March 27 is the feast of Saint Rupert of Salzburg, a saint whose origins are not entirely clear but who some traditions link with Ireland. Canon O'Hanlon has no difficulty in claiming the saint as an Irishman and seems to relish the chance to lay out his impressive achievements in the account below, taken from Volume III of the Lives of the Irish Saints:
St. Rudbert, or Rupert, Bishop of Saltzburgh.
[Seventh or Eighth Century.]
This holy man was a great lover of chastity and temperance. His zeal for the conversion of souls was very great, and he was so charitable, that he always gave abundantly of his substance, thus impoverishing himself, in order to enrich the poor. Also, in fasting, in watching, and in other acts of mortification, he took care to ensure a victory over temptations. The record of this renowned saint is contained in a very ancient Life, said to have been written, by Arno, Bishop of Saltzburgh, who flourished in the year 800. His Acts are to be found, likewise, in the collections of Lippeloo, of Canisius, of Colgan, of Brunner, of Rader, of John Aventinus, of Jacobus Januensis, of Surius, of Cornelius Grazius, of Haruaeus, of Valentinus Leuctius, of Marcus Velsirus, of Wigulseus Hundius, of Petrus de Natalibus, of Arnold Wion, and of Petrus Cratepolius. Also, notices will be found, in the Chronicon Generale Mundi, in the work of Gaspard Brusch, in that of Le Cointef, of the Bollandists, of the Benedictines, of the Cistercian Monk, of Baillet, and of Alban Butler. According to several writers, St. Rupert was by birth a Frenchman. Other accounts have it, that his origin had been derived from the French kings, and from the chieftains of Scotia —interpreted, by most writers, to mean Hibernia. Several writers have asserted, that St. Rupert lived, during the fifth and sixth centuries. Bishop De Burgo has very particularly noted the year of his birth to be A.D. 537. Upon no slight grounds, Mabillon and Bulteau think this saint lived a whole century later than is generally supposed, and that he flourished in the seventh and eighth centuries. There are, no doubt, irreconcilable statements to be found in his Acts, which seem to have been derived from uncertain traditions, and all of which cannot be received as authentic. According to Dempster, St. Rupert descended from a race of chiefs, belonging to Scotia. However, most of the German writers, who have treated about their great Apostle—drawing their accounts from Bishop Arno of Saltzburgh, or from some anonymous disciple of St. Eberhard, Bishop of Saltzburgh,—have agreed, that their patron belonged to Ireland, and this also the more ancient accounts seem to establish. It is thought, moreover, that the foreign name Rupert, or Rudpert, may have been a modification, from the Irish name Robertach, or Rophartach. He was of royal blood, and the Acts attributed to Bishop Arno state, that he was baptized in Scotia, by St. Patrick.
However, our saint was still more illustrious for his faith and piety; as, likewise, for his ecclesiastical learning, and for the extraordinary virtues and self-abnegation he practised, from his youth, and as he grew to manhood. Despising riches and pleasures, leaving his parents and native country, he is said to have visited Rome, where he made a pilgrimage to the sacred places, with great devotion. There, too, he learned what places he should select, for his future mission and government. We are told, likewise, that his brother Trudbertus and his sister Erentrude were his companions, as they had resolved on missionary labours and sacrifices abroad, when leaving their own country. The time for separation from his brother and sister had now come; and Trudbert, leaving with them the bounds of Italy, came to a valley, called Prysgangia, or Brisgangia, not far from the River Rhine. Here, he had resolved on taking up his residence,and here, too, he began to cultivate some wild land, near his hermitage. But, soon it was destined to become the place of his martyrdom. Meantime, the holy Rupert and his angelic sister Erentrude continued their journey, along the bed of the Rhine, until they came to Bormacia, now known as Worms, on that great river.
At this time, Hilpert, Hildebert, or Childebert, as variously written, was king over that part of the country—the people of which are called Vangiones,—and during the second year of his reign, St. Rupert arrived. He drew persons from the neighbourhood, as from remote provinces, to receive his doctrine, advice and instructions. He removed all their doubts and scruples. He comforted the afflicted, while he cured the sick. He healed the disorders of souls, and moved many by his great example. At tis time, he was in the fortieth year of his age. So distinguished were his merits, that these caused him to be elevated, with universal acclaim, to the Episcopal See, at Worms. However, a tyrant, named Borcharius, hating the Church and clergy, and ruling that people, among whom he lived—they being for the most part idolaters—could not bear the lustre of such sanctity, which condemned their irregularities and superstitions. About the year 580, it is said, they beat him with rods, loaded him with all manner of outrages, and then expelled him their city. This he bore with great meekness and patience.
For two years, he is said to have wandered, as an exile, and during this interval, he made a second journey to Rome, in the time of Pope Pelagius II. While here, he prayed to the Almighty for light to guide his future course, and feeling that Germany was destined to become the theatre of his labours, Rupert set out once more for that country. But God, who protected his servant, had prepared for him a rich harvest of souls. At that time, Theodo, or Theodon the Elder, was Duke of Bavaria. At this time, too, he was a Pagan chief. Hearing about the great reputation and miracles of St. Rupert, that ruler sent messengers to him. These noblemen earnestly besought our saint, in the name of Theodon, to come and preach the gospel to his people, the Baioarians, or Bavarians. The old Reginum, afterwards called Rigensbourg, and now Ratisbon, was the capital of all those provinces. This happened two years after Rupert's expulsion from Worms, and about A.D. 582. However,according to the Salzburg tradition, he came to Ratisbon, during the first half of the sixth century while several writers hold, that St. Rupert did not arrive there, before the time of Duke Theodo II., A.D. 696, and, in the second year of the reign of King Childebert III. When our saint approached the city, Theodo and all his courtiers came to meet him, and he was conducted to the court, in a sort of triumphal progress. Nevertheless, the Christian faith had been planted, in that country, two hundred years before, by St. Severinus. He was regarded, as the Apostle of Noricum, or Austria. After his death, heresies and heathenish superstitions prevailed. These had almost entirely extinguished the light of the Gospel, for a long interval. St. Valentine, Bishop of Passau, had also laboured, in those parts. Bagintrude, the sister of Duke Theodon, had been already a Christian. Therefore she had religiously disposed her brother; and, through his excellent example, that whole country was ready to receive the Christian faith. Soon Rupert found the hearts, both of the nobles and of the people, quite docile to the Word of God. Having the help of other zealous priests, whom he had brought with him, our saint instructed the chief. Having ordered a general fast, Rupert baptized Duke Theodon with the lords and people of that whole country. God confirmed his preaching by many miracles. At the chief's request, Rupert went afterwards on board a vessel, and he sailed down the Danube, through Norica, even to lower Pannonia. In the villages, towns, and castles, of these countries, the great herald of the Gospel proclaimed the glad tidings of salvation, and everywhere the empire of paganism began to crumble, while the practices of idolatry and superstition began to disappear.
After Ratisbon, the capital, the second chief seat of his labours was Laureacum, now called Lorch, where he healed several diseases, by prayer, and where he made many converts. Through the Alpine region of Carinthia, he travelled and preached. The Duke and his subjects desired that St. Rupert should definitely fix upon a place, for his permanent residence, as a bishop. He came to a lake, called Walarius, otherwise, the Waller-zee. Here, he erected a church, in honour of St. Peter, Prince of the Apostles. Thence, he went towards the River Juvavia, and he found there a romantic and mountainous region, very suitable for his purpose. That place was covered with woods, and, at the time, it was only sparsely inhabited, although formerly it was the site of a well-known city. Old Juvavia was then almost in ruins; but, it was soon rebuilt, and, afterwards, it was called Saltzbourg. Rupert is called the first Archbishop of this See, by Dempster. Here, the holy prelate built a church, dedicated to St. Peter, to which, afterwards, he added a monastery, and thus secured the permanency of his infant church. The Duke Theodon adorned and enriched it, with many magnificent donations. These enabled St. Rupert to establish clerics, and to found there several noble churches and monasteries. After that, Theodon became infirm. Before this prince's death, his son Theodebert, or Diotper, was called to his bedside, and strongly recommended to aid the good work commenced. His zeal and piety augmented considerably the revenues of the Church, in Salzburgh; and, Theodebert, in all things, obeyed the instructions of his father. Through his munificence, the church of St. Maximilian was established, having a large tract of wood, the village of Albina, and several possessions, to found a monastic house attached to it. With a view of spreading still more the reign of Christ, St. Rupert took a journey into his own country, in order to procure a new supply of able labourers. He brought back to Saltzbourg twelve holy missionaries, with his niece St. Erentrude, a virgin, consecrated to God. He built for her a great monastery, called Nunberg. Over this, she presided, as the first abbess. The illustrious prelate Rupert laboured, for several years, in this See; and, he travelled with a chosen band of disciples, over Norica. Wherever he preached the Gospel of Christ, numbers abandoned their errors and vices, acquiring charity, humility, and all other Christian virtues, in their stead.
This illustrious evangelist is said to have brought over the whole Bavarian nation to the faith, before his mission closed. He declared with a prophetic spirit to his disciples and friends, that the day of his departure was now fast approaching. This caused the most intense emotion and the deepest sorrow. But, recommending them, with the people of Salzburgh and of Norica, to Christ, Rupert most earnestly desired, that his successor should be chosen. Wherefore, a very holy man, called Vitalis, was elected. The Lent now approached, and he was attacked with febrile symptoms. Afterwards, exhorting his friends to be resigned, and to practise the virtues becoming Christians, the holy bishop felt that the supreme moment had come, when the morning of Christ's Resurrection from the grave had dawned upon him. After St. Rupert had celebrated the Easter Mass, he received the Holy Viaticum, while a number of his familiars stood in tears, by his bed-side. Certain religious men, who were present, saw Angels bearing his soul to Heaven, while they sang canticles. Easter-day fell that year, on the 27th of March; and, hence, this is regarded, as his Natalis. As we have seen, great differences of opinion prevail, regarding the year for his departure. In one instance, it is asserted, that he lived to the ripe age of eighty-six, and that he was honourably interred, in the church of St. Peter, at Saltzburgh. Some writers place his death, early in the seventh century, as at A.D. 623, or 628; others have it, between 705 and 710; while, the learned Mabillon asserts, that he died A.D. 718. There seems to be considerable variance, also, regarding the length of time he ruled over Saltzburgh, as bishop; for, while some writers set down twelve years, others again have it, that he was forty-two, forty-four, or even forty-six, years, in the episcopate of that See. It is said, he wrote a Book, On the True Faith, addressed to Theodo, Prince of the Bavarians, as also Epistles to different persons. If we credit Dempster, he wrote other works, but Colgan states, no other writer has mentioned these. At this day, the Roman Martyrology, and different other Martyrologies, commemorate him. The Carthusian Martyrology, in like manner, Molanus, Petrus Galesinus, Canisius, Felix, Hugh Menard, Arnold Wion, Ferrarius, Saussay, Dorgain, assign his chief festival to this date. In Convaeus' list of Irish Saints, St. Rudpertus is mentioned, as hereditary prince of the kingdom, first Bishop of Salzburg, and patron of Pannonia, Bavaria, and Norica, at the 27th of March. At this same date, he is set down by Dempster, who claims him as a Scottish saint. Bishop De Burgo prepared a Proper Office for him, and it has been compiled, from the Proper Offices, contained in the Breviaries of Salzburgh, of Vienna, of Herbipolis, and of Frisingen. This is not recited, however, in the Irish Church. Henry Fitzsimon's Catalogue enters him as Rudbertus, Bishop, at the 27th of March, on the authority of Molanus, Wolfang and Lacius. The latter states, also, that he was a son to the King of Hibernia. In the anonymous list of Irish saints, his name also appears, at the same date, as Rudbertus. The countries he has served justly celebrate his memory, in their own Proper Offices. In Ireland, his Office is recited as a Double, but with the Common Lessons, on the 27th of March. His feast is set down for this day, likewise, in the work of Stephen White, and it occurs in the "Circle of the Seasons."
Great miracles were wrought, through his intercession, when he had been removed to life eternal. This great and holy man, as would appear from the earliest Bavarian records and traditions, was a native of Ireland, and therefore his Acts are very justly set down, in our collection. We should feel proud of the honour he conferred on our country, and grateful for the services he has rendered to the universal Church, in any alternative; for, he is regarded, as the Apostle of Bavaria, Austria, Pannonia, Styria and Norica. Into these pagan provinces, he brought the Gospel, and with it, the crowning work of Christian civilization.
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