- Corrado de Hirsau e il «Dialogus de cruce». Per la recostruzione del profilo di un autore monastico del XII secolo by Marco Rainini
The German monk Conrad of Hirsau (c. 1080–c. 1140) is known primarily for his bibliographical work Dialogus super auctores, a guide to the authors—both Christian and pagan—commonly taught in the school curriculum. He has also been suggested as the author of other works, including the widely disseminated treatise on female monastic life Speculum virginum. To this attribution Marco Rainini seeks to add the Dialogus de cruce, extant today in only one manuscript dating from the last third of the twelfth century: Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Clm 14159.
Rainini begins with a description of the work as it appears in the Munich manuscript. This he ascribes not to St. Emmeram in Regensburg, which its call number might suggest, but to the nearby monastery of Prüfening, where it was held in the nineteenth century. After discussing the title and structure of Dialogus de cruce, Rainini then moves on to a detailed historical study of Conrad of Hirsau and his works. This discussion necessarily involves considering the claims of the early-modern Benedictine abbot and historian Johannes Trithemius (1462–1516), whose two-volume Annales Hirsaugienses of 1511–14, constitute an important narrative sources for Hirsau in this period. The common topos of Trithemius’s unreliability has, perhaps, been overdone, and it is to Rainini’s credit that he takes a sensible attitude in seeking to corroborate Trithemius’s testimony with other extant references to Conrad. He concentrates in particular on the cognomen peregrinus, for Peregrinus is also the master in the dialogue Speculum virginum. Rainini ends this first part of the book with a section on the dating of the works ascribed to Conrad, including Dialogus de cruce.
Rainini’s study is not merely an attempt to attribute a new work to Conrad, for its second and largest part examines the fundamental theological themes of Dialogus, with subsections on scriptural exegesis, the points of the cross, the depiction of the Lamb, the physical and spiritual sides of man, and the Church. The author has been careful to pay special attention to the materiality of Dialogue de cruce, for the book is accompanied by ten high-quality color reproductions from the manuscript, and these are meaningfully integrated in his analysis of the work’s theology.
The book’s third part examines the authors and sources that influenced Dialogus de cruce: classical and late-antique authors, the Glossa ordinaria, Hugh of St. Victor, Rupert of Deutz, Honorius Augustodunensis, the Eriugenian tradition, other authors, and—possibly—Peter Abelard. The final influences on Dialogus discussed by Rainini include contemporary debates over the respective places of secular and divine learning, the curriculum of the seven liberal arts and its place in expounding the sacred page.
In conclusion, Rainini’s thorough study, almost Germanic in its approach, is nevertheless carried off with enough sprezzatura to make the material engaging and [End Page 614] useful to the wider audience of medieval scholars. His arguments regarding Conrad of Hirsau and the Dialogus make for important contributions on this medieval author and on the wider state of spiritual learning in the early-twelfth-century Empire. But his consideration of the work’s materiality, in line with recent trends focusing on the intersection of medieval reader and manuscript page, marks this out as a particularly useful book.