The Sources

of the life of St Gengulphus

There are four mediaeval Latin texts which give us some knowledge of the life of St Gengulph and of the early development of his cultus. They are: An anonymous early C10th life in prose, often referred to as Vita I. Some manuscripts of Vita I contain, variously inserted, an additional narrative De Lucerna Divinitus Accensa.

The Primary Source!

Vita I is summarized here. There is, in the editor’s knowledge, no English translation of Vita I. Here is an entry in an article (1920) by the great German scholar Wilhelm Levison of the whole Latin text of Vita I. This Prose Life begins with Veneranda…  on page 155, and ends Explicit… on p 170. This Prose Life is preserved in various manuscripts, and this article is a critical edition of those texts.  The variations revealed are of little interest and do not ‘help’ the pursuit of St Gengoux.  With the exception that some of these manuscripts contain an story of Gengulphus performing a miracle when he was campaigner with Pepin le Bref, which is evidently a subsequent insertion.

There are no other sources which go further back than this one.  This is it.

As regards material for the ‘biography’ of St Gengoux there is effectively only ONE source  – the Prose Life. Any other speculations on the life of Gengulphus dated after Vita I have no historic relevance!

  • The Passio Sancti Gongolfi Martyris – a later C10th verse life composed by Hroswitha of Gandersheim. Referred to hereafter as Hroswitha and summarized here.
  • A second, extended, prose life (Vita II) also exists; but although this contains additional material relating to miracles performed at Toul which were attributed to the heavenly intercession of St Gengulph, it derives its biographical material entirely from Vita I mentioned above.
  • Our knowledge of the developing cultus of St Gengulph is greatly added to by an c11th text, the Historia Miraculorum Sancti Gangolfi, written by Gonzo, the fourth abbot of Florennes in Belgium. This, written in a most engaging style, recounts in detail and with much human interest some 37 miracles which occurred at Florennes in connection with the relics of St Gengulphus which were kept there.

Some portions of Vita I, Hroswitha and the Historia Miraculorum Sancti Gangolfi, have been translated into French in Paul Pierret’s St Gengoux, Patron des Mal Mariés. A translation into French of the entirety of Vita I by the late Jean-Philippe Royer has been recently been published in Annales de Bourgogne.  The poetic works of Hroswitha of Gandersheim have been translated into English as part of a doctoral thesis (the spicy incidents in the vita of St Gengulphus – i.e. the punishments of the wife and her lover – were unfortunately sterilized) presented to Saint Louis University (a Jesuit institution) in 1936 by Sister M. Gonsalva Wiegand, and into French by Monique Goullet.

Editor (03/20): We hope/anticipate an English translation of Vita I – but don’t hold your breath.

© Paul Trenchard
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