Inspirational Reads

Happy Saint Othmar Day!

November 16, 2012

This seems a perfect follow-up to the Saint Gall Day post (what?  you can't really have a follow up a month after the original?  Tough.) 

Saint Othmar was a monk born in Raetia (think modern-day Switzerland) sometime in the late 7th century AD.  Even though Rome had fallen on difficult times, the area kept the name Raetia well into the reign of the Franks; Charlemagne appointed a duke to watch over Raetia and its glorious, beautiful, well-shaped mountains. 

Othmar, whose name means "happy fame", rebuilt the hermitage where Saint Gall lived and is generally credited with founding the monastery on that same site.  He was also very active in improving the conditions for the local area, which had fallen on hard times as the western half of the Roman Empire fell.  Controlling one of the main routes over the Alps down to the Italian peninsula can either be a great benefit in times of trade, or a bit of a detraction as every barbarian horde seeks to plunder the riches of the world's most famous Empire.  Some of his works led to the building of a library connected with the monastery, an almshouse to help provide for the impoverished of the area, a hospital for treating the sick and diseased, and a leprosarium, which is a fancy name for a hospital that treated people with leprosy.

Unfortunately, as mentioned in the write-up on Saint Gall, the area was an important stretch of land, with lakes that bordered what is now Austria and Germany, which also provided access to the Rhine river and the shipping lanes of said waterway.  As such, Othmar became embroiled in a land-ownership spat with a couple of local nobles.  Both Count Warin and Count Ruodhart tried to lay claim to the land already owned by the abbey over which Othmar was now presiding.  Refusing to hand over the land, Othmar was arrested and then imprisoned, eventually being exiled onto the Island of Werd in Lake Constance where he eventually died. 

Othmar's body remained on the island for ten years until a couple of ne'er-do-wells snuck onto the island and recovered his remains.  They knew it was him because his body had reportedly not decomposed despite a decade of exposure to the elements.  That's impressive stuff.  What's even more impressive is that they made the recovery on a hot day and, as they rowed their boat back to shore, the two men were overcome with a powerful thirst.  These boy scouts arrived for the recovery ever-prepared:  they had a barrel of wine with them on the boat.  As they rowed, they cracked open the cask and drank heartily (but not lustfully).  No matter how much they drank, however, the barrel never went empty.  It was a true miracle.  Overcome with joy at their bottomless wine barrel, the men took two weeks to make it back to shore.

Once finally returned to dry land, they took Othmar's body to the town of St. Gallen (named for our buddy, Gall) and buried him in secret there.  No word on where the body and his relics are today, or whether they've decayed at all.  For his part in providing the men with a never-ending supply of wine, Saint Othmar is represented by a wine barrel and is one of the Patron Saints of Saint Gallen along with...Saint Gall(en). 

Werd, happy fame, indeed.

2 comments:

Scope said...

He must have pickled himself.

Frank Irwin said...

I think that we should go back to the reign of the Franks.