The Medieval Review 11.12.05

Hauswald, Eckhard. Pirmin Scarapsus. Monumenta Germaniae Historica. Hannover: Hahnsche Buchhandlung, 2010. Pp. 181. 35 EUR. ISBN 978-3-7752-1025-6. . .

Reviewed by:

Brother Charles Hilken, FSC
St. Mary's College of California

Eckhard Hauswald's edition of Pirmin, Scarapsus, an eighth- century pastoral-catechetical work, is one of three recent additions to the Monumenta Germaniae Historica (MGH) series dedicated to intellectual history, Quellen zur Geistesgeschichte des Mittelalters. It is a fine addition to a wide-ranging set of volumes that includes works by Alexander of Bremen, Laurence of Monte Cassino, Lorenzo Valla, Pius II, and Carolingian-era computists.

The editor, in his treatment of what we know about Pirmin, merits praise for his historical-critical eye. He lets the evidence speak for itself. Hauswald's Pirmin is a monk of uncertain geographical origin, who lived most of his life as a wandering monastic founder and chorbishop. The name, Pirmin, is from the lower Rhine or Friesland and is an old Roman name in German dialect. Hauswald leaves open his homeland, as possibly Meaux, Metz, Melsbroek, or elsewhere. Some key biographical dates are 724, when Pirmin founded Reichenau; 727 to 730, when he took over the direction of Murbach Abbey; and sometime shortly before 742, when he took over the direction of Hornbach Abbey. He remained for sometime after at Hornbach, perhaps as a hermit or simply a member of the community. He is credited, however, by his Vita, with founding at least six more monasteries. The geographical extent of his ministry was Alamannia, west of the Rhine, especially in Alsace and Blesgau, the region around the River Blies, a tributary of the Saar. (Alamannia was the old Merovingian duchy north of Lake Constance.) Buried in Hornbach, Pirmin's remains were translated to Innsbruck during the Reformation.

Hauswald treats separately and appropriately the dating and locating of the author and the dating and locating of the author's work, approaching the history of Pirmin's text with same care he uses in giving the history of the author. He distinguishes the various components of the history of the work.

The editor dates Pirmin's work to the second quarter of the eighth century, the terminus post quem being a sermon of Peter Chrysologus (d. ca. 451) first circulated in 724 and the terminus ad quem the Collectio Vetus Gallica, in which Hubert Mordeck had argued for evidence of the Scarapsus already in the archetype of the Corbie redaction.

For the locus of the writing of the work, Pirmin's biography, Hauswald reasons, might point us to his years at Hornbach Abbey. Internal evidence reveals a dependence on the Gallo-Frankish use of Isidore, textual transmissions from the region around Lake Constance, and, farther afield, some affinities to texts from St. Riquier in Picardy and to Rouen. Hauswald admits that these are not entirely congruent source locations, hence another example of the strength of his work in letting the sources speak for themselves. He then shows that from the late ninth century onward, the memory of Pirmin's work was associated with the Irish-Frankish and later Anglo-Saxon missionary efforts and northeast Frankish-Belgian-Frisian relations. His cult in Luxemburg is evidence of these associations.

Scarapsus defies precise definition, or rather, elicits a number of careful definitions. Hauswald calls it "a proclamation of the faith in the form of catechetical instruction" (xix); and elsewhere, "a catechetical-homiletic treatise" (xx), and finally, "a practical pastoral catechism in the form of a long sermon for use in domestic missionary work, for an already baptized people" (xxiv). The editor characterizes the work as a "gathering and dissemination of the Christian fundamentals of the early Middle Ages" (xxi). Hauswald says of Pirmin that he wished to put simply and in understandable form the truths found in the Scriptures and Patristic sources. The fact that the work was an effort to simplify an otherwise vast corpus of religious doctrine, justifies the editor's detailed treatment of the language, which after all was the mode of conveying that effort. Indeed the largest section of Hauswald's introduction--twenty-eight of 106 pages--is dedicated to phonetics, morphology, syntax, and prepositions.

Hauswald argues that, given the state of affairs in the area of Pirmin's ministry, his Scarapsus was equally applicable to monastic and secular clergy as well as directly to the laity. Scarapsus is not a missionary sermon in the narrow sense of ministry to the unbaptized. It is here that the editor defines the work as "a practical pastoral catechism in the form of a long sermon for use in domestic missionary work, for an already baptized people." The work is addressed to clergy and laity. It lays out "world-view clarifying dogmas" (weltbild-klärenden Dogmas") in pieces: Decalogue, Our Father, Creed, followed by salvation history. Its monastic origin is indicated by its critique of the worldly clergy especially the episcopacy.

The editor summarizes the contents. After the part dedicated to dogma and sacred history, Pirmin gave over the bulk of his work to baptismal instruction. This part begins with the baptismal rite itself (c. 12). The bulk of the remainder of the second part and of the entire Introduction--sixty-six of 141 pages--is an instruction against sin. The monastic influence is obvious from the instruction on the eight deadly sins (c. 14): cupiditas, gula, fornicatio, ira, tristitia, accidia (otiositas), vana gloria, and superbia. Here Pirmin was following Cassian and Columbanus, drawing from Irish- Frankish sources.

After the chapter on the eight major sins, chapters 15-22 lay out a series of offenses to avoid, murder; adultery; avarice; perjury; eating unclean things; inebriation; abortion, infanticide, and contraception; and idolatry following, as Hauswald points out, the course of topics in penitential manuals.

The third and final part of the work has a recapitulation of Trinitarian dogma. It then gives a final appeal to conversion of life and morals by way of a reminder of the pains of hell and joys of heaven, and then finally an appeal to goods works towards neighbors for the love of God and the sake of charity. In these concluding chapters Hauswald finds the strong influence of chapter 4 (Quae sunt instrumenta bonorum operum) of the Rule of St. Benedict.

Section 3 of the Introduction addresses the literary models for the work. Upfront are Martin of Braga's De correctione rusticorum, and Caesarius of Arles' sermons. Hauswald then reports on the Bible citations, drawn from the Vulgate, earlier authors, and memory; penitentials and florilegia; and doctors of the Church, understood especially in their role as physicians of the soul (here the editor points to the Irish presence). Hauswald concludes the section with detailed treatment of more contemporary and local influences on Pirmin. The Sermo Eligii (what Hauswald calls the Eligius Compilation, including the homilies of Pseudo-Eligius) is the foremost near contemporary source. This points the editor to northeastern Frankish influence. The use of levita for all the grades under priest, in the prologue is an indication of the influence of the Eligius/Ps.-Eligius homilies, which Hauswald finds as the single source of that use.

Section 4 is devoted to the form of speech. Generally the editor characterizes the speech as late Merovingian Latin, with changes in the Latin made for practical pastoral reasons. His detailed analysis of language follows after noting that there was perhaps fifty years between the writing of the text and the earliest copy. This section charts changes in sound, from classical Latin to spoken Latin to vulgar Latin or pre-Romance language; prosody; vowels; consonants; sonorization and aspiration; and then dittography and haplography. Next Hauswald reports on morphology and ends with a consideration of changes in the use of prepositions and finally syntax.

Section 5 is devoted to the manuscript tradition. A great plus of the Hauswald's work is the paleographical analysis he includes. He makes an inventory of ten mss., from saec. 8/9 (two mss., from two different regions) through the second half of the twelfth century. It is interesting to note the cessation of the use of Scarapsus, something perhaps Hauswald could have addressed a little more. Another strength of Hauswald's treatment of the manuscript tradition is that he gives a complete table of contents with available printed editions for each manuscript. This is most valuable, especially in seeing how and in what context Scarapsus circulated. It becomes clear that Reichenau and its associated abbeys perpetuated the use of the work.

Section 5, part 2, is devoted to text length and transmission context. The two kinds of collections in which Scarapsus traveled were canonical and homiletic. Section 5, part 3, is devoted to identifying the regional branches of transmission. The two major branches are northeastern Frankish and Rhaetian-northern Italian. The Frankish branch has also two southwestern Frankish mss. Before giving the stemma in part 4, Hauswald gives the textual peculiarities of each branch.

Section 6 concerns the reception of the text. The evidence of frequent use points to the importance of the work not only for literary history but also for the history of pastoral practices. Hauswald demonstrates the use of Scarapsus in near contemporary canonical, penitential, and homiletic works, notably Collectio Vetus Gallica and the canonical collection of Benedictus Levita.

Section 7 is about earlier editions. The earliest edition is by Mabillon (1683), in Vetera analecta (1722), Appendix, pp. 569- 601. It is a single manuscript edition based upon Einsiedeln, Stiftsbiblithek, Cod. 199 (+ Cod. 281). This edition was corrected by Andrea Gallandi, Bibliotheca veterum Patrum, vol. 13 (Venice: 1779), pp. 277a-285b. The Gallandi edition is reprinted in Migne. The variant readings in Migne for the most part correspond to the variants in the edition under siglum E. Hauswald's edition passes over silently unfounded variants in Migne.

The editor has divided the text in three parts and has placed the following division headings in German in square brackets: Sacred History and Dogma; Baptism and Instruction; Recapitulation and Conclusion. After several attempts at a summary description of the work, this editorial addition perhaps goes the furthest in clarifying just what the Scarapsus is about.

We find out from the apparatus on the first page of the edition that the work was ascribed to Augustine (three times) and to Gregory the Great (once), which may help us understand its survival and dissemination. This is a note which Hauswald could have highlighted in his introduction. The attribution to Pirmin is certain, though, from the Einsiedeln copy (8/9 cent., from an unknown Rhaetian scriptorium), and from the Frankish and Anglo-Saxon missionary tradition.

There is some room for question about the title that the editor chooses for the work. It seems like he could have also entitled it Dicta sancti Pirminii, or Dicta Pirminii, after Paul Lehmann (1929). He follows, though, the title used by Migne (PL 89, cols. 1029-1050): Sancti Pirminii abbatis De singulis libris canonicis scarapsus. In this way, the Rhaetian dialect word for excarpsus (Lat., selections) is perpetuated. There is little question of the spelling of the author. While he is recorded as Priminius in the Einsiedeln manuscript which is the sole source of identifying him as the author of the work, the scholarship is in universal agreement in calling him Pirminius. This is also how is listed in the AASS, III Non. Nov., cols. 2-33.

The edition itself is a very readable copy of work that still merits study both for the light it sheds on late Merovingian Christianity and for the transmission of religious learning in early medieval Europe. Scarapsus ends with a straightforward call to a conversion of life and morals to a more godly life: "Therefore, brothers, let us hasten now to correct our life lest we do something bad against the commandments of God, let us change course and correct ourselves, and cease from sinning any further, and let us preserve ourselves in good will and right reason with holy words and deeds, the Lord Jesus Christ helping and guiding us, who lives and reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit in unity through all ages. Peace to you. Say again, Amen" (c. 34, p. 141).

Following the edition there are registers of citations for Scripture and Authors and Works.

I would have wanted some treatment of the importance of the Scarapsus as an early witness to the Apostles' Creed (cited two times--chapters 10 and 12, and partially again in c. 28). Hauswald has published on this topic elsewhere, ("Quellenrezeption und sprachliche Dynamik in Pirmins Scarapsus," Ernst Bremer, et al., eds, Language of Religion--Language of the People: Medieval Judaism, Christianity and Islam, 290-291) and supplies a good reference to other early sources of the creed (31, footnote 108), but given the importance of his edition in disseminating Pirmin's text some explicit treatment here seemed in order for the introduction. The bibliography is concise and up-to-date. Given the excellent paleographical analysis in section 5, the publishers' absence of plates is unfortunate. Hauswald's edition is an excellent addition to published texts from the early Middle Ages. It maintains the high standards of the MGH and makes accessible with thorough historical background a text that is more than an artifact but rather is wholesome and informative reading.