Hermann of Reichenau

An artistic rendering of "Herman the Lame" as he is sometimes called
Relics of Hermann in Altshausen, Germany
Salve Regina of Herman de Reichenau sung by Les Petits Chanteurs de Passy

Hermann of Reichenau (July 18, 1013 September 24, 1054), also called Hermannus Contractus or Hermannus Augiensis or Herman the Cripple, was a Roman Catholic 11th-century scholar, composer, music theorist, mathematician, and astronomer. He composed the Marian prayer Alma Redemptoris Mater.[1][2] He was beatified (cultus confirmed) in 1863.


Hermann was a son of the earl of Altshausen. He was crippled by a paralytic disease from early childhood. He was born July 18, 1013 with a cleft palate, cerebral palsy and is said to have had spina bifida.[3] Based on the evidence, however, more recent scholarship indicates Hermann possibly had either amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or spinal muscular atrophy.[4][5] As a result, he had great difficulty moving and could hardly speak. At seven, he was placed in a Benedictine monastery by his parents who could no longer look after him. He grew up in the monastery, learning from the monks and developing a keen interest in both theology and the world around him.


He spent most of his life in the Abbey of Reichenau, an island on Lake Constance. Hermann contributed to all four arts of the quadrivium. He was renowned as a musical composer (among his surviving works are officia for St. Afra and St. Wolfgang). He also wrote a treatise on the science of music, several works on geometry and arithmetics and astronomical treatises (including instructions for the construction of an astrolabe, at the time a very novel device in Western Europe). As a historian, he wrote a detailed chronicle from the birth of Christ to his own present day, ordering them after the reckoning of the Christian era. One of his disciples Berthold of Reichenau continued it.

At twenty, Hermann was professed as a Benedictine monk, spending the rest of his life in a monastery.[6] He was literate in several languages, including Arabic, Greek and Latin and wrote about mathematics, astronomy and Christianity.[7] He built musical and astronomical instruments and was also a famed religious poet. When he went blind in later life, he began writing hymns, the best known of which is Salve Regina (Hail Holy Queen).

Herman died in a monastery on September 24, 1054, aged 40. The Roman Catholic Church beatified him in 1863.

Legacy and influence

Three of five symphonies that were written by Russian composer Galina Ustvolskaya are based on his texts.

See also


  1. The Tradition of Catholic Prayer by Christian Raab, Harry Hagan 2007 ISBN 0-8146-3184-3 page 234
  2. Handbook of Prayers by James Socías 2006 ISBN 0-87973-579-1 page 472
  3. Catholic Fire: Saint of the Day: Blessed Herman the Cripple, Monk (1013 - 1054)
  4. O'Connor, J. J., Robertson, E. F., "Hermann of Reichenau", MacTutor History of Mathematics archive, University of St. Andrew's
  5. C Brunhölzl, "Thoughts on the illness of Hermann von Reichenau (1019-1054)", Sudhoffs Arch. 83 (2) (1999), 239-243.
  6. Bl. Herman the Cripple - Catholic Online
  7. Schlager, Patricius, "Hermann Contractus," The Catholic Encyclopedia (New York: Robert Appleton, 1910), retrieved May 13, 2014 from New Advent.

Further reading

External links

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