Honorius Augustodunensis

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Honorius Augustodunensis , also Honorius von Autun (* approx. 1080; † 1150 or 1151) was a Benedictine monk and later Incluse , he probably came from Ireland. He wrote theological, philosophical and encyclopedic writings, pamphlets on church reform and biblical commentaries.


It is unclear today whether Honorius gave himself the surname Augustodunensis or whether this was subsequently ascribed to him. Some sparse information about his life can be found in the introductions to his approx. 30 partly unfinished works. Current research suggests that Honorius was a native Irishman who was trained in England, trained in France, and ordained in the French city of Autun .

Honorius came to Germany in the 12th century, where he took part in the struggle for the Gregorian reforms . To this end, he wrote pamphlets to draw attention to the existing grievances. Its primary goal was to impart basic theological and philosophical knowledge to the clergy who were willing to reform. This included topics such as science, history, exegesis , liturgy , dogmatics and ethics .

Honorius probably spent the last phase of his life as an inclusion in the Weih St. Peter monastery in Regensburg. There he died in 1150 or 1151.

Honorius used the writings of well-known authors such as Augustine, Hieronymus, Gregory the Great, Amalarius of Metz, Isidore of Seville, Johannes Scotus and Anselm of Canterbury for his works. Today more than 500 medieval manuscripts can be found with his works. This proves the enormous importance of his textbooks in Europe.

The most important works

  • Elucidarium (illuminator), theological scripture written in Canterbury around 1100 and translated into almost all European languages, first into Anglo-Saxon.
  • Sigillum , was created a little later than the Elucidarium and is an important work for exegesis.
  • Clavis physicae , is a simplified excerpt from the work De divisione naturae by Johannes Scottus Eriugena . In this work, the human being is represented as a being between nature and spirit.
  • Gemma animae , deals with the Church and the liturgy. The work is mainly based on Isidore of Seville and Amalar of Metz .
  • Sacramentarium , also contains explanations of the liturgy.
  • De luminaribus ecclesiae , was written around 1130 and contains an excerpt from Christian literary history. Honorius relies on Hieronymus, Gennadius, Isidore and Beda, among others, for the work.
  • Inevitabile seu de libero arbitrio (On free will), was written in England, the second version was not written before 1109. The work contains some ideas from the Elucidarium and its content relates to Augustine and Anselm of Canterbury .
  • Summa totius de omnimoda historia , represents an outline of world history from creation to the present. The work was created in Germany and found its way into the third book of the work "Imago Mundi" in an abbreviated form. Later the work was expanded by Bede.
  • Imago Mundi , created 1120 or earlier, is an encyclopaedic work and was the model for the French work Image du monde by Walter von Metz.

Note: The works are arranged chronologically according to their creation.


The Elucidarium is one of the two most popular encyclopaedic and didactic works by Honorius. In it he takes the opinion that man was created from the four elements, earth, fire, water and air. In addition, man is a microcosm and as this part of the macrocosm, i.e. the actual universe. The head of man is also spherical because the whole world is spherical. So man and cosmos are related. Honorius understands cosmos to be the universe and not just the earth. The Elucidarium consists of three books. The first book deals with God, the creation of angels and humans, the fall, the incarnation and redemption. The second book deals with the human being between good and evil and the sacraments of the Church. In the third and last book, eschatology is presented.

Reception of the work

This work had a wide impact. It was a popular handbook for the lower and less educated clergy. Honorius' ideas in the Elucidarium were therefore well known. The work was also widely received. The book Sidrach should be mentioned here, for example , the author of which is unknown. It was modeled on the Latin Elucidarium in the 13th century and had a religious and encyclopedic content. In the book of Sidrach the earth is compared to an apple. This idea was also found in other medieval texts. Examples of how this idea was spread are the designation “Reichsapfel” for the ruler's insignia and the name “Erdapfel” for Martin Behaim's first globe from 1492.

Imago Mundi

Imago Mundi literally means 'worldview'. This term stands for the mental conception of people about the appearance of the earth in the narrower and broader sense. These can be cosmographic ideas or worldview in general. Imago mundi is usually the name given to written, but also graphic, cartographic or pictorial representations of the world. The term Imago Mundi was not used very often in the Middle Ages. The works Ymaginis Mundi by Pierre d'Ailly and Image du Monde by Walter von Metz should also be mentioned at this point .

The Imago Mundi des Honorius is an encyclopedic chronicle dating from around 1120. Research suggests that this work could have been written as early as 1110, since this font was used by Heinrich von Mainz as the basis for a world map. Up until 1139, Honorius' work was revised again and again. He neither had a map made for his work nor used a comparable source.

The Imago Mundi des Honorius is the implementation of a translation of the geographical world view from learned Latin into non-Latin literature. The work was intended for quadrivial lessons at universities, which included the subjects of arithmetic , geometry, music and astronomy. In addition, the work is only moderately interspersed with theological statements. The Imago Mundi des Honorius replaced the predominance of Isidore de Seville's etymology as a “material discovery pit” and dominated the 12th and 13th centuries.

Reception of the work

This work by Honorius was also widely received. For example, French, Italian and German descriptions of the world have come down to us from the 13th century, based on the Imago Mundi of Honorius. Examples are the Middle High German "Lucidarius", the author of which is unknown and in which some chapters were taken literally from Honorius. Furthermore, the works Weltchronik by Rudolf von Ems and Pierre de Beauvais Mappemonde were also based on the Imago Mundi of Honorius. In addition, this work has been translated into many languages. A copy of the Imago Mundi was even dedicated to the Salier Heinrich V and his English wife Mathilde on the occasion of their wedding.

Forerunner of the "Imago Mundi"

Even before the work of Honorius there were textbooks with a comparable content. Some clergy of the early Middle Ages tried to transfer the lessons of the ancient sciences into the Christian world. Only a few examples are given here. Cassiodorus, a monastery founder and organizer, for example, wrote the necessary elementary education for monks. Also Isidore of Seville contributed with his works "Etymologiae" and "De natura rerum" an important knowledge in. Similar important works were written by Beda and Hrabanus Maurus. Since Orosius, a connection between history and geography has been common, which can also be found in Honorius.

The structure of the Imago Mundi and the worldview conveyed in it

In his treatise Honorius made the inhabited and also the uninhabited world an object. He promises the reader a description of the shape of the whole world. This figure should be shown to the reader and delight him deep down. Honorius also promises that his work is made for the entire world.

The Imago Mundi of Honorius is divided into three books, which correspond to the compilation of specialist areas from the Quadrivium . For Honorius, Imago Mundi captures the world in the sense of cosmos. For him, the world does not include ecumenism, but also heaven, weather formation, astronomy, computus , the calculation of time and history.

  • I. Cosmography, Geography, Meteorology and Astronomy
This book describes the geography and meteorology according to Augustine, Isidore of Seville, Beda Venerabilis , Orosius and Solinus and the astrology according to Isidore of Seville and Gaius Iulius Hyginus .
  • II. Chronology and computistics (calculation of the annual calendar to determine the church festivals)
This book covers the period after Beda Venerabilis.
  • III. World history
This book contains a section from Summa totius

Some chapters from the first book are presented here as examples.

De forma mundi (The shape of the world)

In this chapter Honorius describes the shape of the world. The world and the cosmos are in constant motion. In addition, the world is round like a ball and made up of different components like an egg. This egg comparison is not based on Ptolemy's spherical worldview , but on the medieval theory of elements. The four sections of the universe are thus assigned to the four elements, and this is then compared to the structure of an egg. Honorius compares the sky (coelum = water) with the shell (testa), the ether (purus aeter = fire) with the protein (album), the air (aer = air) with the yolk (vitellum) and the earth (terra = Earth) with the fat droplet (gutta pinguedinis).

This egg comparison can also be found in other authors of the Middle Ages, but in part in a modified form. However, this parable of the earth and the cosmos with the yolk in the egg is not a medieval invention. Rather, it goes back to Greek cosmology. The conception of the ovoid shape of the sky vault was known since Aristotle (4th century BC).

De forma terrae (The shape of the earth)

In this chapter Honorius discusses the shape of the earth . The earth is round and marked as "orbis", that is, as "earth circle". Honorius describes the appearance of the earth in such a way that from the air it would look like a hand holding a ball. The fingers of the hand would represent the great mountains and the deep valleys. Honorius gives the circumference of the earth as 180,000 stadia. The earth is surrounded by an ocean and is thus supplied with moisture everywhere. The center of the cosmos is also the center of the earth, which is not held up by a support but by the power of God .

De quinque zonis (The five zones)

In this chapter Honorius divides the globe into five zones or climate belts. He states that the outer areas at the poles are uninhabitable due to extreme cold and the middle areas due to extreme heat. In between there are still two colonizable belts.

De III. partibus (The three parts / tripartite division)

In this chapter Honorius divides ecumenism into three parts, which are divided by the Mediterranean. These three parts correspond to the three continents known in the Middle Ages, Asia, Europe and Africa. Asia extends from north to east to south, Europe from west to north, Africa from south to west. Honorius thus describes the characteristics of the so-called TO card . In this map type, the O represents the ocean frame, as the world is surrounded by water, and the T represents the waters (Don, Mediterranean and Nile) that separate the continents from each other. Asia is bordered by the Don and the Nile, while Europe and Africa are separated by the Mediterranean.


  • Hartmut Freytag : Honorius in: The German literature of the Middle Ages. Author's Lexicon , Vol. 4, ed. v. Kurt Ruh, u. a. Berlin / New York 1983, pp. 120ff.
  • Hartmut Kugler : Imago Mundi. Cartographic sketch and literary description in: Wolfgang Harms / Jan-Dirk Müller (Hrsg.): Mediävistische Komparatistik. Festschrift for Franz Josef Worstbrock on the occasion of his 60th birthday , Stuttgart / Leipzig 1997, pp. 77–93
  • Rudolf Simek : Earth and Cosmos in the Middle Ages. The worldview before Columbus , Munich 1992
  • Benedikt Konrad Vollmann : Honorius Augustodunensis in: Lexikon des Mittelalters, Vol. 5. Munich / Zurich 1991, p. 122
  • Anna-Dorothee von den Brincken : Imago Mundi. Marginalia on the “worldview” of Honorius Augustodunensis (especially Imago Mundi I, 1 and 5-7) in: Scientia and ars in the high and late Middle Ages (2nd half volume), ed. v. Ingrid Craemer-Ruegenberg / Andreas Speer, Berlin / New York 1994, 819–828 (= Miscellanea Mediaevalia, Vol. 22/2)
  • Anna-Dorothee von den Brincken: Mappa mundi and Chronographia. Studies on the imago mundi of the occidental Middle Ages in: Studies on the universal cartography of the Middle Ages , vol. 229, ed. v. Thomas Szabo, Göttingen 2008, pp. 17–55
  • Franz StanonikHonorius of Augustodunum . In: Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie (ADB). Volume 13, Duncker & Humblot, Leipzig 1881, pp. 74-78.
  • Lorenz WeinrichHonorius Augustodunensis. In: New German Biography (NDB). Volume 9, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1972, ISBN 3-428-00190-7 , pp. 601 f. ( Digitized version ).

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