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MEDIEVAL-RELIGION  April 2005

MEDIEVAL-RELIGION April 2005

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Subject:

Re: saints of the day 23. April

From:

Vadim Prozorov <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

medieval-religion - Scholarly discussions of medieval religious culture <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Sat, 23 Apr 2005 16:56:14 +0000

Content-Type:

text/plain

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medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture

Ian Wood has diligently retold Adalbert's story in his book _Missionary
Church_ (pp. 207-225). Here are some passages.

p. 207: The career of Adalbert of Prague is well documented, not least
because he is the subject of two major hagiographical texts. The first, the
Roman Life, is thought to have been written in 999/1000 at the request of
Otto 111, by John Canaparius, who met the martyr while he was a monk at the
monastery of SS. Boniface and Alexius in Rome. The second Life is by Bruno
of Querfurt, who seems to have written a first draft of his Passio Adalberti
in 1004, revising it in 1008, while he was waiting in Poland for an
opportunity to evangelise the Prussians.' An account of Adalbert's career is
most simply provided through a resume of the two Lives.
Adalbert, or Voitech as he was originally called, was born into the Slavnik
family, one of the leading noble families of Bohemia, in c. 956. He was
offered to the Church as a child, because of illness, and received an
education in Bohemia - which he apparently did not like, and was
consequently beaten by his father- before he was sent for further education
in Magdeburg. Archbishop of the time, Adalbert, confirmed him, and it was
from him the future martyr took his name. It may also be significant for the
saint's development that Adalbert of Magdeburg had been consecrated as a
missionary bishop in Russia in 962, and that he may well have written the
brief account of his mission which is included in the additions to the
Chronicle of Regino of Pruem. Not that the mission was a success. According
to the bishop, 'being unable to achieve anything in those matters for which

p. 208-209: he had been sent, and seeing himself vainly tired out, he
returned, and, with certain of his own men having been killed on the return
journey, himself scarcely escaped with much labour.
The death of the bishop of Prague Thietmar paved the way for Adalbert's own
appointment to the bishopric: the saint's hagiographers speak of his
election, although it may well have been the result of a political deal
between the ruling Premyslid family and the Slavniks.
For six years Adalbert carried out his pastoral duties in Prague. He
organised the Church's income according to canonical tradition. At the same
time he followed the ascetic life, and showed a concern for prisoners and
captives which calls to mind the Lives of Wenceslas and especially the
miracle stories relating to the period after the martyr's burial in Prague.
Adalbert was particularly angry at the fact that Jews sold Christian slaves
at such high prices that he could not ransom them. As a result, Jews were,
not surprisingly, the butt of his sermons, as were polygamy, marriage within
the prohibited degrees, clerical marriage, and a general confusion of feast
and fast days. Saddened at his failure to make any impact on the city, he
decided to leave in 989.
Adalbert intended to go on pilgrimage to Jerusalem, but he went first to
Rome, where the dowager empress Theophanu was still lamenting the death of
her husband, Otto 11, six years after the event. Hearing of Adalbert's
intentions, she gave him silver for his journey, and asked him to pray for
Otto's soul. In fact, he gave the money to the poor. And in any case, having
reached Montecassino, he was dissuaded by the abbot from continuing on his
journey. He decided against staying at Montecassino, however, and after
visiting the influential ascetic Nilus, he returned to Rome, where he joined
the community of SS. Bonifatius and Alexius. There he lived a notably pious
life.
Adalbert's time in Rome was not to last. Prague was without its bishop, and
either the Bohemians themselves, as in Bruno's account, or the metropolitan
of the region, the archbishop of Mainz, in Canaparius', demanded his return.
Certainly, there is a political context for Adalbert's return to Prague, for
Boleslav 11 was currently in conflict with the Polish leader and r1elded the
support of the Slavniks." The chief negotiator in securing the bishop's
return was Boleslav's brother, Radla. Against his will, Adalbert agreed on
condition that his flock would reform itself. The moment that he arrived
back in Prague - a city which took voluptas pro lege, pleasure as Iaw, in
Bruno's neat phrase - he witnessed a Sunday market, and realised that  no
reform had or would take place. The final straw came when a woman was
accused of committing adultery with a priest. Her relatives

p. 210-211: wanted to decapitate her, but she fled to the bishop. He hid her
in church of St George, but her pursuers caught her and killed her -- in
Canaparius' account, actually on the altar.
Adalbert decided to leave Prague for good. In 995 he headed back Rome -
according to Canaparius, directly, but, according to Bruno, first sending
messengers to the newly converted Hungarians offering his services. This was
an offer, again according to Bruno, which he would repe t a some years
later. On this first occasion, however, he does seem to have gone to help
strengthen the Church in Hungary himself. Hungarian tradition claims that
Adalbert actually baptised King Geza as well as his infant son, Stephen, the
future saint, and also established many churches.
On his return to Rome, Adalbert rejoined the community of SS. Bonifatius and
Alexius, much to the delight of the inmates, according to Canaparius and
Bruno - although the author of the Miracula Alexii apparently thought
otherwise. There he threw himself into the particular blend of Greek and
Latin monasticism, which was the hallmark of the house. Bruno,who was later
to join the monastery for a brief while, noted the galaxy of spiritual
leaders there. Canaparius, on the other hand, recorded a vision seen by the
the saint, of two orders in the sky, one purple and one white, symbolising
Adalbert's purity and coming martyrdom - Bruno's account of the sanie vision
is held back for a number of chapters. Meanwhile, Otto 111, whom Canaparius
praised even more than he praised his father, had come to Rome for the
enthronement of a new pope, and for his own coronation (996). In his
entourage was the archbishop of Mainz, Willigisus, who once again, drew
attention to Adalbert's absence from Prague. Realising that return to
Bohemia was likely to prove difficult, Adalbert instead asked that he should
be given the option of preaching to the pagans. He set off north in the
company of the emperor.Canaparius relates how he lectured Otto on spiritual
matters, and how he secretly cleaned the shoes of the courtiers. Once again
he relates a vision experienced by Adalbert, this time foretelling his
martyrdom. The shoe-cleaning and the vision Bruno associates with the
saint's final visit to the emperor. Adalbert then took a detour to visit the
shrines of Martin, Denis, Benedict and Maurus, asking for their support,
before returning to see Otto for the last time.
He finally set off for Bohemia, but before he arrived it became absolutely
clear that a return to Prague was out of the question, for Boleslav had
arranged the murder of all but one of Adalbert's brothers - the fortunate
sorvivor being at the time with the Polish ruler, Boleslaw Chrobry (Brave).
The saint, therefore, headed for the Polish court, and from there
ascertained, formally, that he would not be welcome in Prague. It was at
this moment according to Bruno that he wrote a second time to King Geza of
Hungary, offering his services once again, but it appears that his letter
was altered to irnply a proposal to Geza's wife, described elsewhere as a
formidably alcoholic lady, and nothing came of the matter. Only now did he
resolve to make use of the apostolic licence to preach to the pagans, which
he had received in Rome. Adalbert, therefore, discussed with Boleslaw as to
where he should carry out his mission. The king advised against the Liutizi,
which is perhaps not surprising, since they had been allies of the Bohemians
against the Poles in 990. Instead, he suggested the Prussians, providing the
saint with transport, and support as far as Gdansk. Canaparius neatly
characterises the agreed object of mission as a people 'whose god is the
belly and avarice linked to death' [quorum deus venter est et avaricia
iuncta cum mortel].
Having reached Gdansk, Adalbert and his companions, who included his
half-brother, Gaudentius, began preaching and baptising, but they soon met
with considerable hostility, and were first beaten up  and then, after a
respite of five days, they were seized, and Adalbert was singled out and
killed.

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