Monks prayed for abbot – University of Copenhagen

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22 September 2017

Monks prayed for abbot

Miracle of the Week

We all know the type: a saint by day but when out with his mates a foul-mouthed lout. This week the Virgin Mary sorts out a vulgar abbot.

“Munkar báðu fyrir ábóta” (Monks prayed for the abbot) marks the beginning of this week's miracle. (Click on the picture for a larger version.)

We all know the type: a saint by day but when out with his mates a foul-mouthed lout.

In this week's Marian miracle, we meet an abbot who fits that bill. On pp. 474-476 of the first volume of AM 634-635 4to we find a story with the rubric “ Munkar báðu fyrir ábóta ” (Monks prayed for abbot). Like last week‘s miracle, it concerns Hugh, Abbot of Cluny (1024-1109), also known as “Hugh the Great”. Also like last week‘s miracle, this story does not seem to appear in any of the Latin sources mentioning Hugh, as far as we have been able to tell. 

The Master Class encoded the text using TEI-conformant XML, which can be displayed in a variety of ways, for example as a facsimile transcription (see it here), i.e. a letter-by-letter transcription of the text in the manuscript with no changes, a diplomatic transcription (see it here), i.e. a letter-by-letter transcription of the text with a few palaeographic features and the expansion of abbreviations, and finally a normalized transcription, i.e. a transcription in which the orthography has been normalized with no scribal errors or abbreviations. The normalized version is as follows:

Í biskupsdœmi Pictanensis biskups var ábóti sá er Gígo hét, heilagr í sínum lífnaði ok frægr mjǫk af sínum góðum hlutum. Ok þó at þessi sœmiligi herra væri pryddr með dyggð heilagrar bindendi í fǫstum ok vǫkum ok staðfesti heilagra bœna ok miklum ǫrleika við fátœka menn, þá var hann svá hégómligr ok vanstiltr í sínu tali, þá er hann var ǫðrum mǫnnum með, at sá sem hann heyrði tala ok vissi eigi hans lifnað mundi eigi vænta at með honum væri nokkut merki dyggða heilags lífnaðar. Virðuligr herra Hugo minnti hann optliga at hann bœtti sig um þenna hlut. Ok á nokkrum tíma sem ábóti Cluniacensis fór at visitera hans munklífi, sem honum heyrði til, vitrask fyrrnefndr ábóti Gígo þessum ábóta Hugoni þrim nóttum áðr hann kœmi í hans klaustr. Var hann mjǫk hryggr ok talaði ekki, sýnandi sinn munn fullan með leirr ok varrirnar duptugar. Sem hinn virðuligi Hugo vaknar, skilr hann at Gígo er liðinn ór þessum heimi. En þvíat hann hafði sinn munn ok varrir útan stilling haft til hégómligra orða ok óviðrkvæmiligs hlátrs, sýndisk hann hafa tekit pínu syndarinnar á þeim sǫmum limum. Um morgininn eptir varð hann vísari af þessi sýn, þvíat <brœðr> þess munklífis runnu mót honum, segjandi þeira ábóta Gígonem andaðan vera. Ok er hann hefir saman kallat brœðurna, biðr hann at þeir skyldi biðja til guðs ok várar frú fyrir hans frelsi, haldandi sjǫ daga samfleytt þǫgn. Hinum sjǫunda degi þeirar þagnar liðnum, vitrask Gígo enn fyrrsǫgðum ábóta, þakkandi honum at fyrir hans bœn með brœðranna fulltingi var hreinsuð synd hans varra. Virðuligr faðir Hugo varð harðla glaðr af þessu ok segir brœðrunum þegar um morgininn þat sem honum var vitrað, minnandi á at þar fyrir þakkaði þeir guði ok gœzku hinnar mildustu móður guðs Maríe, er aldri er óminnig þeira sem hennar minnask.

Which, rendered into English, would be:

In the diocese of Poitiers there was a certain abbot who was called Gigo, devout in his ways and well known for his goodness. But even though this honourable gentleman was graced with the virtue of holy abstinence in fasts and vigils, and the steadfastness of sacred prayers and great generosity towards the poor, he was so vain and immoderate in his speech when he was with other men that anyone hearing him talk and knowing not of his habits would never imagine that there could be any semblance of piety in him. The honourable master Hugo admonished him often to improve himself in this matter. And one time, when the abbot of Cluny went to inspect the monastery, which was under his jurisdiction, this aforementioned abbot Gigo appeared to the abbot Hugh three nights before he was supposed to arrive at his cloister. He was deeply grieved and did not speak, showing that his mouth was filled with clay and his lips covered with dust. When the honourable Hugh awoke he understood that Gigo had passed from this world. But because he had not been able to restrain his mouth and lips from immoderate words and unbecoming laughter it seemed that he had taken the pains of his sins onto those same body parts. The following morning he understood better this vision, as the brothers of the monastery came running toward him, saying that their abbot Gigo had passed away. And when he had gathered the brothers together, he asked that they pray to God and Our Lady for his salvation by holding a seven-day vigil of total silence. When the seventh day of their silence had passed, Gigo once more revealed himself to the aforesaid abbot, saying that thanks to his prayers and the help of his brothers the sin of his lips had been purged. The honourable father Hugh was overjoyed at this, and informed the brothers immediately in the morning of what had been revealed to him, bidding them thank God for this and the mercy of Mary, the most mild mother of God, who is ever mindful of those who commemorate her.

The story ends with the abbot thanking the merciful Mary, who is ever mindful of theose who commemorate her. We will continue to commemorate her next week with yet another Miracle of the Week. (Click on the picture for a larger version.)