Friday, July 11, 2008

Saint Pirminius in Reichenau

This photograph, which I originally posted during Bright Week, prompted a reader to ask for an explanation. I'm happy to oblige. This is a photograph of a sundial painted on the outside wall of the rectory outside the Abbey Church (which it depicts in its current form) on the island of Reichenau in Lake Constance, Germany. The figure holding the staff and treading on a serpent is St Pirminius (or Pirmin, c.670 - 753). The monk Hermann the Cripple (+1054 – great timing!) writes the following in his chronicle for the year 724:
Saint Pirminius, abbot and bishop, is led by the princes Berthold and Nebi to Charles, who entrusts Reichenau to him. He drove out the snakes and during his three-year stay organized monastic life.
The inscription, ora et labora, is a Benedictine exhortation (in Latin) to "pray and work." This points to the abbey's monastic roots. Abbot Walahfrid Strabo (842-849), in a letter to Pope Gregory IV (827-844), praises the abbey in these words:
That earlier-named site of our endeavors indeed occupies first place in these regions. It is dedicated to the Most Pure, Blessed Virgin Mary and the Prince of the Apostles Peter. A not insignificant group of men who conduct their lives after the Rule of Saint Benedict is united there. The fullness of their spiritual wisdom nourishes the adjacent land with ample instruction.
Saint Pirminius left Reichenau in 727, and reposed on November 3, 753, as Abbot of Hornbach in the Palatinate, the last monastery that he founded. His holy relics are preserved in the Jesuit Church of Innsbruck.

Visitors to Reichenau should by all means visit the treasure room – and do confirm ahead of time that it will be open – in order to venerate a large relic of the the Holy Apostle and Evangelist Mark, as well as a number of other ancient relics, most of which were likely brought from Constantinople during the Crusades.

Holy Saint Priminius, pray to God for us!

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