History of the Christian Church, Volume IV: Mediaeval Christianity. A.D. 590-1073.
« Prev Einhard Next »

§ 164. Einhard.

I. Einhardus: Opera in Migne, Tom. CIV. col. 351–610; and Vita Caroli in Tom. XCVII. col. 25–62; also complete Latin and French ed. by A. Teulet: OEuvres complètes d’Éginhard, réunies pour la première fois et traduites en français. Paris, 1840–43, 2 vols. The Annales and Vita of Migne’s ed. are reprinted from Pertz’s Monumenta Germaniae historica (I. 135–189 and II. 433–463, respectively); separate ed. of the Vita, Hannover, 1839. The best edition of the Epistolae and Vita, is in Philipp Jaffé: Monumenta Carolina, Berlin, 1867, pp. 437–541; and of the Passio Marcellini et Petri is in Ernest Dümmler; Poëtae Latini aevi Carolini, Tom. II. (Berlin, 1884), pp. 125–135. Teulet’s translation of Einhard’s complete works has been separately issued, Paris, 1856. Einhard’s Vita Caroli has been translated into German by J. L. Ideler, Hamburg, 1839, 2 vols. (with very elaborate notes), and by Otto Abel, Berlin, 1850; and into English by W. Glaister, London, 1877, and by Samuel Epes Turner, New York, 1880. Einhard’s Annales have been translated by Otto Abel (Einhard’s Jahrbücher), Berlin, 1850.

II. Cf. the prefaces and notes in the works mentioned above. Also Ceillier, XII. 352–357. Hist. Lit. de la France, IV. 550–567. Bähr, 200–214. Ebert, II. 92–104. Also J. W. Ch. Steiner: Geschichte und Beschreibung der Stadt und ehemal Abtei Seligenstadt. Aschaffenburg, 1820.

Einhard (or Eginhard),11701170    The name is variously spelled, but the now common form Eginhard is first found in the twelfth century. the biographer of Charlemagne and the best of the historians of the Carolingian age, was the son of Einhard and Engilfrita, and was born about 770, in that part of the Valley of the Main which belongs to Hesse-Darmstadt. His family was noble and his education was conducted in the famous Benedictine monastic school of St. Boniface at Fulda, to which his parents sent gifts.11711171    Jaffé l.c. p. 488. About 792 the abbot Baugolf sent him to the court of Charlemagne, in order that his already remarkable attainments might be increased and his ability find ample scope. The favorable judgment and prophecy of Baugolf were justified by events. He soon won all hearts by his amiable disposition and applause by his versatile learning. He married Imma, a maiden of noble family, sister of Bernharius, bishop of Worms, and with her lived very happily for many years.11721172    The legend that Imma was the daughter of Charlemagne dates from the twelfth century, and probably arose from the false reading neptitatem (nephew”) for ne pietatem in Eginhard’s letter to Lothair. See Jaffé, p. 446 She bore him a son named Wussin who became a monk at Fulda. He enjoyed the Emperor’s favor to a marked degree,11731173    Walahfrid’s Prologue to the Vita, see Jaffé, p. 508. and figured in important and delicate matters. Thus he was sent in 806 to Rome to obtain the papal signature to Charlemagne’s will dividing the empire among his sons.11741174    Annales 806, in Migne, CIV. col. 466, l. 2, fr. bel. Again in 813 it was he who first suggested the admission of Louis to the co-regency. He superintended the building operations of Charlemagne, e.g. at Aix la Chapelle (Aachen), according to the ideas of Vitruvius, whom he studied diligently.11751175    Epistolae, ed. Jaffé, no. 56, p. 478, ed. Migne, no. 30 (col. 520). His skill as a craftsman won him the academic title of Bezaleel.11761176    Alcuin, Epist. ed. Jaffé, no. 112, p. 459. He pursued his studies and gathered a fine library of classic authors. He edited the court annals.11771177    See below. Charlemagne’s death (814) did not alter his position. Louis the Pious retained him as councillor and appointed him in 817 instructor to his son Lothair. When trouble broke out (830) between father and son he did his best to reconcile them.

Although a layman he had received at different times since 815 a number of church preferments. Louis made him abbot of Fontenelle in the diocese of Rouen, of St. Peter’s of Blandigny and St. Bavon’s at Ghent, of St. Servais’ at Maestricht, and head of the church of St. John the Baptist at Pavia. On Jan. 11, 815, Louis gave Einhard and Imma the domains of Michelstadt and Mulinheim in the Odenwald on the Main; and on June 2 of that year he is first addressed as abbot.11781178    For his preferments see Jaffé p. 493-495. On p. 493, Jaffé proves that Einhard did not separate himself from his wife after becoming an abbot. As the political affairs of the empire became more complicated he withdrew more and more from public life, and turned his attention to literature. He resigned the care of the abbey of Fontenelle in 823, and after administrating other abbeys sought rest at Michelstadt. There he built a church in which he put (827) the relics of the saints Marcellinus and Petrus which had been stolen from the church of St. Tiburtius near Rome.11791179    See Account of the removal, etc., below. A year later, however, he removed to Mulinheim, which name he changed to Seligenstadt; there he built a splendid church and founded a monastery. After his unsuccessful attempt to end the strife between Louis and Lothair he retired altogether to Seligenstadt. About 836 he wrote his now lost work upon the Worship of the Cross, which he dedicated to Servatus Lupus.11801180    See Lupus’ reply to his letter (Lupus, Epist. ed. Migne, CXIX. col. 445). In 836 his wife died. His grief was inconsolable, and aroused the commiseration of his friends;11811181    See his letter to Lupus and Lupus’ reply, ibid. col. 437-446. and even the emperor Louis made him a visit of condolence.11821182    Jaffé ed. p. 499. But he carried his burden till his death on March 14, 840. He is honored as a saint in the abbey of Fontenelle on February 20. His epitaph was written by Rabanus Maurus.

He and his wife were originally buried in one sarcophagus in the choir of the church in Seligenstadt, but in 1810 the sarcophagus was presented by the Grand Duke of Hesse to the count of Erbach, who claims descent from Einhard as the husband of Imma, the reputed daughter of Charlemagne. The count put it in the famous chapel of his castle at Erbach in the Odenwald.

Einhard was in stature almost a dwarf, but in mind he was in the esteem of his contemporaries a giant. His classical training fitted him to write an immortal work, the Life of Charlemagne. His position at court brought him into contact on terms of equality with all the famous men of the day. In youth he sat under Alcuin, in old age he was himself the friend and inspirer of such a man as Servatus Lupus. His life seems to have been on the whole favored, and although a courtier, he preserved his simplicity and purity of character.

His Writings embrace:

1. The Life of the Emperor Charlemagne.11831183    Vita Caroli Imperatoris, in Migne, XCVII. col. 27-62. Cf. Jaffé’s ed., pp. 507-541. This is one of the imperishable works in literature. It is a tribute of sincere admiration to one who was in many respects the greatest statesman that ever lived. It was Einhard’s ambition to do for Charlemagne what Suetonius had done for Augustus. Accordingly he attempted an imitation of Suetonius in style and as far as possible in contents,11841184    The critical editions of the Vita bring this fact out very plainly. Cf Ebert, l.c. 95. and it is high praise to say that Einhard has not failed. The Life is the chief source of knowledge about Charlemagne personally, and it is so written as to carry the stamp of candor and truth, so that his private life stands revealed and his public life sufficiently outlined. Einhard began it soon after Charlemagne’s death (814) and finished it about 820. It quickly attained a wide-spread and enthusiastic reception.11851185    .Pertz collated sixty MSS. of it. It was looked upon as a model production. Later writers drew freely upon it and portions were rendered into verse.11861186    Cf. Bähr, l.c. 210. It is not, however, entirely free from inaccuracies, as the critical editions show.

2. The Annals of Lorsch.11871187    Annales Laurissenses et Eginhard, in Migne, CIV. col. 367-508. Mon. Germ. Script. I. 134-218. Einhard edited and partly rewrote them from 741 to 801,11881188    These are known as The Annales Laurissenses because the oldest and comletest MS. was found in the monastery of Lorsch. Their original text is printed alongside of Einhard’s revision. and wrote entirely those from 802 to 829. These annals give a brief record of the events of each year from the beginning of Pepin’s reign till the withdrawal of Einhard from court.

3. Account of the removal of the relics of the blessed martyrs Marcellinus and Petrus.11891189    Historia translationis BB. Christi martyrum Marcellini et Petri in Migne, Ibid. col. 537-594. This is a very extraordinary narrative of fraud and cunning and “miracles.” In brief it very candidly states that the relics were stolen by Deusdona, a Roman deacon, Ratleik, Einhard’s representative and Hun, a servant of the abbey of Soissons. But after they had been safely conveyed from Rome they were openly exhibited, and very many “miracles” were wrought by them, and it was to relate these that the book was written.

4. The Passion of Marcellinus and Petrus11901190    De passione M. et P. Ibid. col. 593-600. is a poem of three hundred and fifty-four trochaic tetrameters. It has been attributed to Einhard, but the absence of all allusion to the removal of the relics of these saints renders the authorship very doubtful. 11911191    So Ebert, l.c. 103.

5. Letters.11921192    Epistolae in Migne, ibid. col. 509-538. There are seventy-one in all; many of them defective. They are mostly very brief and on matters of business. Several are addressed to Louis and Lothair, and one to Servatus Lupus on the death of his (Einhard’s) wife, which deserves particular attention.

« Prev Einhard Next »


| Define | Popups: Login | Register | Prev Next | Help |