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Blessed Herman “the Cripple”

The Blessed Virgin gave him a choice. He chose wisely.


Th. Fink Veringen | CC BY-SA 4.0

Benedictine Monk – (1013-1054)

His life

+ Herman was born in Swabia in 1013 and suffered from severe physical disabilities and could hardly speak. Recent scholarship proposes that he suffered from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or spinal muscular atrophy. His physical disabilities led to his being known as Herman “Contractus” or, more commonly, “the Cripple.”

+ His family sent him to be educated by the Benedictine monks at Reichenau, Switzerland, and he was a cheerful, friendly child. It is said that while he was still a youth, the Blessed Virgin appeared to him and asked if he would rather have health or wisdom. He chose wisdom.

+ Herman became a celebrated mathematician and was known for his work in astronomy, history, and music. He wrote both the words and the music for the Marian hymn Alma Redemptoris Mater and, probably, the Salve Regina. Herman is also said to have made astronomical and musical instruments and to have developed a system of musical notation.

+ Herman became a monk at Reichenau in 1043 and came to be regarded as a “wonder of the age.” He died in his monastery in 1054 and devotion to Blessed Herman “the Cripple” was confirmed by the Holy See in 1863.

Spiritual bonus

The Benedictine monastery at Reichenau, of which Herman was a member, was founded in 724 by Saint Pirmin. Among the many saints who were monks of this community, was the martyr Saint Meinrad, the site of whose hermitage became location of the famed Abbey of Einsiedeln. The Abbey of Reichenau was secularized by order of Napoleon in 1803.


“Loving mother of the Redeemer,

gate of heaven, star of the sea,

assist your people who have fallen yet strive to rise again,

To the wonderment of nature you bore your Creator,

yet remained a virgin after as before,

You who received Gabriel’s joyful greeting,

have pity on us poor sinners.”—Blessed Herman the Cripple


O God, who in your kindness called your servant blessed Herman to the following of Christ, grant, we pray, through his intercession, that, denying ourselves, we may hold fast to you with all our heart. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

(from The Roman Missal: Common of Holy Men and Women—For a Monk)

Profiles prepared by Br. Silas Henderson, S.D.S.

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