HRABANUSMAURUS (c. 780 – 4 February 856)
Hrabanus Maurus (also known as Rhabanus) was a Frankish Benedictine monk, the abbot of Fulda, the Archbishop of Mainz in Germany and a theologian. He was the author of the encyclopaedia De rerum naturis (On the Nature of Things.) He also wrote on education and grammar and commentaries on the Bible. He was one of the greatest teachers and writers of the Carolingian era and was known as the "Praeceptor Germaniae," or "the teacher of Germany."
Most importantly, Maurus was regarded for his generosity toward the poor, feeding over 300 people a day during the famines of 850 AD.
Before 814 AD, Maurus devised a system of complicated poetry and art that is now in the collection of the Vatican Library. His most notable achievement was De laudibus sanctae crucis, a collection of 28 encrypted religious poems rendered in praise of the holy cross. Arranged in the carmina figurata style of word pictures, he was said to be the inventor of a cyphering system of 36 lines containing 36 letters evenly spaced on a grid. In this grid, Maurus included figurative images, putting the poems in visual terms. The poem filling the cypher grid was enriched by these smaller images, as most of the letters contained within them created tiny individual poems.As a testament to Maurus' lasting influence, Gustav Mahler interpreted one of Maurus' poems in his moving 8th Symphony.
Given that a large part of the population at the time was not only poor, but illiterate, Maurus' visual poems bridged the gap between a priviledged reading community and the common person. Maurus used simple symbols : rings to signify cycles, squares to represent books, and letters for days. By doing so he made religious concepts easily accessible to the masses. They were not overly simple, but were made richer by the mix of the complex cyphering, or coding, used to both create and read the poems, as well as the viewer's simple delight of instantly understanding sacred symbols. Saint Odilo fo Cluny, an 11th-century devotee of Maurus' poetry wrote that "no work more precious to see, more pleasing to read, sweeter to remember, or more laborious to write can or could ever be found." (source : Vatican Library).