Hermannus Contractus [Hermann der Lahme, Hermann von Reichenau]
- Lawrence Gushee
[Hermann der Lahme, Hermann von Reichenau]
(b Swabia, July 18, 1013; d Reichenau, Sept 24, 1054). Benedictine monk, chronicler, writer on scientific subjects (astronomy, arithmetic, music) and composer. Some aspects of his life are recorded with extraordinary precision in a biography written shortly after his death by his pupil, Berthold, and Hermannus himself included a number of detailed references to his family in his well-known world chronicle. As a young child Hermannus was crippled by a disease that left him seriously incapacitated in movement and speech for his entire life. He started school at the age of seven, probably at Reichenau, but did not profess until he was about 30, on the advice (according to Berthold) of his abbot, Berno, who was also a renowned musician.
It seems clear from the range and quality of his accomplishments (which also included clock- and musical instrument maker) that he was a man of exceptional mental capacity and resolution. At the same time, many accounts of his life and personality are feverishly exaggerated in tone and probably legendary. This makes difficult the determination of authenticity of a number of writings, in particular of his musical compositions. Of 22 compositions mentioned or discussed by Oesch, seven are immediately characterized as false ascriptions, with two others considered quite doubtful. A further three have only inner (i.e. stylistic) criteria in support of Hermannus's authorship. In fact, only two works have excellent credentials: the sequence ...