Angilbert, St.

Angilbert, St.
(c. 740-814)
   An important figure during the reign of Charlemagne, Angilbert was one of the great king's court scholars and was a central figure in what is called the Carolingian Renaissance. He was given the nickname Homer by Charlemagne and the other court scholars because of his talents as a poet. He also served as an ambassador for the king and was the lay abbot of St. Riquier, which he received from Charlemagne and where he introduced important liturgical reforms. He was also the lover of Charlemagne's daughter, Bertha, with whom he had two sons, Hartnid and the historian Nithard.
   Angilbert was a Frank of noble parentage, and he and his family, according to Nithard, were held in high esteem by Charlemagne. Nithard's view is confirmed by Angilbert's place at Charlemagne's court. Angilbert obtained an excellent education and may have been a student of Alcuin, the leading Carolingian court scholar and close advisor to Charlemagne, at one point. His poetry and liturgical reforms, along with his gift of over 200 manuscripts to the library at St. Riquier, indicate his interest in learning and support for the religious and educational reforms of Charlemagne. His later activities at St. Riquier further demonstrate his concern for learning; he seems to have established, in conformity with Charlemagne's capitulary Admonitio Generalis, a school to educate the local boys. He also served as Charlemagne's ambassador to Rome on two occasions. In 792, he was sent to Rome with copies of one of the Saxon capitularies, sections of the Libri Carolini (Caroline Books), and the heretical bishop Felix of Urgel, all of which he was to submit to Pope Hadrian I for papal consideration. Angilbert went to Rome a second time in 796 to deliver a great portion of the spoils of the Avar Ring, the Avar capital captured by Carolingian armies in 796, to St. Peter and his representative, Pope Leo III.
   As court scholar and abbot of an important monastery, Angilbert assumed a key position in Charlemagne's kingdom and promoted the great ruler's educational and religious ideals. He was a poet of great talent, whose work provides a glimpse into the "court school" of Charlemagne. His poem to the king (Ad Carolum regem) portrays the king and his courtiers in discussion with the king, who bestows favors on those around him, especially to his children. The poem also reveals the hustle and bustle of the court, as well as giving sketches of the court's members. Angilbert's poetry could also be quite personal and touching, as in one short poem sent to the court to inquire about his young son.
   Angilbert's activities as abbot of St. Riquier were designed to further the religious goals of Charlemagne. The abbot introduced new wrinkles to the liturgy at the monastery, organized elaborate religious processions, and formed the monks into three shifts to pray continuously for the salvation of the emperor. His support for the literary, educational, and religious reforms of Charlemagne make Angilbert an important example of the success of the Carolingian Renaissance.
   See also
 ♦ Laistner, Max L. W. Thought and Letters in Western Europe, a.d. 500 to 900. 2d ed. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1976.
 ♦ McKitterick, Rosamond. The Frankish Kingdoms under the Carolingians, 751-987. London: Longman, 1983.
 ♦ Riché, Pierre. The Carolingians: A Family Who Forged Europe. Trans. Michael Idomir Allen. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1993.
 ♦ Scholz, Bernhard Walter, trans. Carolingian Chronicles: Royal Frankish Annals and Nithard's History. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1972.
 ♦ Sullivan, Richard. Aix-La-Chapelle in the Age of Charlemagne. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1974.

Encyclopedia of Barbarian Europe. 2014.

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