The Noble Saint : Spiritual and Secular Balance in the Vita Sancti Geraldi Auriliacensis
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Written by Odo of Cluny, the Vita sancti Geraldi Auriliacensis is a rare example of medieval hagiography with a nobleman saint as the subject. As abbot of Cluny, Odo used the Vita Geraldi to provide a moral example for the nobility to follow, both in their personal and public lives. By providing a model, Odo's Vita Geraldi offers a unique insight into the relationships between Cluny and the nobility during a period of chaos and instability in the 10th century. The life of Gerald consists of four books, three taking place during his life, and the fourth discussing his miracles after death. For the purpose of this paper the author focuses on Book One and Book Two. It is because of and not in spite of Gerald's wealth that Odo makes him the subject of hagiography. From the beginning of the work, Odo addresses the issue of Gerald's wealth from two different angles. The first problem it presents is that it may give other nobles the idea that excess is acceptable, and the second problem is that it raises doubt in the minds of his readers as to whether Gerald could actually be a saint. The Vita Geraldi is not only a biography of a saint, but also Odo's argument that a man can be both a wealthy noble and a religious man. To this end, Odo uses the life of Gerald as a model for other nobles to emulate so that they also may achieve "goodness." According to Odo "God set him up as an example to those who saw him, that their hearts should be inspired to imitate one who was their neighbor, and whom they saw to live a just and pious life. And let not the observance of the commandments of God seem hard or impossible, since it is seen to have been achieved by a layman of great position."