The Legend of Renaud 9: Saint Reinolt of Cologne

The legend of the martyrdom of Renaud of Montauban, or Rinaldo, is found in two stand-alone versions, besides those at the end of the Quatre Fils Aymon.

For editions of the Quatre Fils, see my other posts. A complete synoptic version of the martyrdom exists as a thesis at the University of Ghent but will likely never be printed. Support copyright reform!

Vita Sancti Reinoldis Monachis et Martyris, a Latin saint’s life, printed by the Bollandists in the Acta Sanctorum, January Volume 1, pages 385-387.

Vita Sancti Reinoldi Rythmice. A Latin saint’s life in verse, printed by Joseph Floss in Annalen des historischen Vereins für den Niederrhein, inbesondere das alte Erzdiöcese Köln, Volume 30, 1876, pages 185-203. Clearly from the Dutch, as evidenced by the names of the brethern, their mother’s being the sister of Charles, Clarice being Yon’s daughter, and Renaud’s slaying of three sultans in the Holy Land.

La Quatre Fils Aymon – Original

According to the Quatre Fils, the penitent Renaud, after seeing his two sons established in their patrimony, wanders for a time in the forest, occasionally staying at a monastery, until he comes to Cologne, where he offers his services to the masons who are building the Church of Saint Peter. Renaud lifts a stone which four other men cannot carry, does more work than ten other men can do, and only accepts enough wages as will buy him bread to eat and straw to sleep on. This goes on for some time, until the other masons, growing jealous, kill him and throw his body into the Rhine. But all the fish of the river hold the body up, and at nightfall torches appear around it and angels begin to sing. The murderers confess and are pardoned, and the archbishop goes to fetch the body, brings it into the church, and sings Mass over it. After the Mass, Renaud’s body is miraculously carried out of the church, and into a cart, which travels of its own accord from Cologne to Tremoigne, where all the sick who seek him are made whole. According to DN and the Dutch, the corpse went straight from Cologne to Tremoigne. According to LC, it stopped in Ceoigne for the night before proceeding to Tremoigne. According to POA and the French prose, it stopped at Ceoigne and went no farther.

In DN, the masons drop a stone from a scaffold onto Renaud’s head as he humbly eats his poor bread. In all other versions, French, Dutch and Latin, they kill him with their hammers or pickaxes. Castets, who thought L was the oldest version, suspected that the variance was due to a confusion between martel meaning hammer and marteau meaning stone block. Perhaps he is right, or perhaps, since D is actually the oldest, he had the matter backwards, and Hunaud I who was killed lapidibus [by stones] became Renaud who was killed, lapicidus [by stonemasons], with a hammer.

The Prose Life of Saint Reinold

The prose Vita Sancti Reinoldi, monachi et martyris completely ignores its hero’s military career. It makes briefly alludes to his wars against Charlemagne, but never makes mention of his horse Baiard, or of his cousin Maugis the enchanter or of his sons Aymonet and Yonnet. It alludes to the fame of the four brothers [whom it does not name] being celebrated in the songs of the people, but that is all. By contrast, the Vita recounts several miracles of Reinold which are not to be found in the Quatre Fils. The writer claims Reinold, after a knightly career, joined a monastery [which one is not specified] in Cologne. While he was still a monk, God answered his prayers by curing a man who had been born blind, and a boy who was sick with a dangerous fever. After these things, by devout prayer he obtained from God the end of a pestilence that was ravaging the country. His fame spread, and songs were sung about him. At his abbot’s orders, he was put in charge of the stonemasons. He continued to visit churches and to devoutly give alms, besides working harder than any of the men under his command. The other masons, excited by jealousy, broke his skull with a hammer, and threw him into the Rhine. Angels bore his soul to heaven. The abbot, searching for the body, could not find it. However, an old and infirm woman had a dream in which she was told to go the river, where blessed Reinold is buried. Upon awakening, she did so and was healed. The monks took his body to the Church and honored him as a saint. Sometime later, the cities of Tremoigne and Clerum [apparently Ceoigne] both wished to have some of the relics of Reinold, and the Archbishop was unsure which to give them to. The Lord indicated Tremoigne [how we are not told], and Reinold’s body was carried thither, without a miracle, but accompanied by three thousand rejoicing citizens. He was laid to rest there on the seventh of January. God continues to work miracles there. The blind have been cured, lepers cleansed and paralytics restored.

There are no dates given whatsoever. The suggestion of the Bollandists that the Archbishop who oversaw the translation of the relics was St. Anno II (r. 1056-1075) is no more than a guess.

The Verse Life of Saint Reinold

The verse Vita Sancti Reynoldi is accompanied in the manuscript by a prose commentary which mostly repeats the same story but sometimes adds new details. The poem tells how Adelhardus, Ritzardus, Reynoldus, and Writardus were Frenchmen, born at Dorduna to Heymon and Aya, daughter of Pipin and sister of King Charles. The four were mighty men of war. Reynoldus was a Catholic man and a great warrior who was filled with virtue and the fear of God and wished to renounce the world. He called his sons and divided his property among them and his wife Claritia, (who is here the daughter, not the sister, of King Ivonis of Tarascon). He leaves the castle of Montalban to his son Emericus, and departs for the wilderness. His father, mother and brothers pursue him but cannot find him. For three years he serves God in the wilderness, until he hears a voice from God telling him to go fight the infidels in Jerusalem. He does so, slaying three Sultans with only a staff. He then returns home, briefly visits Charlemagne’s court, and then goes to Cologne, where Agilolphus (r. 713-717) is bishop. (A medieval note in the manuscript suggests Riolphus (r. 768-782) as the proper reading). Reynoldus lives such a holy life that he cures the blind, dumb, and possessed. The “magister claustri” [abbot] appoints him to oversee the stonemasons. He works harder than any of them, which arouses their envy, and so they kill him. This is the fourteenth of May, the year 800, according to the prose gloss. Reynoldus, now enjoying the beatific vision, appears to a paralytic woman and heals her, and some time afterward an angel shows where his body is lying, and on the third of September it is drawn out of the river and put on display in a church in Cologne, where God cures many more people through it. The people of Tremoigne wish to have the body, and their request is granted. The body is laid in a cart, which moves of its own accord to Tremoigne. The people of Tremoigne build a church for him, whither Charlemagne comes to mourn his nephew.

OTHER VERSIONS

Outside of the chanson, the oldest explicit reference to Renaud of Montauban as a saint is to be found in the work of Alberic of Trois-Fontaines, writing around the year 1232. According to Alberic, Renaldus, Alardus, Richardus, and Guichardus were the four sons of Haymo [Aymon] and of a sister of Charlemagne’s. Saint Renaldus was the oldest of the four, became a monk in the abbey of Saint Pantaleon at Cologne, was there martyred [how is not specified], and is now buried in Tremoigne. Alberic relates their history as a brief aside during a list of Charlemagne’s warriors who accompanied him into Spain in the year 805. He never mentions it elsewhere, so it is unclear what year he thought the martyrdom occurred.

In a ninth century missal from the Cathedral of Cologne, someone has written in tenth century handwriting the names “reginoldi” and “reginoldo” on the margins of the Collect and Postcommunion of the Mass of a martyr. Unfortunately, nothing is known about this saint. The names are all that were thus written, and the prayers themselves are the generic ones from the common of martyrs, and therefore shed no light on how this Reginoldus died. However, he is almost certainly the same saint still venerated today. Paul Fiebig, whose St. Reinoldus in Kult, Liturgie und Kunst is still the definitive book on the cult of St. Reinolt, lists all the other saints he could find named Renaud or something similar, but none of them was a martyr or lived in the 900’s or earlier.

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