Celtic and Old English Saints          28 March

* St. Tuathal of Saint-Gall

St. Tuathal of Saint-Gall
(Tutilo) (Tuathal: pronounced tool)

When St. Gall, the companion of St. Columbanus, died in Switzerland in 640,
a monastery was built over the place of his burial. This became the famous
monastery of St. Gall, one of the most influential monasteries of the Middle
Ages and the center of music, art, and learning throughout that period.

About the middle of the ninth century, returning from a visit to Rome, an
Irishman named Moengul stopped off at the abbey and decided to stay, along
with a number of Irish companions, among them Tuathal, or Tutilo. Moengul
was given charge of the abbey schools and he became the teacher of Tutilo,
Notker, and Radpert, who were distinguished for their reaming and their
artistic skills. Tutilo, in particular, was a universal genius: musician,
poet, painter, sculptor, builder, goldsmith, head of the monastic school,
and composer.

He was part of the abbey at its greatest, and the influence of Gall spread
throughout Europe. The Gregorian chant manuscripts from the monastery of St.
Gall, many of them undoubtedly the work of St. Tutilo, are considered among
the most authentic and were studied carefully when the monks of Solesmes
were restoring the tradition of Gregorian chant to the Catholic Church. The
scribes of St. Gall supplied most of the monasteries of Europe with
manuscript books of Gregorian chant, all of them priceless works of the art
of illumination. Proof of the Irish influence at St. Gall is a large
collection of Irish manuscripts at the abbey dating from the seventh,
eighth, and ninth centuries.

Tutilo was known to be handsome, eloquent, and quick-witted, who brought
something of the Irish love of learning and the arts to St. Gall. He died in
915 at the height of the abbey's influence, remembered as a great teacher, a
dedicated monk, and a competent scholar.

Medieval Sourcebook:
Ekkehard of St. Gall: Three Monks of St. Gall

The lives of three monks who lived in the abbey of St. Gall at the end of
the ninth century were chronicled by Ekkehard of St. Gall a century later.
The monks are more human and istinctive than the monastic rules seem to

I will tell now of Notker, Ratpert, and Tutilo, since they were one heart
and soul, and formed together a sort of trinity in unity.... Yet, though so
close in heart, in their natures (as it often happens) they were most
diverse. Notker was frail in body, though not in mind, a stammerer in voice
but not in spirit; lofty in divine thoughts, patient in adversity, gentle in
everything, strict in enforcing the discipline of our convent, yet somewhat
timid in sudden and unexpected alarms, except in the assaults of demons,
whom he always withstood manfully. He was most assiduous in illuminating,
reading, and composing; and (that I may embrace all his gifts of holiness
within a brief compass) he was a vessel of the Holy Ghost, as full as any
other of his own time.

But Tutilo was widely different. He was strong and supple in arm and limb,
such a man as Fabius tells us to choose for an athlete; ready of speech,
clear of voice, a delicate carver and painter; musical, with especial skill
on the harp and the flute; for the Abbot gave him a cell wherein he taught
the harp to the sons of noble families around. He was a crafty messenger, to
run far or near; skilled in building and all the kindred arts; he had a
natural gift of ready and forcible expression whether in German or in Latin,
in earnest or in jest; so that the emperor Charles [the Fat] once said,
"Devil take the fellow who made so gifted a man into a monk!" But with all
this he had higher gifts: in choir he was mighty, and in secret prayer he
had the gift of tears; a most excellent composer of poetry and melodies, yet
chaste, as became the disciple of our Master Marcellus, who shut his eyes
against women.

Ratpert, again, was midway between the other two. Master of the Schools from
his youth, a straightforward and kindly teacher, he was somewhat harsh in
discipline, more loth than all the other Brethren to set foot without the
cloister, and wearing but two pairs of shoes in the twelvemonth. He called
it death to go forth, and oftentimes warned Tutilo to take heed to himself
upon his journeys; in the schools he was most assiduous. He oftentimes
omitted the services and the mass, and would say, "We hear good masses when
we teach others to sing them." Though he would say that impunity was the
worst plague of cloister life, yet . he never came to the Chapter-house*
without special summons, since he bore that most heavy burden (as he called
it) of reproving and punishing.

These three senators of our Republic being such as they were, yet they
suffered constantly (as learned and strenuous men must ever suffer) the
detractions and backbiting of such as stagnated in sloth or walked in
frivolity; more especially, since he was the less ready to defend himself,
that saint (as indeed he was) Dom Notker; for Tutilo and Ratpert, who were
of sharper temper and less patient under contumely, were more rarely
attacked by such folk. But Notker, the gentlest of men, learned in his own
person what insults meant: I will here cite but one example, wherefrom thou
mayest judge the rest and know how great is Satan's presumption in such
things. There was here a certain Refectorer named Sindolf, who afterwards by
feigned obsequiousness (for there was no other use in the man), and by
bringing false accusations against the Brethren, wormed himself into the
grace of Abbot Solomon, who promoted him to the Clerkship of the Works. Yet
even as Refectorer he showed evil for good so far as he had dared, and more
especially against Notker.

Now Solomon was busied with many things and unable to look closely into
every matter; wherefore many of the Brethren, seeing their food sometimes
withdrawn and sometimes tainted, would accuse him of injustice; among whom
these Three seemed sometimes to have said something [of the kind]. But
Sindolf, who ever fomented discord, knowing that ancient spark which had
kindled illwill between these schoolfellows [the four had been fellow pupils
in the monestary, but Solomon was now promoted far beyond the others],
wormed himself into Solomon's confidence as one who would tell him a matter
concerning his own honour; and he, though he knew that nothing is more
harmful for prelates than to give ear to whisperings from their subjects,
yet asked of Sindolf's tidings. Then the liar told how those Three, ever
wont to speak against the Abbot, had on the day before uttered things
intolerable to God. The Abbot believed his words, and conceived against his
unsuspecting fellows a grudge which he soon showed openly. They, unable to
learn aught from him concerning the ground of their offence, guessed that
they had been ensnared by Sindolf's wiles. At length, when the concurrent
testimony of the rest, had convinced the Bishop* that they had said nothing
whatever against him, then all demanded vengeance upon the false witness;
but the Bishop dissembled, and they tacitly acquiesced. Now these Three
inseparable Brethren were wont to meet in the Scriptorium, by the Prior's
permission, in the nightly interval before Lauds, and there to hold debates
of Holy Scripture, most suited to such a time.

But Sindolf, knowing of their colloquies at this time, crept stealthily ne
night to the glazed window by which Tutilo sat, whereunto he closely applied
his ear and listened whether he might catch something which he might twist
to evil and bear to the Bishop. Tutilo became aware of this; and, being a
resolute man who trusted in the strength of his arms, he spoke to his
companions in the Latin tongue (for Sindolf knew no Latin), saying, "The
rascal is here, with his ear glued to the window! Thou, Notker, who are a
timid fellow, go into the church; but thou, my Ratpert, seize the Brethren's
scourge which hangeth in the calefactory, and hasten forth. 1, when I hear
thine approach, will suddenly open the window, catch him by the hair, and
drag him to me here by main force; and thou, dear friend, be strong and of a
good courage, and lay upon him with all thy might, that we may avenge God on
his body!"

So Ratpert, who was ever most ready to discipline, crept softly forth,
caught the scourge, and hastened swiftly to the spot, where he found the
fellow caught up by the head, and hailed blows upon that defenceless back
with all his might; when lo! Sindolf, struggling with arms and legs
together, caught the scourge as it fell upon him and held it fast. But
Ratpert was aware of a rod that lay hard by, wherewith he now laid on most
lustily again; until the victim, after fruitless prayers for mercy, thought
within himself, "Now is the time to cry!" and roared aloud for the Brethren.
Part of the convent, amazed to hear these unwonted sounds at such an hour,
hastened up with lanterns, and asked what was amiss. Whereupon Tutilo cried
again and again, "I hold the Devil, I hold the Devil, bring hither a light,
that I may see more clearly in whose form I hold him." Then, turning that
unw'lling head hither and thither to the beholders, he asked as though I in
astonishment: "What! Is this Sindolf" "Yea, indeed!" cried they, and prayed
for his liberty: at which Tutilo released him, and said: "Woe is me! for I
have laid hands upon the bishop's intimate and privy whisperer!" But
Ratpert, when the Brethren hastened up, had gone aside and withdrawn himself
privily, nor could the victim know who it was that had smitten him.

When, therefore, some enquired whither Dom Notker and Dom Ratpert had gone,
Tutilo answered, "Both departed to worship God when they heard the Devil,
and left me alone with that fiend prowling in the darkness. Know ye all,
therefore, that it was an angel of the Lord whose hand dealt him those
stripes." The Brethren therefore departed, and the matter was much debated
(as was natural enough) by the partisans of their side; some said that it
had befallen by God's justice, that privy eavesdroppers might be brought to
light; others, again, argued that such a man should not thus have been
handled unless it were true that an angel of God had smitten him.

from Ekkehard, "History of the Vicissitudes of St. Gallen" in G. G. Coulton,
ed., A Medieval Garner, (London: Constable, 1910), pp. 18-22.

Another Life

Died at Saint-Gall, Switzerland, c. 915. The handsome, eloquent,
quick-witted Saint Tutilo was a giant in strength and stature and a friend
of Saint Notker Balbulus, with whom he received musical training from
Moengal. Tutilo, a monk of Saint-Gall, may have been Tuathal, a younger
member of the party of the Irish Bishop Marcus and his nephew who stopped at
the abbey on their return from Rome.

Tutilo was a painter, musician and composer of music for harp and other
strings, poet, orator, architect, metal worker, mechanic, head of the
cloister school, and sculptor, but he is best known for his obedience,
recollection, and aversion to publicity. Some of his paintings can be found
in Constance, Metz, Saint-Gall, and Mainz. The chapel in which he was
buried, dedicated to Saint Catherine, was later renamed for him (Attwater2,
Benedictines, D'Arcy, Encyclopedia, Fitzpatrick2).

Lives kindly supplied by:
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These Lives are archived at:


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