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History of the Christian Church, Volume IV: Mediaeval Christianity. A.D. 590-1073.
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§ 163. Amalarius.


I. Symphosius Amalarius: Opera omnia in Migne, Tom. CV. col. 815–1340. His Carmina are in Dümmler, Poetae Latini aevi Carolini, I.

II Du Pin, VII. 79, l58–160. Ceillier, XII. 221–223. Hist. Lit. de la France, IV. 531–546. Clarke, II. 471–473. Bähr, 380–383. Hefele, IV. 10, 45, 87, 88. Ebert, II. 221, 222.


Amalarius was a deacon and priest in Metz, and died in 837, as abbot of Hornbach in the same diocese. It is not known when or where he was born. During the deposition of Agobard (833–837), Amalarius was head of the church at Lyons. He was one of the ecclesiastics who enjoyed the friendship of Louis the Pious, and took part in the predestination controversy, but his work against Gottschalk, undertaken at Hincmar’s request, is lost. He was prominent in councils. Thus he made the patristic compilation from the Fathers (particularly from Isidore of Seville) and councils upon the canonical life, which was presented at the Diet at Aix-la-Chapelle in 817,11631163    The Forma institutionis canonicorum et sanctimonialium in Migne, Tom. CV. 815-976, is the full collection in two books, but Amalarius’ share was confined to the first book and probably only to a part of that. Cf. Hefele, IV. 10. and partly that upon image-worship in the theological congress of Paris, presented Dec. 6, 825. In 834, as representative of Agobard, he held a council at Lyons and discoursed to the members for three days upon the ecclesiastical offices, as explained in his work mentioned below. The majority approved, but Florus of Lyons did not, and sent two letters to the council at Diedenhofen, calling attention to Amalarius insistence upon the use of the Roman order and his dangerous teaching: that there was a threefold body of Christ, (1) the body which he had assumed, (2) the body which he has in us so long as we live, (3) the body which is in the dead. Hence the host must be divided into three parts, one of which is put in the cup, one on the paten and one on the altar, corresponding to these three forms respectively. Farther he was charged with teaching that the bread of the Eucharist stood for the body, the wine for the soul of Christ, the chalice for his sepulchre, the celebrant for Joseph of Arimathea, the archdeacon for Nicodemus, the deacons for the apostles, the sub-deacons for the women at the sepulchre. But the council had business in hand of too pressing a character to admit of their investigating these charges. Not discouraged, Florus sent a similar letter to the council of Quiercy (838), and by this council the work of Amalarius was censured.11641164    See Florus’ letters in Migne, Tom. CXIX. col. 71-96.

His writings embrace (1) Rules for the canonical life,11651165    Regula canonicorum, in Migne, CV. col. 815-934. already referred to. It treats of the duties of ecclesiastics of all grades.

(2) Four books upon The ecclesiastical offices.11661166    De ecclesiasticis officiis libri quatuor, ibid. col. 985-1242. It was written by request of Louis the Pious, to whom it is dedicated, and was completed about 820. In order to make it better, Amalarius pursued special investigations in Tours, at the monastery of Corbie, and even went to Rome. In 827 he brought out a second and greatly improved edition. In its present shape the work is important for the study of liturgics, since it describes minutely the exact order of service as it was observed in the Roman church in the ninth century. If Amalarius had been content to have given merely information it would have been better for his reputation. As it was he attempted to give the reasons and the meanings of each part of the service, and of each article in any way connected with the service, and hence was led into wild and often ridiculous theorizing and allegorizing. Thus the priest’s alb signifies the subduing of the passions, his shoes, upright walking; his cope, good works; his surplice, readiness to serve his neighbors; his handkerchief, good thoughts, etc.

(3) On the order of the anthems,11671167    Liber de ordine antiphonarii, ibid. col. 1243-1316. i.e. in the Roman service. It is a compilation of the antiphones of the Roman and French. churches.

(4) Eclogues on the office of the Mass,11681168    Eclogae de officio missae ibid. col. 1315-1832. meaning again the Roman mass. This insistence upon the Roman order was directed against Archbishop Agobard of Lyons, who had not only not adopted the Roman order, but had expurgated the liturgy of his church of everything which in his judgment savored of false doctrine or which was undignified in liturgical expression.

(5) Epistles.11691169    Epistolae, ibid. l333-1340. The first letter, addressed to Jeremiah, archbishop of Sens, on the question whether one should write Jhesus or Jesus. The second is Jeremiah’s reply, deciding in favor of Jhesus. In the third, Amalarius asks Jonas of Orleans whether one should use I H C or I H S as a contraction of Jesus. Jonas favored I H S. The fourth is on the Eucharist. Rantgarius is his correspondent. Amalarius maintains the Real Presence. He says the first cup at supper signified the Old Testament sacrifices, the figure of the true blood, which was in the second cup. The fifth letter is to Hetto, a monk, who had asked whether “seraphin” or “seraphim” is the correct form. Amalarius replies with learned ignorance that both are correct, for “seraphin” is neuter and “seraphim,” masculine! The sixth is the most important of the series. It is addressed to a certain Guntrad, who had been greatly troubled because Amalarius had spit shortly after having partaken of the Eucharist, and therefore had voided a particle of the body of Christ. Amalarius, in his reply, says that he had so much phlegm in his throat that he was obliged to spit very frequently. He did not believe, however, that God would make that which helped his bodily injure his spiritual health. He then goes on to say that the true honor of the body of Christ is by the inner man, into which it enters as life. Hence if one who inwardly revered the host should accidentally or unavoidably spit out a fragment of the host he must not be judged as thereby dishonoring the body of Christ. He thus touches, without passing judgment upon, the position of the Stercoranists. The last letter is only a fragment and is so different in style from the former that it probably is not by Amalaritius of Metz.



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