him. Many times he drove out evil spirits by his prayers from sinful Christians. Many tiInes he cured souls that had been infected with the poisonous doctrines of error. Those who were at enmity with one another were ordered by him to become reconciled before the setting of the sun; and to all he taught patience, mildness, humility, longanimity, faith, hope and charity.

When he had spent almost three years of his priesthood preaching and baptizing he was divinely inspired to undertake the rigorous life of a hermit. This idea haunted him at every moment of the day, until on a divine impulse he opened his heart to his spiritual master, the archbishop Boniface. On learning of his intention, the holy man quickly saw that the Lord had deigned to move him by His grace, and, seeing that the inspiration came from GodJ he encouraged him and became the chief supporter in his [183] design. He therefore gave him two companions, carefully instructed them and, after praying and giving them his blessing, said: "Go to the solitude which is called Bochonia and see if the place is fit for servants of God to dwell in, for even in the desert God is able to prepare a place for His followers."

So the three of them set out to find a place for a hermitage; and when they reached a wild and uninhabited spot and could see nothing except earth and sky and enormous trees they devoutly prayed to God to g ude their footsteps in the way of peace. After three days they came to a place which is nowadays nalled Hersfeld; and when they had explored all the district round about they asked Christ to bless it and make it fit for them to dwell in. This is the spot on which the monastery now stands. There they made small huts roofed over with the bark of trees, and there they stayed for a long time serving God in fasts, watching and prayer.

Some time later, when Sturm had settled down to the hermitical life, he left the solitude and went to the holy archbishop Boniface, to whom he described in detail the situation, the quality of the soil, the running water, the fountains and valleys and everything else connected with his foundation. Boniface listened intently to all he had to say, and after turning it over in his mind ordered him to remain at his side for a time. They discussed together, among other things, the abundant consolation to be found in Holy Scripture, and then the archbishop said: "You have indeed found a place to live in, but I am afraid to leave you there on account of the savage people who are close by, for, as you are aware, there are Saxons not far from that place and they are a ferocious race. Look for a spot farther away, deeper in the woods, where you can serve God without danger to yourselves."

Thereupon blessed Sturm meekly accepted the suggestion of the archbishop and, being anxious to discover another site, set out eagerly for the hermitage. When he reached his companions he found them in their huts anxiously awaiting his return. As soon as he saw them he gave them greetings from the archbishop and brought them comfort by telling them all about his journey, about the archbishop, and described in detail all that the archbishop had said to him. Then he took the two brothers with him and set off  [184] upstream in a boat. As they glided along the river Fulda they kept a sharp look­out for streams and fountains. They then disembarked and traversed the country on all sides, looking at the soil, the mountains, the hills, the heights and the valleys to see if the Lord would show them a place in the wilderness fit for them to live in.

At last, on the third day, they came to a spot where the river Luodera flows into the Fulda. But finding nothing that suited their purpose, they turned downstream from there and began to row back to their own hermitage, stopping for a short time on the way at a place called Ruohenbach, where it seemed possible that servants of God might be able to live. On the whole they thought that the archbishop might not approve of it. Then, sailing back along the same river, after a short time they arrived at their own poor huts. There they continued to pray to God to find them a suitable site for a hermitage where they might be able to serve Him in accordance with the requirements of the archbishop Boniface. Day and night they persevered in fasting, watching and prayer, always keeping the memory of God before their eyes and saying in their hearts: "I have set the Lord always before me: because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved." The praise of God was also ever on their lips and in their hearts, and they fulfilled the saying of the psalmist: " I will bless God at all times: His praise is ever on my lips."

Then the holy bishop Boniface, mindful of his hermit Sturrn and pleased at what he had done to find another site, sent for him and asked him to come quickly to his presence. The messenger lost no time in coming and found him dwelling in the abovementioned huts and greeted him, saying: "Our revered bishop has great desire to see you. You should come because he has many matters to discuss." At these words the holy man Sturm gave this humble reply: " I give thanks to God that so great a bishop should be mindful of my lowly self and should deign to send his messenger to me in this wilderness." Then calling his brethren to him, he commanded them to show all kindness to the messenger. Carefully carrying out his behest, they set a table before him and offered him such food as they had; and when he had eaten, the [185] brethren asked his leave to withdraw. Then the man of God summoned the messenger, thanked him for his labour and said: "Greet the holy bishop Boniface in the name of his servants and say that I will hasten to him as quickly as I can." Then he blessed hirn and allowed him to return.

On the following day the man of God asked the blessing of his brethren and set out at once and, taking the road to Seleheim [near Amoeneburg], hastened to meet the bishop. On the second day after he had set out he met him in the place we have already mentioned, called Frizlar. When it was told the bishop that the hermit Sturm had arrived he gave orders that he should be brought into his presence. When this had been done Sturm fell prostrate at his feet and, greeting the bishop, asked for his blessing. The bishop returned his greetings, blessed him and ordered him to approach and, after kissing him, commanded him to sit at his side. He rejoiced at his coming and asked him for the sake of the love he bore him to relax somewhat his usual fast. The man of God, acting with great discretion and out of reverence for his master the bishop, complied. " Anything that you may command," said he, "I believe to be holy."

Presently the table was set in the presence of the bishop, and Sturm ate the food which he had commanded him to take. When he had eaten and the table was removed the bishop rose, took him aside into a quiet place where they could be alone, and there they talked for a long time about spiritual matters and about the Christian life. For, as afterwards appeared, the bishop was very eager to establish monastic life in the wilderness, and for this reason he enquired, among other things, what had transpired in the hermit's search for a site. Sturm answered: " We travelled upstream along the river Fulda for several days, but we found no place which we could recommend to you." The holy bishop understood from this that the place predestined by God had not yet been revealed, and an interior prophetic voice told him: "A place has indeed been prepared in the wilderness, and when Christ wills He will show it to His servants. For this reason continue the search, knowing and believing that you will certainly flnd it." And so, assuring Sturrn that a site would eventually be found, and, encouraging him in his [186] love of the monastic life and fortifying him against the attacks of the devil, he allowed him to return to his hermitage. Coming to his cell, which had been built at Hersfeld, already mentioned, he greeted his brethren and related to them the commands and the promise of the bishop.

When he had rested with them for a short time and recovered from his fatigue he saddled his ass and, taking provisions, set out alone, commending his journey to Christ, who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. Alone on his ass, he began his wanderings through the pathless wilderness.

Then the insatiable explorer, scrutinizing with his experienced gaze the hills and the plains, the mountains and valleys, the fountains and streams and rivers, went on his way. Singing psallns with his mouth, he raised his mind to God in prayer, staying in no place except where night compelled him to stop. And wherever he spent the night he cut down trees with a tool which he carried in his hand and made a circular fence for the protection of his ass, so that it would not be devoured by the wild beasts which were numerous there. He himself, making a sign of the cross on his forehead, lay down to rest without fear. And thus the man of God, accoutred with weapons of the spirit, covering his body with the breastplate of justice, guarding his breast with the shield of faith protecting his head with the helmet of salvation, girded with the sword of the Word of God, went forth to the fray against the devil. One day, whilst he was ambling along, he came to a road leading from Thuringia to Mainz which the merchants use, and in the street which goes over the river Fulda he came upon a great number of Slavs swimming in the river and washing themselves. When the ass on which he was riding saw their naked bodies he began to quiver with fear, and even the man of God could not bear the stench of them. They, on their side, like all heathens, began to jeer at him, and when they tried to do him harm they were held back by divine power and prevented from carrying out their intention. One of them, who acted as their interpreter, asked him where he was going. He replied that he was on his way to a hermitage higher up.

So the man of God continued his journey through the frightfull [187] wilderness, seeing nothing but wild beasts, of which there was a ' great number, birds flying, enormous trees and the rough thickets of the forests, until on the fourth day he passed the spot where the monastery now stands, and, climbing up a hill, reached the confluence where the river Gysilaha flows into the Fulda. Continuing a little farther, he came at sunset to the path which was called by the old name Ortessveca. There he passed the night after providing protection for his ass against attacks. Whilst he was busy there putting up the fence he heard afar off the sound of water trickling, but he could not make up his mind whether the noise was caused by man or beast. He stood stock still listening intently, and again he heard the trickle of water. Then because the man of God did not wish to shout, and knowing instinctively that a man was astir, he struck a hollow tree with the weapon he was carrying in his hand. The other, hearing the sound of the beaten tree trunk, came running towards him, crying out. When he came near they saw and greeted each other. The man of God asked him who he was and where he came from. The other replied that he was on his way from Wetteran and that the horse he was leading by the halter belonged to his lord Ortis. And so, talking, they passed the night together in that place, for the other man knew the district very well; and when the man of God told him what he had in mind and what he wished to do the other gave him the names of the various places and explained where the streams and fountains were to be found. The place in which they were resting was called Eihloh. The next morning when they rose they blessed each other and immediately the layman set out on his journey to Grapfelt.

But Sturm, the servant of God, taking another direction and placing his trust in God, began to pick his way through the wilderness alone. After he had made a circuit of Eihloh and found it unsuitable for his purpose he went towards the torrent which even now is called Grezzibach and spent some time there examining the site and the quality of the soil. Then he turned back a short distance and came to the blessed spot foreordained by God on which the present monastery is built. At the sight of it Sturm was filled with great joy and continued his journey in high spirits, [188] for he was convinced that through the merits and prayers of St Boniface the place had been revealed to him by God. As he walked over the ground and saw all the advantages the place possessed, he gave thanks to God; and the more he looked at it from every angle, the more pleased with it he became. So charmed was he with the beauty of the spot that he spent practically a whole day wandering over it, exploring its possibilities. Finally he Uessed it and turned his face towards home.

After two days' journey the man of God arrived at Hersfeld, where he found his brethren engaged in prayer. He told them of the new site and ordered them to set out with him at once. Without further delay he asked the prayers of the brethren for himself and set off to see the bishop. The journey took sevetal days, but when he came into his presence and was kindly received by him he began to describe the place he had found and to enlarge upon its advantages. "I think," he said, "that I have found a site of which you will approve", and when he had acquainted him with the lie of the land, the fertility of the soil and of the supply of running water, which satisfies the needs of the monastery even at the present time, the bishop was filled with enthusiasm. Both of them congratulated each other and gave thanks to God: and then they embarked upon a long discussion on the monastic life and its observances.

For a few days the bishop entertained the herrnit in his house, and after some pleasant talks together he took pains to speak to him on spiritual matters, stimulating him to a love of the monastic life by examples taken from Sacred Scriptures. And so, instructed and confirmed by sound doctrine and the teaching of Holy Writ, Sturm was allowed by the bishop to return to his cell. Boniface on his part set out for the king's court to seek confirmation for the appropriation of the land for the monastery. Eventually Sturm returned to his brethren, who were dwelling in the hermitage. But when he was on the point of taking them with him to the place he had discovered, which was nine years after he first began to live the solitary life, and of returning from Hersfeld, the devil, who is envious of good designs, fearing the effect of their good lives in the wilderness, stirred up the passions of wicked men to [189] prevent the servants of God from taking possession of the site. Being unable to withstand their stubborn opposition, the servants of God withdrew and settled in another place called Dryhlar.

St. Boniface, as we have mentioned, went to Carloman, the King of the Franks, and addressed him with these wise and humble words: "I believe that it would redound to your everlasting reward if, God willing, and with your help, monastic life could be established and a monastery could be founded in the eastern part of your kingdom, a thing that has not been attempted before our tirne. For this reason I beg your kind help in this project, so that in future and for ever a never­fading reward may be laid up for you before Christ, the High King. We have found a site suitable for monastic life in the wilderness which is called Bochon, near the river Fulda, but this property belongs to you. I now beg Your Highness to give us this place, so that under your protection we may sene Christ there."

On hearing these words the king was glad and called together the nobles of his court. He spoke to them with approbation of the bishop's request and in their presence handed over to him the property for which he had asked. " The place you seek and which, as you say, is called Eihloh on the banks of the river Fulda, and any other property I am supposed to possess there at this date, is granted whole and entire to God, and all the land that lies north, south, east and west of that point for a distance of four miles shall be included." A charter of this gift was ordered to be drawn up, signed by the king's own hand, and all the nobles in the vicinity of Grapfelt were summoned by messengers and asked to follow the king's example, if by any chance they possessed any property in that quarter. On the day appointed, when they had gathered together, the messengers of the king addressed them. "All of you," they said, "have come here in obedience to the king's command; he asks, or, more correctly, he requires each one of you who has any claim to land in the place called Eihloh to give it to the senants of God for the use of their monastery." On hearing this, they eagerly abandoned in favour of Sturm whatever rights to property they had in that place, and thus was God's will fulfilled.

[190] The donanon was accordingly confirrned by all and passed frora the possession of men into the possession of God. Blessed Sturm departed to his brethren at Dryhlar and after a few days took seven of the brethren with hirn to the spot where the monastery now stands. On the twelfth day of January in the year of the Incarn aton seven hundred and forty­four, during the reign of the two brothers Carloman and Pippin, the twelfth indicoon, the brethren set foot for the first ame on this holy spot preordained for this purpose by God. They prayed to the Lord to watch over and protect it at all times by His invincible power, and then, sening Hirn day and night in fasong, watching and prayer, they set to work, as far as they were able, to cut down the trees and to dear the site with their own hands.

At the end of two months, the venerable archbishop Boniface, accompanied by a great throng of men, came to see them, and after inspecong all the ground and being made aware of all its advantages and usefulness, he rejoiced in the Holy Ghost and gave thanks to God for having granted to His servants so suitable a place to dwell in. The bishop and the monks then agreed that a church should be built, and so he ordered all the men who had accompanied him to the spot to cut down the woods and clear the undergrowth, whilst he himself climbed the brow of a hill, which is now called Mons Episcopi, and spent his ame praying to God and meditanng on Sacred Scripture. This is the reason why the hill bears its name.

After a week of felling trees and clearing away the brushwood the turf was piled up ready to make lime: then the bishop gave the brethren his blessing, commended the place to God and returned home with the workmen he had brought with him. The following year the bishop came again to visit his new monastery, which by that name was called Fulda, taking its name from the river which flowed close by; and after greeting them remained with them for several days, during which ame he gave the newly recruited monks instruction and established the observances of monastic life according to the principles laid down in the Holy Rule. Whilst he was explaining the Holy Rule to the brethren he read out the passage which states that the drinking of wine does not [191] befit the vocaton of a monk, and so they decided by comrnon consent not to take any strong drink that might lead to drunkenness but only to drink weak beer. Much later this rule was relaxed at a council held in the ame of King Pippin, when, owing to the increasing numbers in the community, there were many sick and ailing among them. Only a handful of the brethren abstained from wine and strong drink until the end of their lives.

Shortly afterwards the bishop had a confidential talk with Sturm and gave him advice about the way to govern others, and then, after addressing the brethren on the need for obedience and submission, he commended them to Christ, bade them farewell and departed. Every year he came to visit them in this way, and whenever he was free from his episcopal duties, which were exacting, he came to stay with them and worked with his own hands. And often he spent long hours on his beloved hill, of which we have already spoken, meditating on the hidden truths of the Scriptures.

When the brethren had conceived a burning desire to follow the rule of the holy father St. Benedict, and had striven to conform their ideas and actions to the discipline of the monastic life, they formed a plan of sending some of their members to well­established monasteries in other places so that they could become perfectly acquainted with the customs and observances of the brethren. When this prudent plan was submitted to the bishop he heartily approved of it and commanded Sturm to undertake the experiment himself. All necessary preparations were made for the journey, two other brethren were chosen to accompany him, and so, four years after the foundation of the monastery, he set out for Rome. There he visited all the monasteries and spent a whole year enquiring into the customs, observances and traditions of the brethren who lived in them. In the following year, much edified by the holiness he had met, he returned home. When he reached his own country he was seized with sickness, and by divine providence was compelled to remain in bed for four weeks at the monastery of Kitzingen. But he recovered from his illness and set out to visit Bishop Boniface, who at that time was in Thuringia. On seeing him, the bishop was greatly pleased, and, giving thanks [192] to God for his safe return, asked him many questions about the places he had seen. And when he noticed how shrewdly Sturm had observed the manners of the people and the observance of the monks there, he said: "Go back to the newly founded monastery at Fulda and as far as you are able establish monastic diseiplille on the pattern of the monks you have seen there." Blessed Sturrn begged the bishop's blessing, and, setting off at once to his solitude, reached it after four days, full of joy at seeing his brethren once again. To them he described what he had seen in Italy and the things he had learned from the fathers of the monasteries in Tuscany, and by wise remarks and his personal example stimulated them to follow in his footsteps. For whenever he suggested the adoption of some point of monastic discipline he always took pains to do it first himself so that no one should say: "Why are your words not confirmed by deeds?"

At that time there was a great desire in the community to adapt their mode of life to the observances either described or shown to them or exemplified in the lives of the saints, and they carried out in every detail the Rule of St. Benedict which they had vowed to follow. So for many years they lived in fervour and holiness. Through the coming of recruits the monastery inaeased, since many came to serve God there and offered both themselves and their possessions. With this growth in the community and the enlarging of their estates the reputation of Fulda spread throughout the countryside, so that its good name reached the ears of brethren in monasteries situated at great distances from it. And since a great number of monks led there a strict life under the discipline of the Holy Rule, the bishop was eager to visit them often; and as he was moved to pity at the sight of their poverty, he gave them small properties in order to provide them with necessary food.

Ten years after his first visit to the holy place the archbishop Boniface took counsel with the king and the other Christians and went into the distant parts of Frisia, which were steeped in paganism. There by teaching and baptizing he gained a great number of people to the faith of Christ. Some years later he departed from them and returned unharmed to the Church in [193] Germany. But the following year he went once more to the swampy homesteads of the Frisians, hoping to complete the missionary work he had begun. On a certain day after his arrival, when he had called the people together to listen to his teaching, they came, not humbly to hear the Word of God, but stirred by an evil spirit. They rushed in during the sermon brandishing weapons, slew the holy Christian bishop with the sword and slaughtered all his companions. After the martyrdom of the bishop and of many who were with him the brethren from the monastery of Trech in upper Frisia came and took the bodies of the martyrs, placing some in tombs, bringing others with them, among them being the bodies of Bishop Boniface, the deacons and priests who suffered with him, and a certain bishop named Eoban, whose head, which was cut off by the attackers, could not be found. When they came [to Trech] they placed the body of St. Boniface together with the bier, on which it had been brought by boat, in a small church, which was near by. The rest of the martyrs' remains they buried. Then all the inhabitants of that place decided that the remains of St. Boniface should always rest among them, for they thought that it would be a great help to them to remain under the protection of so great a martyr. Fasting and prayer was enjoined and they prayed to God that the holy martyr would deign to remain in their midst. But the holy martyr wished his body to be taken to the place of solitude which by the will of God he had chosen for himself. This soon became clear, for, whilst they were trying to bear him to the other church and place him in a tomb there, they put their hands to the bier but were unable to move it. Many others joined forces with them, but even so they were unable to raise the bier on which the holy body lay.

They understood, therefore, that he did not wish to stay in that place, so they said that he should be taken to the city of Mainz. Straightway they raised it without difflculty, and, taking it to the river and placing it on board a boat, they began to draw the boat along the Rhine and make upstream. When Sturm heard of this he made haste from his Abbey of Fulda in the wilderness to meet them and went along with them until they came after a quiet and [194] uneventful journey to Mainz. Forthwith the priests, clergy and people with one voice declared that it was not right to remove the holy martyr of God to another place but that his body should rest where during his life he had held his episcopal see. A messenger also came from the king's court bringing orders that the martyr's body should remain in the city if he so wished.

But Sturm and those who had gathered together from the monastery repeatedly declared that on many occasions whilst the bishop was staying with them he had pointed out the place where they should lay his body to rest and they had no doubts that he would wish to remain at the monastery. But whilst they were arguing in this way, and Lull, the bishop of the city, strongly forbade the body to be taken to the solitude, the holy bishop appeared one night in a dream to a certain deacon and said:

Why do you delay to take me to my place at Fulda? Arise and bear me into the wilderness where God has foreordained a place for me." And the deacon rose and recounted what had been told him in the dream, first to Sturm and then to all the nobles. At this all were struck with fear and did not dare to oppose any further the removal of the holy martyr from that place. Lull, however, who was bishop there, did not wish to believe in the revelation until the man who had seen the vision had placed his hand upon the altar and taken an oath on the veracity of what he had seen. Then, according to the power of God, whose will cannot be withstood, the body of the blessed martyr was raised with great honour, borne to the river to the accompaniment of hymns, placed on board a ship and rowed as far as Hohleim, a village standing on the banks of the Moyn. From there, after a few days-that is, thirty days after his death-the sacred remains of the bishop were carried to the Abbey of Fulda and placed in a new tomb. On the following day Bishop Lull departed together with the clerics and the throng of people who had come with him. Then the venerable abbot Sturm and his brethren gave thanks to God because they had been granted the presence of so powerful a patron as the holy martyr St. Boniface in their midst.

After the coming of the martyr the spot chosen by God began to increase, its reputation was enhanced and the monastery grew [195] in numbers, because many nobles vied with each other in going there and offered themselves and their goods to the Lord. So, day by day, the number of monks grew apace, and under the protection of the Lord the brethren who served God there preserved the strict observance of their holy life with unabated and unflagging fervour. How many miracles were performed there and are still performed to this day I leave to writers better than myself to describe.

But Sturm, who was beloved by all the community and revered by all the people, dutifully fulfilled his ministry, setting himself as an example to the others, for he exhibited in his conduct what he taught by his words. Lull, however, who was bishop there, grew envious of his good reputation and allowed his jealousy to influence his conduct towards him. Since Sturm preached the Word of God everywhere and at all times and was listened to by all with rapt attention, the bitter enemy of the human race, not enduring so great usefulness to remain among the people, began to sow discord among the brethren and stirred up three false brethren to make false accusations against Sturm in the presence of the king, Pippin. These men, led astray by the persuasion of the devil, entered into a conspiracy and, relying on the support of Bishop Lull, went to the king and accused the blessed man of a trumped­up crime, saying that he was an enemy of the king. And when the man of God presented hunself at the court he patiently bore their untruths and made no attempt to exculpate hunself. "My witness," said he, "is in heaven and He that voucheth for me is on high, and therefore I am not put to confusion."

The will of the wicked, however, prevailed, and King Pippin ordered the blessed man to be taken away and sent with some of hus monks and clerics into exile at the great Abbey of Jumieges, where he was welcomed with kindness and honour by the abbot who governed that monastery. For two years he lived in exile there, beloved by all. When the monks at the Abbey of Fulda heard this and it was told them that their abbot had been taken away from them they were greatly troubled and grieved more than one can say. Then there arose a great disturbance in the house of God: some wished to leave the monastery, others to go to court, others[196] implored God with fasting and prayer to show His mercy and corae to their aid. At that time it was widely believed and rumoured that the blessed abbot Sturm had been removed from the Abbey of Fulda at the instance of Bishop Lull: all men without exception took this very ill and there was no Church in the eastern region which did not bewail his exile.

In the meantime Lull, by giving bribes, obtained from King Pippin permission to place the Abbey of Fulda under his jurisdiction, and when this power was granted he installed there as abbot a certain priest of his named Marcus who would obey him in everything; but since the feelings of the brethren were turned against him because of the love they bore to his predecessor, he remained a stranger to them, and their manners did not agree. And because of this disagreement in outlook, though they dwelt together in body, they were separated in mind. Living in this state of disharmony, the brethren were always thinking how, through the grace of God, they could recall their abbot Sturm, and at length, being unable to endure the friction any longer, they hit on the plan of expelling Marcus, whom they had unwillingly accepted as their abbot after Lull had appointed him. Therefore they unanimously agreed to consider him no longer as their supenor. When he was removed, all the brethren wished to leave the monastery and go to the court of King Pippin to demand the retura of their abbot Sturm. When Lull heard of this, he tried to calm them by persuasive words, promising them the power to appoint as abbot any member of the community of their own choosing. As this proposal was acceptable, the brethren elected a monk named Prezzold, a true servant of God, possessed of every good quality, whom blessed Sturm had trained and loved since he was a small boy. They appointed him as their abbot but with the sole purpose in view of discussing together as the days went by how, vvith the help of the holy martyr St. Boniface and the grace of Almighty God, they could induce King Pippia to restore to them their former master Sturm. Prezzold governed the brethren for no little time, uniting them together in charity and co­operating with them on the method of persuading King Pippin to recall their abbot to them.

[197] At length, when Prezzold had given long consideration to the matter and the brethren were stricken with grief at Sturm s absence, they implored God in unceasing prayer to use His invincible power to bring their master back to them. And when they had done this for a long time and all the churches, monastenes and convents in the eastern parts had joined in continual prayer with them, God, the Comforter of the lowly, heard the prayers of His suppliants. And He put it into the heart of King Pippin to think about blessed Sturm. And he commanded him to be brought with honour from his place of exile to the court. When he had come in haste to the court he waited in the king's chapel for several days, praying to God and waiting on the king's pleasure. It happened one day that as the king was going out to hunt and, as was his custom, came at dawn to pray, the rest of the king s servants were taking their rest after Matins. Sturm was praying in the chapel alone, and, seeing the king about to enter, opened the doors for him and led him to the altar with a lighted candle. When the king had humbly prayed to God at the sacred altars, he rose and, gazing on Sturm, he said with a smile: " God has brought us together at this moment. What the accusation was which your monks made against you in my presence I cannot remember, and why I was enraged against you I cannot recall.' Then without hesitation Sturm answered: "Although I am not free from sin, never, O King, have I committed any crime against you." Then the king said: " Whether or not you have ever conceived an evil design against me or have done me any wrong, may God forgive you as I do from my heart. For the future, enioy my favour and friendship all the days of my life." And taking a thread from his cloak, he let it fall to the ground and said: " Lo, as witness of perfect forgiveness, I cast this thread from my cloak on the ground that all may see that my former enmity against you is annulled." And so, reconciled and firmly united in friendship, the king set out on the expedition he had prepared.

After a short time, when Prezzold and the rest of the brethren learned that their beloved master Sturm had been received back into the king's favour and friendship, they thought of going to the court and asking for their master. They sent deputies to the court [198] humbly asking the king to send their abbot back to them. A everytlung that God wills is done, they easily obtained their request. The king kindly acceded to their wishes and promised to send Abbot Sturm to them-a result, we are convinced, due to the many prayers of the servants and handmaids of God. After a short time the king summoned Sturm to his presence and commended to him the government of the Abbey of Fulda, which he had held before. He released him from the jurisdiction of Bishop Lull and commanded him to return with all honour to Fulda, there to govern the monastery with the privileges which blessed Pope Zacharias the Supreme Pontiff, had formerly granted to Boniface. The privilege just mentioned is preserved to this day in the monastery. He also ordered him to consider the king as the abbey's sole protector. On receiving this power from the king, Sturm returned to the monastery, bearing with him the privilege which he accepted from the hands of the king.

The news spread at once throughout all the provinces that Sturm would shortly return, and wherever the monks and nuns heard of it they gave thanks to Christ. When the brethren were told of his approach to the monastery they took up a golden cross and the relics of the saints and went out in procession to meet him at some distance from the abbey. Then they greeted him and those who had accompanied him, and brought him to the monastery, rejoicing and singing hymns. And they praised God who had restored to them the abbot they had long desired. So there was great joy on all sides.

Sturm himself, having given much thought to the question of how to make a new start, began by correcting the faults of the brethren and restoring discipline. He put the administration of the abbey on a better footing, embellished the church which they had at that time, and repaired the monastic buildings by adding new columns, great wooden beams and new roofs. Shortly afterwards he began to wonder how he could carry out the prescription of the Holy Rule which says that divers crafts should be exercised within the monastery in order to obviate the necessity of the brethren's wandering abroad. So he collected together as many workmen as he could. Then with his usual ingenuity, having   [199] surveyed the course of the river Fulda, he drew off a stream from it at some distance from the monastery and made it flow through large canals underneath the abbey workshops, so that the stream of waters made glad the city of God. What great profit this enterprise conferred on the brethren and how great are the advantages it brings to us even at the present time is obvious both to those who see it and those who use it.

Over the tomb ofthe blessed martyr Boniface he built a ciborium wrought of silver and gold, which we call a requiem, and which, as the custom then was, was a work of remarkable craftsmanship. It can be seen to this day, together with the altar of gold, over the tomb of the martyr of Christ.

Because this upright and perfect man of God was held in hugh esteem by all, and particularly by King Pippin, he asked the king, as a token of the intimate friendship that existed between them, to assign him the revenues and the royal possessions in Onamstat as an alms for the monastery. He also begged him to confirm the gift by charter according to the usual custom. On the death of Pippin in the year of the Incarnation seven hundred and sixty­eight, in the twenty­third year of his reign, Charles, his son, succeeded to the kingdom. Since the young king wished to gain the favour of all those who had been honoured by his father, he bestowed large presents upon them. With the same end in view he summoned Sturm, renewed ties of friendship with him and loaded him with honours and princely gifts. At a certain time he was inspired by God to consider his eternal welfare, and, calling Sturm to his side, he decided to transfer to the Abbey of Fulda the vill of Hammelburg with all the revenues that pertained to it. This gift was gratefully accepted by the brethren, who even now pray to the Lord for his salvation. Thenceforward St. Sturm enjoyed the favour of King Charles as long as he lived. It was at this time that Sturm went on an embassy from King Charles to Thasilo, the head of the province of Norica, and established friendly relations between them for several years.

After King Charles had reigned prosperously for four years he began to consider how he might gain the Saxon people to Christ, for they still remained savage and hostile to all their neighbours [200] and were deeply attached to their pagan rites. He took counsel with the senants of God and asked them to pray that the Lord would grant his desire. Then he gathered together a mighty army, placed it under the patronage of Christ, and, accompanied by bishops, abbots and priests and all true believers, set out for Saxony. His purpose was to bring this people, which had been fettered from the beginning with the devil's bonds, to accept the faith and to subrnit to the mild and sweet yoke of Christ. When the king reached Saxony he converted the majority of the people partly by conquest, partly by persuasion, partly even by bribes and not long afterwards he divided the whole of the province into episcopal sees and handed it over to the servants of God to evangelize and baptize. The greater part of that territory with its people was entrusted to Sturm. He accordingly undertook the labour of preaching, employed every means in his power and so gained a great harvest for the Lord. He seized every opportunity to impress on them in his preaching that they should forsake idols and images, accept the Christian faith, destroy the temples of the gods, cut down the groves and build sacred churches in their stead. After he and his priests had spent much time in instructing them and had built churches in each of the districts, the Saxons, who are a depraved and perverse race, lapsed from the Christian faith and reverted once more to their former errors. Then, when they had mustered an army, they streamed across the borders and came as far as the Rhine, laying everything waste and slaughtering all the inhabitants. On their return march they put to the sword everyone they met with savage ferocity. Then they encamped near Lahngau at a short distance from the monastery and planned to send a picked band of warriors from the army to attack the abbey, to burn it to the ground with all its contents and to slaughter all the servants of God. When this news came to the ears of Sturm he summoned the brethren, acquainted them with their imminent danger and advised them to take the body of the holy martyr [St. Boniface] and hasten to Hammelburg. Sturm himself set off for Wedereib to see if he could possibly prevent the soldiers from putting their plan into effect. We, his disciples, took the body of the martyr from its tomb in which it had lain for twenty [201] four years and began to leave the monastery with all the servants of God. On the first night we rested at the next cell, where the waters of the Fulda and the Fleden meet. Then early next day we reached Sinner on the far side and there we pitched a tent in ~vhich we placed the sacred body of the martyr of Christ, whilst the monks encamped around it. After spending three days in tents, messengers came to us on the fourth day telling us that some of our people in the district had banded themselves together and attacked the Saxons, and that the Saxons had been beaten and put to flight. At this news, we took up the bones of the blessed martyr and returned with joy to the monastery, where we interred them once more in the place they had formerly occupied. Then we gave thanks to the Lord Christ for restoring the peace and allowing us to dwell once more in our monastery.

Then King Charles set out a second time for that country to establish by force of arms the Christian faith which had taken root there. He ordered Sturm, now weak and weary with age, to remain with his companions at Heresburg and to keep guard over the city. When everytiung had been arranged according to hus desire, the king, on his return, commanded the holy man to remain for some days in the city already mentioned. After this number of days had elapsed, the man of God returned to the monastery accompanied by the royal physician, named Wintanus, who was to attend him in his illness. One day he gave him some kind of potion as a remedy for his sickness, but instead of dimirushing it rather increased it, so that the painful disease grew stronger and more virulent. Sturm began to say with some anxiety that the physician whose duty it was to cure him had inflicted great harm upon him.

He therefore gave orders to his attendants to bear him quickly to the church, to summon all the brethren and to tell them that his death was imminent; then he asked them to pray earnestly for him. When the community had gathered together, he had them brought into the chamber where he was lying and addressed the assembled brethren with these words: "My brethren, you are well aware of my last wishes. You know how I have laboured, even till the present day, for your profit and peace, particularly for the continuance of this monastery after my death, so that you may be [202] able to serve God here with sincerity and charity according to the will of Christ. Persevere, then, all the days of your life in the ideal you have set before you. Pray to God for me; and if I have committed any fault among you through human frailty or Wronged anyone unjustly, forgive me as I also forgive all those who have offended or wronged me, including Lull, who always took sides against me."

After these and some other good words, he bade farewell to the brethren and sent them away. After the brethren had departed, the holy man began rapidly to lose strength and to hasten above. All were filled with grief; great sorrow afflicted the hearts of the brethren, who implored God with tears to have mercy on him, and they commended the death of their holy and revered abbot to the Lord. The next day, which was the seventeenth of December, his weakness increased and his end rapidly approached. Whilst we stood around his bed and saw how quickly his end would be, one of us said: "Father, we have no doubt that you are going to God and that you will enjoy eternal life. Therefore, we beg Your Paternity to be mindful of us there and to pray for us, your disciples; for our confidence is great that it will be to our profit to have sent on before us so powerful a patron." And he, gazing upon us, said at once: "Show yourselves worthy and so conduct yourselves that I shall be justified in praying for you. Then I will do what you ask." After these words his holy soul was released from the flesh and freed from the prison of the body. Full of good merits, it passed to Christ, whose kingdom endures for ever and ever, Amen.


Source:

C. H. Talbot, The Anglo-Saxon Missionaries in Germany, Being the Lives of SS. Willibrord, Boniface, Leoba and Lebuin together with the Hodoepericon of St. Willibald and a selection from the correspondence of St. Boniface, (London and New York: Sheed and Ward, 1954)

The copyright status of this text has been checked carefully. The situation is complicated, but in sum is as follows. The book was published in 1954 by Sheed & Ward, apparently simultaneously, in both London and New York. The American-printed edition simply gave 'New York' as place of publication, the British-printed edition gave 'London and New York'. Copyright was not renewed in 1982 or 1983, as required by US Law. The recent GATT treaty (1995?) restored copyright to foreign publications which had entered US public domain simply because copyright had not be renewed in accordance with US law. This GATT provision does not seem to apply to this text because it was published simultaneously in the US and Britain by a publisher operating in both countries (a situation specifically addressed in the GATT regulations). Thus, while still under copyright protection in much of the world, the text remains in the US public domain.

Some years ago, a collection of such hagiographical texts, including some texts from Talbot, was published:-

Thomas F.X. Noble and Thomas Head, Soldiers of Christ: Saint and Saints' Lives from Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages, (University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1995).

Soldiers of Christ uses, among others, the Talbot translated texts, but is much improved by additional notes by the two editors, and by new translations of some parts. Readers from outside the US should consult this volume, and readers in the US would find it profitable to do so.


This text is part of the Internet Medieval Source Book. The Sourcebook is a collection of public domain and copy-permitted texts related to medieval and Byzantine history.

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© Paul Halsall, October 1, 2000
halsall@fordham.edu