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Professor Emeritus, Seton Hall University

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1 Professor Emeritus, Seton Hall University
What does st. virgil Have to say To us? The Story of St. Virgil of Salzburg By Dr. Donald J. McKenna Professor Emeritus, Seton Hall University

2 Virgil was known as the “most learned man of his age”, and called “the geometer” because of his advanced scientific knowledge – certainly one of the greatest minds of the middle ages. But less than 100 years after his death his tomb was buried, all of his works disappeared and his memory erased. Thus his life is mostly a mystery -- a puzzle. But this puzzle has a lot of things to say to us, across 1200 years of history.

3 Fergal, a man of Ireland’s Golden Age
Born between Descended from the high kings of Clan Loegaire of Trim, County Meath. Close connection to Tara. Ancester of the Farrells and Learys.

4 Ireland’s Golden Age The 600s and 700s were Ireland’s Golden Age when Ireland was: The repository of classical learning, The schoolroom of Europe, A land of laws and rich culture. Celtic culture had a passion for literature, language and learning, which shaped Virgil’s values. Also the greatest period of Irish art, especially metalwork and manuscript illumination The Derenaflyn and Ardaugh Chalices are two of the greatest examples of metal work in the middle ages, and the Book of Kells is perhaps the most beautiful example of manuscript art in the world.

5 Derenaflyn and Ardaugh Chalices
Book of Kells

6 Educated at Monastery of Iona, Scotland
Iona was one of the most important Irish monasteries, responsible for converting and educating nearly half of Britain. It was here that Virgil mastered classical math and became famous as “The Geometer”. And he became known as “the most learned man of his age.” View of Iona Abbey Today

7 Circa 1000 illuminated manuscript image of medieval Irish pilgrims
The Angel’s message An old legend says that an angel told Virgil to take seven bishops and travel to Salzburg “por amori Christi” – for the love of Christ. He gathered 11 or 12 fellow pilgrims and joined the “wandering Irish saints” – the perigrinatae. Circa 1000 illuminated manuscript image of medieval Irish pilgrims

8 How the Irish saved Europe
The Irish came to Europe by the thousands – a tidal wave. They carried the Word of Christ to all of Europe, as far as the steppes of Russia. Founded dozens of monasteries. Filled their libraries with the classical literature they brought from Ireland. They educated most of Europe north of Italy. St. Columbanus one of the most important Irish missionaries to Europe

9 Virgil becomes advisor to Pepin, 741
Pepin was the son of Charles Martel, who stopped the Saracen invasion of Europe, and the father of Charlemagne. Fergil’s fame as a scholar attracted him to Pepin and he became his advisor. His Irish name was Latinized to the closest Roman name – Virgil – at Pepin’s Court. Pepin the Short How short was Pepin?

10 Abbot of St. Peter’s, Salzburg, 745
Pepin appoints Virgil abbot of St. Peter’s Monastery, Salzburg, to keep an eye on the Duke of Bavaria, who they had just conquered. Virgil was made abbot, but he was not a bishop. He ruled the diocese in the Irish way – as abbot, using one of his bishop companions, Dobda, to perform the bishop’s functions. Salzburg Today St. Peter’s Monastery Church to the right, The Dom Cathedral to the left, The Residence of the Prince Archbishops at the top of the mountain

11 Virgil takes charge Virgil wasted no time taking charge. He challenged the ruling duke, Odillo, on the ownership of church property. He did the same thing with a number of other Bavarian nobles – he was a “stiff necked Irishman”. Virgil didn’t win all of these fights, but he wrote his claims in a book, the Libellus, which Charlemagne used to return all property claimed by Virgil to the church. A pattern develops: Virgil is strong willed and persistent – and he wins. Don’t mess with Virgil. Virgil challenged Odillo about the ownership of Church property at Bischofshofen, near Salzburg.

12 Antipodes dispute, excommunication, 748
Virgil had a series of disputes with Boniface, the leading church man of the day. One these dealt with Virgil teaching about the Antipodes – that there could be life on the other side of the earth. Medieval interpretation of the Antipodes, showing the logical problems the people of this period had with the idea of people living on the other side of the world

13 The Antipodes is the point on the globe
exactly opposite where you are. Where is the antipodal point for Morris Plains? The Morris Plains antipodal point is 820 miles southwest of Perth, Australia

14 Virgil is made Bishop After returning to Salzburg from defending his Antipodes teaching, Virgil is made Bishop, It’s as Bishop that Virgil achieved most of his major accomplishments. This Renaissance image of Virgil emphasizes the symbols of his role as Bishop, the Crozier and Mitre.

15 Virgil’s achievements
Virgil built Salzburg’s first Dom, or Cathedral from He was the leading poet and writer of his day. He made Salzburg into the literary and artistic capital of this entire area of Europe. Medieval image of Virgil the builder, holding The Dom, symbolizing that he was the builder or protector.

16 Apostle to Carinthia, Mission to the Slavs
Virgil’s “mission to the Slavs” was one of the major evangelizations of the middle ages and included most of Austria, half of Hungary and some slavish countries – an area bigger than four U.S. states. He’s called the Apostle to Carinthia, Styria and Pannonia. He created the first Slavish church language as his primary method of conversion.

17 Virgil’s Mission Area

18 Virgil finally visits his mission and dies
An angel warns Virgil not to visit his missions or he would die. In 754,Virgil visits his mission and becomes ill, returns to Salzburg and dies on Nov 27, 784. He’s buried in the Dom. He leaves Salzburg as the dominant diocese in the area, and soon it becomes the archdiocese. Charlemagne conquers Bavaria, returns all of the church property Virgil claimed. A memorial to Virgil: Saint, Irishman, bishop and builder of the first Dom

19 The mystery of the forgotten bishop
At first, Virgil is venerated. But within 100 years, his tomb is buried, there are no memorials, and his writings disappear. His memory is effectively erased. Why? It’s a mystery…

20 Virgil is re-discovered
It’s a dramatic day on February 16, Workmen loosen a few stones and see a glint of gold and an old inscription– an unknown tomb! It’s uncovered, and the inscription reads: Virgilius, the man who built this glorious house of God. But who is Virgil? They don’t know. Was he the Roman poet? St. Virgil statue in front of the Dom

21 Virgil’s miracles generate wide-spread cult
But research reveals it’s the body of one of their greatest bishops, and it’s moved to a place of more prominence. Almost immediately, a remarkable series of miracles begin. More than 100 are recorded in detail, mostly healing some punishment. Later, a miracle is claimed for the St. Virgil relic in Morristown, NJ A cult of Virgil spreads rapidly throughout Europe, mostly in Austria, Germany and the area of his Slav mission. A St. Virgil religueiry in Carinthia, Austria.

22 Virgil is Canonized Rome can’t ignore this “astounding” series of miracles recorded in great detail, and the widespread popularity of this recently uncovered tomb. On June 18, 1233, Pope Gregory IX declared Virgilius a Saint. Virgil is one of few Irish saints of this era who is formally canonized.

23 Virgil is remembered today
Virgil is the Patron Saint of the Salzburg Archdiocese. He is honored as apostle to Carinthia. His Feast Day of November 27 is celebrated in Ireland and Austria. Churches, schools and colleges are named after him in Austria, Ireland, the US and Tasmania. Virgil painting by Alec Szolomiak, Poland, displayed in St. Virgil’s College, Tasmania, “the farthest antipodes”

24 What does Virgil have to say to us?
St. Virgil’s message resonates with 21st century Catholics. He tells us to: Be loyal: Virgil was loyal to his Irish roots, his Irish saints, the Irish way and his teachers Have faith in our God-given talents: Virgil stayed true to his God given intellect, even when threatened with excommunication Use your talents: Virgil achieved his fullest potential as a scholar and became the most learned man of his age.

25 Trust in your intellect; Be faithful, loyal and true;
Be true to who you are; Trust in your intellect; Be faithful, loyal and true; Stand firm in your faith.


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