Colman nepos Cracavist

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Colman[1] (floruit c.800),[2] called nepos Cracavist ("grandson of Cracavist"),[3] was a Hiberno-Latin author associated with the Carolingian Renaissance. His poetry is full of classical allusions and quotations of Virgil.[4] He may have been a cleric at Rome, as the manuscript which nicknames him states; there were several such Colmans at Rome in the ninth century. He may be one of those responsible for spreading the cult of Saint Brigid in Italy.[2] One manuscript suggests he was a bishop.[5]

Connections with Bobbio[edit]

On the basis of similarity in prosody, he has also been identified as the composer of certain poems traditionally assigned to Columban, the saint and founder of Bobbio Abbey.[6] These are Columbanus Fidolio, Ad Hunaldum, Ad Sethum, Praecepta vivendi, and the celeuma. Since the former was in manuscript by c.790 and the latter was probably used by Paul the Deacon (d.c.800), their poet's dates are set to the late eighth century.[7] It is possible that Colman was merely the imitator of Columban. He would certainly have had access to the latter's works if he lived in Italy.[8]

There survives a notice of some books gifted by a priest named Theodore to Bobbio (Breve de libris Theodori Presbyteri) that lists: Martyrologium Hieronymi, et de arithmetica Macrobii, Dionisii, Anatolii, Victorii, Bedae, Colmani, et epistolae aliorum sapientum liber i. Whether the Colman is the poet "nepos Cracavist" or another is unknown, likewise are the books of his donated.[9]

Poem of Saint Brigid[edit]

Colman wrote a 34-hexameter lyrical vignette which is the earliest poem about Saint Brigid, incipit Quodam forte die caelo dum turbidus imber ("One day, when a rain-storm happened to be raging in the heavens").[10] It survives in two manuscripts now at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France. The better reading is in BN lat. 18095, where his poem is titled "Versus Colmani episcopi de sancta Brigida" (Verses of bishop Colman of saint Brigid). This manuscript, place of origin unknown, was for some time in Notre-Dame-de-Paris.[11] The other, BN nouv. acq. lat. 1615, a ninth-century manuscript from Saint-Benoît-sur-Loire called the Liber sancti Benedicti Floriacensis, is a compilation of astronomy in which Colman's verses are found under the rubric "Colmanus nepos Cracavist in Roma virtutem hanc sanctae Brigitę praedicavi" in a section titled "De peritia cursus lunae et maris".[12]

In the composition of his vignette, Colman relied on the prose sources Cogitosus and the Vita Brigidae prima, as can be seen from his conflation of their accounts of Brigid's hanging her robe from a sunbeam: Cogitosus says as if from beam, the Vita as if on a rope. Colman uses both similes to describe the miracle. The poem may have been designed for use by a biographer composing a vita of Brigid.

Envoi to Colman[edit]

Colman also wrote a short farewell poem to a fellow Irishman, also named Colman, who was returning to Ireland.[13] He himself wrote the title for the piece in two hexameters: Colmano versus in Colmanum perheriles / Scottigena ficti patriae cupidum et remeantem.[14] Colman expresses regret that he will be left behind, but the poem is absent the personal pleading and admonition typical of its genre (and exemplified by fellow Carolingian poets Walahfrid Strabo and Gottschalk of Orbais).[15] Colman speaks of himself as an old man at the time of this writing, though his countryman is young.

This poem is found alongside the Brigid piece in the manuscript known as BN nouv. acq. lat. 1615 and also in Reg. 15 B. xix in the British Museum, London. This last manuscript was written at Reims in the ninth century and was for a long time MS no. CCV at the Abbey of Saint-Remi.[16]


  1. ^ The Irish Gaelic name Colm or Colmán gave rise to the Latinisations Colmanus and Columba and the diminutive Columban(us). All these names are largely interchangeable, cf. Michael W. Herren (2000), "Some Quantitative Poems Attributed to Columbanus of Bobbio," Poetry and Philosophy in the Middle Ages: A Festschrift for Peter Dronke (Leiden: E. J. Brill, ISBN 90-04-11964-7), 111 n54.
  2. ^ a b M. Esposito (1932), "The Poems of Colmanus 'Nepos Cracavist'; and Dungalus 'Praecipus Scottorum'," Journal of Theological Studies, 33, 118, assigns him the early ninth century.
  3. ^ The more probable derivation of his name is from episcopus craxavit ("the bishop wrote"), cf. Herren, 111.
  4. ^ His poems are translated by Peter Godman (1985), Latin Poetry of the Carolingian Renaissance (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press), 278–81.
  5. ^ MS BN lat. 18095, where his poem is titled "Versus Colmani episcopi de sancta Brigida" (Verses of bishop Colman of saint Brigid).
  6. ^ However, Colman refers to himself as "Colman" in his poems, Columban as "Columban" (Herren, 111).
  7. ^ Though he may have written much earlier, or even be Columban (Herren, 112).
  8. ^ Herren, 113.
  9. ^ Esposito, 119, hypothesises a Epistola Colmani de arithmetica, but notes that it may be a reference to the Historia Ecclesiastica of Bede, which deals with a dispute involving Colman of Lindisfarne at the Synod of Whitby in 664. This notice was first printed by L. A. Muratori (1740) in his Antiquitates Italicae Medii Aevi, iii, col. 822.
  10. ^ Godman, 278.
  11. ^ It is written in Caroline minuscule with no trace of Irish influence, though its miscellaneous contents include Irish works, cf. Esposito, 114.
  12. ^ This compilation betrays Irish sources, but the MS is continental, cf. Esposito, 113.
  13. ^ Incipit: Dum subito properas dulces invisere terras, "Since you are in haste all of a sudden to visit those sweet lands" (Godman, 280).
  14. ^ This title appears only in the Reims MS; the Saint-Benoît scribe changed it to Colmano Scottigena versus in Colmanum ficti: "to Colman the Irish-born a poem made by Colman". Cf. Esposito, 119.
  15. ^ Godman, 280.
  16. ^ Esposito, 116. Wilhelm Meyer published this version, with amendations, in Ériu, the Journal of the School of Irish Learning, iii (Dublin, 1907), 186–89.