Saint Angilbert (died 18 February 814) was a Frank who served Charlemagne as a diplomat, abbot, poet and semi-son-in-law. He was of noble Frankish parentage, and educated at the palace school in Aquae Grani (Aachen) under Alcuin. He is venerated as a saint, on the day of his death—18 February.
When Charlemagne sent his young son Pepin to Italy as King of the Lombards Angilbert went along as primicerius palatii, a high administrator of the satellite court. As the friend and adviser of Pepin, he assisted for a while in the government of Italy. Angilbert delivered the document on Iconoclasm from the Frankish Synod of Frankfurt to Pope Adrian I, and was later sent on three important embassies to the pope, in 792, 794 and 796.
In 790 he was named abbot of Centulum, also called Sancti Richarii monasterium (Saint-Riquier) in northern France, where his brilliant rule gained for him later the renown of a saint. It was not uncommon for the Merovingian, Carolingian, or later kings to make laymen abbots of monasteries; the layman would often use the income of the monastery as his own and leave the monks a bare minimum for the necessary expenses of the foundation. Angilbert, in contrast, spent a great deal rebuilding Saint-Riquier, and when he completed it Charlemagne spent Easter of the year 800 there.
Angilbert's non-sacramental relationship with Bertha was evidently recognized by the court – if she had not been the daughter of the King historians might refer to her as his concubine. They had at least two sons, one of whom, Nithard, became a notable figure in the mid-9th century. Control of marriage and the meanings of legitimacy were hotly contested in the Middle Ages. Bertha and Angilbert are an example of how resistance to the idea of a sacramental marriage could coincide with holding church offices.
His poems reveal the culture and tastes of a man of the world, enjoying the closest intimacy with the imperial family. He accompanied Charlemagne to Rome in 800 and was one of the witnesses to his will in 814. Angilbert was the Homer of the emperor's literary circle, and was the probable author of an epic, of which the fragment which has been preserved describes the life at the palace and the meeting between Charlemagne and Leo III. It is a mosaic from Virgil, Ovid, Lucan and Venantius Fortunatus, composed in the manner of Einhard's use of Suetonius, and exhibits a true poetic gift. Of the shorter poems, besides the greeting to Pippin on his return from the campaign against the Avars (796), an epistle to David (Charlemagne) incidentally reveals a delightful picture of the poet living with his children in a house surrounded by pleasant gardens near the emperor's palace. The reference to Bertha, however, is distant and respectful, her name occurring merely on the list of princesses to whom he sends his salutation.
Angilbert's poems have been published by E. Dummler in the Monumenta Germaniae Historica. For criticisms of this edition see Traube in Roederer's Schriften für germanische Philologie (1888). See also A. Molinier, Les Sources de l'histoire de France.
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