Eginhard (or “Einhard” in German and “Einhardus” in Latin) wrote one of the most famous books of early Middle Ages, being widely distributed in schools and monasteries: The “Life of Charlemagne”, Vita Karoli Magni. The “Magni” part yet – according to renowned scholars of our days – was only added some time in the 11th century A.C. as there were literally thousands of copies around. And one might suspect, one or the other “smaller Charles’ ” desiring to imitate the unattainable model of the great Frankish king did also appear, somewhere.
Centuries later, the Bohemian King, Charles IV. (“Karolyi”), actually wrote an autobiography using the same title, mainly covering his early years.
The idea though to take daily or sometimes weekly notes of his own life is developed in the fictitious character of “Carolus Paulus”, a young monk in the convent of the monastery of St. Maurice, Valais. It serves as a foreshadowing of very early autobiographies being written only a few decades later.
But it also shows a fundamental character of the Augustinian tradition in European monasteries, i.e. the concentration on introspection. And certainly, what we would call the “identity question” arises strongly in this context. Carolus Paulus though would not dare to aspire any such praise his “model” Charlemagne had gained before him. And in entirely Franciscan manner he denotes himself as “the minor one”, in Latin “paulus”.
But he sees it as inevitable to give his own heart an account of what his true intentions, motives and thoughts are. And he even intensifies the inner quest in very formal language and singular “posts”, calling them “INSCRIPTIONES”, that is inscriptions. All carved in stone, as it were.
This is how, during Christmas 1246, the “Vita Caroli Pauli” began.
But “Vita Caroli Pauli” is more: It serves simultaneously as the title of a literary series through which – much as was the case with the above mentioned Bohemian king – the earlier years of Carolus Paulus were described. In particular his life-forming journey through the “imperium”, the German-Roman Empire, of his days outlines the major subjects and “mottos” of his mature years:
After INITIA (time of beginnings) seven distinct periods will follow, and they are in fact “in statu nescendi”, i.e. about to be born.
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