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Detailed article on five monks of the (Swiss) Abbey of St. Gall from the tenth to the thirteenth century

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Ekkehard, name of five monks of the (Swiss) Abbey of St. Gall from the tenth to the thirteenth century.

(I) EKKEHARD I (MAJOR, “the Elder”), d. January 14, 973. He was of noble birth, of the Jonschwyl family in Toggenburg, and was educated in the monastery of St. Gall; after joining the Benedictine Order, he was appointed director of the inner school there. Later, under Abbot Kralo, who trusted him implicitly, he was elected dean of the monastery, and for a while directed all the affairs of the abbey. Ekkehard made a pilgrimage to Rome, where he was retained for a time by Pope John XII, who presented him with various relics of St. John the Baptist. After Kralo’s death Ekkehard refused the abbatial succession, because of lameness resulting from a fractured leg. However, he directed the choice of Burkard, son of Count Ulrich of Buchhorn, who governed St. Gall with the advice and cooperation of Ekkehard. The latter erected a hospice in front of the monastery for the sick and strangers, and was in many other ways a model of charity. He was also distinguished as a poet, and wrote a Latin epic “Waltharius”, basing his version on an original German text. He dedicated this poem to Bishop Erkanbald of Strasburg (965-991). It describes the elopement of Walter of Aquitaine with the Burgundian princess Hildegunde, from the land of the Huns, followed by the battle of Wasgenstein between Walter and the followers of Gunther and Hagen (ed. Peiper, Berlin, 1873). He also composed various ecclesiastical hymns and sequences, e.g. in honor of the Blessed Trinity, St. John the Baptist, St. Benedict, St. Columbanus, St. Stephen (Meyer, “Philologische Bemerkungen zum Waltharius” in “Abhandl. der bayr. Akad. d. Wissenschaften”, Munich, 1873; Strecker, “Ekkehard and Virgil” in “Zeitschrift f. deutsches Altertum”, 1898, XLII, 338-366).

(2) EKKEHARD II (PALATINUS, “the Courtier”), d. April 23, 990. He and Ekkehard III were nephews of the preceding, who educated also at St. Gall his other nephews, Notker the physician and Burkard, later abbot of the monastery. Ekkehard II was taught by his uncle and the monk Geraldus, and was later a teacher in the monastery school. A number of his pupils joined the order; others became bishops. According to the “Carus Sancti Galli” he was called later to Hohentwiel, the seat of the Duchess Hadwig of Swabia, widow of Burkard II. The duchess was wont occasionally to visit St. Gall, and eventually (973) asked for and obtained the services of Ekkehard as her tutor in the reading of the Latin classics. Nevertheless, he continued to render great services to his monastery, especially on the occasion of the differences between St. Gall and Reichenau (Abbot Ruodmann); in many other ways also he proved himself useful to the monks by the influence he had obtained as tutor of the duchess. Ekkehard was also prominent at the imperial court of Otto I. Later he became provost of the cathedral of Mainz, where he died April 23, 990. He was buried in the church of St. Alban, outside the city gates. He was the author of various ecclesiastical hymns, known as sequences, all of which are lost, except one in honor of St. Desiderius.

(3) EKKEHARD III, also a nephew of Ekkehard I and a cousin of the preceding. He shared the educational advantages of his cousin and, at his invitation, accompanied him to Hohentwiel to superintend and direct the studies of the local clergy. On his return to St. Gall he was made dean of the abbey, and is reported to have filled this office for thirty years. He died early in the eleventh century.

(4) EKKEHARD IV.—According to the testimony in his “Chronicle” (especially in view of his statement that he had heard from eyewitnesses of the great conflagration at St. Gall in 937), the date of his birth is usually placed about 980; he died October 21, but the year of his death is unknown (1036?-1060?). The same “Chronicle” indicates Alsace as his birthplace, though we do not know with certainty either the place of his birth, or his family origin. His boyhood was spent at St. Gall where he had for tutor Notker Labeo the German, one of the most learned scholars of his time. From him Ekkehard acquired a profound knowledge of the Latin and Greek classics; he also studied mathematics, astronomy, and music, and was acknowledged while living as a scholar of note even outside the monastery. After the death of Notker Labeo (1022) Ekkehard was called to Mainz by Archbishop Aribo, where he became director and teacher in the cathedral school, and held both offices until the death of his patron (1031), distinguishing himself as head of the school; indeed, he was noted as a successful teacher and promoter of learning. A treatise on the “Jube me, Domine, benedicere”, inscriptions, and benediction prayers remain as evidences of his literary activity. Emperor Conrad II, when at Ingelheim near Mainz, distinguished him by marks of personal favor (Easter, 1030). Shortly after his return to St. Gall Abbot Tietbald died (1034) and Norbert of Stavelot, who introduced the reforms of Cluny, was elected to succeed him. A dissension, therefore, arose among the monks, the seniors being dissatisfied with the new reforms. Ekkehard, meanwhile, began work on the ancient abbey chronicle, the famous “Casus S. Galli”, begun by Ratpert and continued to Abbot Salomon (883), and carried it on from that date to Notker (972). This work is a most important document for the contemporary history of St. Gall (ed. von Arx in “Mon. Germ. Historica: Scriptores “II, Hanover, 1829; ed. Meyer von Knonau in “St. Gallische Geschichtsquellen” in “Mitteil. zur vaterland. Geschichte” (new series, nn. 5 and 6, St. Gall, 1877); it is also the main source of our knowledge concerning the Ekkehards. The “Casus” is mostly a compilation of anecdotes and traditions concerning distinguished monks. They contain, however, many historical errors and misrepresentations, and the Latin diction is often barbarous. Nevertheless, owing to the excellence and simplicity of the narrative, they are a valuable source of contemporary history, especially of its culture. The second important literary work of Ekkehard is his “Liber Benedictionum”. It comprises metrical inscriptions for the walls of the Mainz cathedral, and benedictions (also in verse) for use in choir-service and at meals, also poems in honor of the festivals of various saints, partly from his own pen and partly by Notker Labeo. In poetical merit these works are inferior enough; nevertheless they betray a very fair knowledge of Latin. The glosses from his pen, both on his own manuscripts and others belonging to the abbey, remain as proof of his lifelong zeal in pursuit of knowledge. He was also skilled in music, especially ecclesiastical music, always diligently and successfully cultivated at St. Gall.

(5) EKKEHARD V (MINIMUS), d. about 1220. He is the last of the St. Gall Ekkehards, and flourished towards the end of the twelfth, and the beginning of the thirteenth, century. No particulars are known concerning his life, and tradition is silent as to his origin, the year of his birth and of his death. He was dean of the abbey in the reign of Innocent III. About 1214 he wrote a life of St. Notker Balbulus, a learned monk of St. Gall, who lived towards the end of the ninth, and the beginning of the tenth, century (Acta SS., April, I, 579), from which work we gather that its author was versed in ecclesiastical music.


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