Mittwoch, 8. April 2009

St Rupert of Salzburg

Today, 27 March on the old Orthodox calendar, we celebrate the memory of St Rupert (c. 660-718), Bishop of Salzburg (other forms of his name are Ruprecht, Hrodperht, Hrodpreht, Roudbertus, Rudbertus, and Robert). According to one Life of St Rupert:

He was gentle and chaste, simple and prudent, devout in praise of God, full of the Holy Spirit. He was also circumspect in his decisions and righteous in his judgement. He possessed great spiritual discernment, and his good deeds formed his flock into true images of Christ, for he inspired them not only with his words, but by the example of his works. He often kept vigil, weakened himself with fasting, and adorned his works with compassion. He gave away his riches that the poor might not go hungry, believing himself to be one who should clothe the naked and help the destitute.
Traditionally believed to have been one of the Merovingians, very little is known about St Rupert’s early life. At some point he was a made Bishop of Worms, a position he held until about 697, when he was invited by Duke Theodo II to Bavaria to do missionary work. St Rupert was greeted by the Duke at Regensberg, and ‘set out immediately on a journey along the Danube, preaching in towns and villages as far as Hungary’ (Butler’s Lives of the Saints, New Full Edition: March, rev. Teresa Rodrigues [Collegeville, MN: Liturgical, 1999], p. 261). He went to Lorch, and built a church dedicated to St Peter on the Wallersee, later becoming the town of Seekirchen.

At St Rupert’s own request, Duke Theodo gave him about two square miles of the old ruined Roman town of Juvavum. According to the previously quoted Life:

Some very reliable men came to the blessed hierarch and told him of an amazing phenomenon which had taken place when they had gone into an unnamed wilderness area now called Bongotobum (Pongau). Three or four times they had seen heavenly lights shining like bright lamps in the sky and they had also experienced a wonderful fragrance in the same place. The pious bishop sent the priest Domingus to Bongotobum because of the reports which he received concerning these lights. It was his desire that the priest would verify the authenticity of these wonders by erecting in that location a wooden cross which the holy one had made and blessed with his own hands. When Domingus arrived, he at once began the First Hour with the monks who had come with him. They saw a bright heavenly light which descended from the sky and lit up the entire region with the brightness of the sun. Domingus saw this vision on three nights in a row, and experienced the wondrous fragrance as well. He erected the blessed cross in that place, and it was miraculously transported to a spot above the dwelling of St Rupert, confirming the truthfulness of what had been reported to him! St Rupert took word of the miraculous occurrence to Theodo and then he himself went into the wilderness to the very spot, and seeing that it was suitable for habitation, began to cut down aged oaks and brought in building materials that he might build a church with dwellings for a monastic community.

Here he built a church and monastery dedicated to St Peter (the Archabbey of St Peter), which St Rupert himself served as abbot, as well as a women’s monastery dedicated to the Theotokos (Nonnberg Abbey), and where he installed his niece, St Erentrude, as abbess. Both are still functioning monasteries under the Benedictine rule, and the latter was made famous as the monastery of Maria von Trapp’s novitiate. St Rupert is said to have encouraged the development of salt mining at his new see, and it is from this industry that the city acquired the name by which it is still known today: Salzburg, or ‘Salt castle’ (I have blogged about this beautiful city a little bit before, in connection with St Rupert’s successor, St Vergilius). For this reason, St Rupert is often depicted holding a container of salt (see here, for instance).

Despite his attachment to a particular see, St Rupert continued to travel throughout the area, ‘preaching the Faith and founding many other churches and monasteries’, until finally, ‘After a life of strenuous activity he left his helpers to carry on the work and returned to Salzburg, certain that he was about to die. He died on Easter Sunday, probably between 710 and 720’ (Butler, p. 262). According to the Catholic Encyclopedia:

. . . [H]e died at Salzburg, aided by the prayers of his brethren in the order; his body reposed in the St Peterskirche until 24 September 774, when his disciple and successor, Abbot-Bishop St Virgil, had a portion of his remains removed to the cathedral. On 24 September 1628, these relics were interred by Archbishop Paris von Ladron (1619-54) under the high altar of the new cathedral. Since then the town and district of Salzburg solemnize the feast of St Rupert, Apostle of Bavaria and Carinthia, on 24 September.

One can read more about St Rupert in German here and here, and about Nonnberg Abbey here. The second link includes the following hymn for Ss Rupert and Vergilius:
Lied zum Fest der Heiligen Rupert und Virgil
Melodie: Gotteslob 639 (Ein Haus voll Glorie schauet)
Ein Jubellied erschalle,
dem heiligen Bischofspaar,
das hier in unserem Tale
einst Hirt und Lehrer war:
Singet Preis und Lob
Gott, der sie erhob
auf Salzburgs Bischofsthron
und uns zum Schutzpatron.

Sankt Rupert hat verkündet
das Evangelium,
den Bischofssitz gegründet
als Hort dem Christentum.
Gottes Wort und Macht
ist in dunkler Nacht
uns Schirm und unser Licht
bis Christi Tag anbricht.

Sankt Virgil trug die Lehre
des Glaubens in die Fern;
dass er das Land bekehre,
war Auftrag ihm vom Herrn.
Hütet Gottes Geist,
der den Weg uns weist,
dem Volk auf Pilgerfahrt,
das um das Kreuz sich schart.


Justin hat gesagt…

Excellent post, thanks. And man, what a beautiful icon graphic you found!