mercredi 20 mars 2013

Saint WULFRAN (VULFRAN) de FONTENELLE, archevêque et confesseur

Saint Wulfran

Archevêque de Sens


Saint Wulfran était fils d'un officier du roi Dagobert; il passa quelques années à la cour, mais il n'échoua point contre les écueils où la vertu des grands fait si souvent naufrage, et sut allier toujours les devoirs de son état avec la pratique des maximes de l'Évangile.

Élevé sur le siège archiépiscopal de Sens, il se livra tout entier aux oeuvres de son saint ministère. Après avoir gouverné son diocèse pendant deux ans et demi à peine, il se sentit intérieurement sollicité d'aller prêcher l'Évangile aux Frisons. Il s'embarqua avec plusieurs religieux décidés à courir tous les dangers de son apostolat.

Pendant la traversée, un fait miraculeux fit connaître le mérite de l'évêque missionnaire. Comme il disait la Messe sur le navire, celui qui faisait l'office de diacre laissa tomber la patène à la mer; Wulfran lui commanda de mettre la main à l'endroit où la patène était tombée, et aussitôt elle remonta du fond des eaux jusque dans sa main, à l'admiration de tous.

A force de miracles, le courageux apôtre opéra chez les sauvages Frisons de nombreuses conversions. Wulfran, son oeuvre à peu près terminée, alla passer le reste de ses jours dans un monastère; sa sainte mort arriva vers l'an 720. Saint Wulfran a toujours été très honoré en Picardie, et de nombreuses faveurs ont été obtenues de Dieu par son intercession.

Abbé L. Jaud, Vie des Saints pour tous les jours de l'année, Tours, Mame, 1950

Saint Wulfran

Confesseur - Archevêque de Sens ( 720)

ou Vulfran.

Il était le fils d'un officier de l'armée de Clovis II. Quand il perdit son père, il quitta la cour, distribua ses biens aux pauvres et donna ses terres à l'abbaye de Fontenelle. En 682, il fut nommé au siège épiscopal de Sens et, de là, partit évangéliser la Frise où il obtint la conversion du chef de ce pays. Il rentra à Fontenelle pour y mourir. Ses reliques sont toujours vénérées à Abbeville.

Au monastère de Fontenelle, vers 700, la mise au tombeau de saint Vulfran. Moine élu évêque de Sens, il entreprit, après quelques années, de porter l’annonce de l’Évangile au peuple de la Frise et, revenu au monastère de Fontenelle, il y termina ses jours.

Martyrologe romain


St. Wulfram


Bishop of Sens, missionary in Frisi, born at Milly near Fontainebleau, probably during the reign of Clovis II (638-56); died 20 March, before 704, in which year a translation of his body took place (Duchesne, "Fastes épiscopaux de l'ancienne Gaule", II, Paris, 1900, 413). His father Fulbert stood high in the esteem of Dagobert I and Clovis II. Wulfram received a good education, and was ordained priest. He intended to spend a secluded life but was called to the Court of Theodoric III of Neustria and from there was elevated to the episcopacy of Sens, 684 (690, 692). He was present at an assembly of bishops in 693 at Valenciennes. Two years later he resigned and retired to the Abbey of Fontanelle. During the second journey of St. Boniface to Rome Wulfram is said to have preached in Frisia. He tried to convert Radbod, but not succeeding he returned to Fontanelle. Some authorities record another and longer stay in Frisia, but, as neither Bede nor Alcuin mention his missionary labour there, it is barely possible. The relics of the saint were brought to Notre Dame at Abbeville in 1058. His feast is celebrated 20 March.


Acta SS., III March, 143; MABILLON, Acta SS. O. S. B., III, i, 340; BENNETT in Dict. Christ. Biog., s.v. Wulframnus, St.; DELETOILLE, Éloge de St. Wulfran (Paris, 1808); GLAISTER, Life and times of St. Wulfram, bishop and missionary (London, 1878); LA VIEILLE, ed. SAUVAGE, Abrégé de la vie et miracles de St. Wulfran (Rouen, 1876); LEFRANC, L'authenticite des religues de St. Wulfran. . . réponse à . .Sauvage (Paris, 1890).

Mershman, Francis. "St. Wulfram." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 15. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912. 9 Apr. 2015 <>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Thomas M. Barrett. Dedicated to Saint Wulfram.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. October 1, 1912. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.


Wulfram of Fontenelle, OSB B (RM)
(also known as Wolfram, Wulfrannus)

Died at Fontenelle, France, April 20, c. 703 (or 720?); feast of his translation, October 15. The story of Saint Wulfram takes us back to the days of the Franks and the dark gods of the north, and of the wild Teutonic tribes and old Norse sagas, when a handful of devoted men sailed into the northern night with the Cross at their prow and challenged the power of Odin and Thor.

Wulfram came of a gentler race, born and bred in a civilized land, nurtured in the wealthy home of his father, an official of King Dagobert. He found his first employment in the French court under Clotaire III, and, in 682, was rewarded with the archbishopric of Sens in place of its rightful bishop, Saint Amatus. But, strangely moved by God's Spirit to acknowledge the see's licit bishop and by the challenge of the pagan lands, within three years he laid aside his high employments and gave his property of Maurilly to the Church. In order to prepare himself to take the Gospel to the Frisians and obtain the help of monks, he retired for a time at Fontenelle. Then he set sail for Scandinavia with a small group of followers.

Longfellow in his poem, The Saga of King Olaf, vividly describes how during the voyage Wulfram, surrounded by his choristers chanting into the night, held service on deck:

To the ship's bow he ascended,
By his choristers attended,
Round him were the tapers lighted,
And the sacred incense rose.
On the bow stood Bishop Sigurd,
In his robes as one transfigured,
And the Crucifix he planted

It was a hard and evil time, and only with great difficulty did his enterprise make headway. The son of king Radbod was converted. Wulfram, however, was allowed to settle and to preach the Gospel. The missionaries had some success, but as in other parts of Europe during the period, the attitude of the king was likely to be decisive.

Wulfram found that children were sacrificed to appease their heathen gods, hung on roadside gibbets, or fastened to posts on the shore and left to drown with the tide. On great pagan festivals, the people would cast lots to see who should be sacrificed. Immediately the chosen one would be hanged or cut into pieces. In vain he appealed to Radbod to prohibit such inhuman practices, but the king replied that it was the custom of the country and he could not alter it. He even cynically challenged Wulfram to rescue the victims if he could, whereupon Wulfram, taking him at his word, strode into the raging sea to save two children who were helpless and almost submerged.

At other times he cut down the bodies of those who were nearly dead from the gallows to which they were tied and restored them as in the case of Ovon. The lot decided that Ovon should be sacrificed. Wulfram earnestly begged King Radbod to save him: but the people ran to the palace, outraged at such a sacrilege. After much discussion they agreed that if Wulfram's God should save Ovon's life, he should ever serve him and be Wulfram's slave. The saint went into prayer. After hanging on the gibbet for two hours, the man was left for dead. The cord hanging him broke. When the body fell to the ground, Ovon was found to be alive. He was given to the saint and became a monk and priest at Fontenelle.

The missionaries and their miracles so impressed the inhabitants that, filled with fear and wonder, they renounced their false gods and were baptized, and even Radbod himself was converted. But at the point of baptism, Radbod asked where his ancestors were. Wulfram answered that hell was the destiny of idolators. Radbod then declared: "I will go to hell with my ancestors rather than be in heaven without them." Radbod later sent for Saint Willibrord to baptize him, but when the saint arrived the king was already dead. Thus, he was never experienced the mercy of the sacrament.

For twenty years Wulfram continued his arduous missionary activity until failing health compelled him to return to France; but always he is remembered as the captain of a Christian crew, who "bore the White Christ" through the vapors of the northern night.

His relics were translated from Fontenelle to Abbeville, where Wulfram is venerated as patron and where several miracles occurred. In 1062, his relics were moved to Rouen. Both his feasts are celebrated in Croyland Abbey (Lincolnshire), England, probably because their abbot Ingulfph (1086-1109) was a monk of Fontenelle. The vita of Wulfram was written by the monk Jonas of Fontenelle eleven years after his death (Attwater2, Benedictines, Encyclopedia, Farmer, Gill, Husenbeth).

Saint Wulfram is depicted in art as baptizing a young king. Sometimes (1) the young king is near him; (2) he is shown arriving by ship with monks and baptizing the king; or (3) he is shown baptizing the son of King Radbod (Roeder).

Wulfram is venerated at Fontenelle, Frisia, and Sens (Roeder).


March 20

St. Wulfran, Archbishop of Sens

[And Apostolic Missionary in Friseland.]  HIS father was an officer in the armies of King Dagobert, and the saint spent some years in the court of King Clotaire III. and of his mother St. Bathildes, but occupied his heart only on God, despising worldly greatness as empty and dangerous, and daily advancing in virtue in a place where virtue is often little known. His estate of Maurilly he bestowed on the abbey of Fontenelle, or St. Vandrille, in Normandy. He was chosen and consecrated archbishop of Sens, in 682, which diocess he governed during two years and a half with great zeal and sanctity. A tender compassion for the blindness of the idolaters of Friseland, and the example of the English zealous preachers in those parts, moved him to resign his bishopric with proper advice, and after a retreat at Fontenelle, to enter Friseland in quality of a poor missionary priest. He baptized great multitudes, with a son of King Radbod, and drew the people from the barbarous custom of sacrificing men to idols. The lot herein decided, on great festivals, who should be the victim; and the person was instantly hanged or cut in pieces. The lot having fallen on one Ovon, St. Wulfran earnestly begged his life of King Radbod; but the people ran tumultuously to the palace, and would not suffer what they called a sacrilege. After many words, they consented that if the God of Wulfran should save Ovon’s life, he should ever serve him, and be Wulfran’s slave. The saint betook himself to prayer, and the man, after hanging on the gibbet two hours, being left for dead, by the cord breaking fell to the ground; and being found alive was given to the saint, and became a monk and priest at Fontenelle. Wulfran also miraculously rescued two children from being drowned in the sea, in honour of the idols. Radbod, who had been an eye-witness to this last miracle, promised to become a Christian, and was instructed among the catechumens; but his criminal delays rendered him unworthy such a mercy. As he was going to step into the baptismal font, he asked where the great number of his ancestors and nobles were in the next world? The saint replied, that hell is the portion of all who die guilty of idolatry. At which the prince drew back, and refused to be baptized, saying, he would go with the greater number. This tyrant sent afterwards to St. Willebrord to treat with him about his conversion; but before the arrival of the saint was found dead. St. Wulfran retired to Fontenelle, that he might prepare himself for death, and died there on the 20th of April, in 720. His relics were removed to Abbeville, where he is honoured as patron. See his life written by Jonas, monk of Fontenelle, eleven years after his death, purged from spurious additions, by Mabillon, sæc. 3. Ben. Fleury, b. 41. t. 9. p. 190. See also the history of the discovery of his relics at St. Vandrille’s, accompanied with miracles, and the translation to Rouen in 1062, well written by an anonymous author who assisted at that ceremony, several parts of which work are published by D’Achery, Spicil. t. 3. p. 248. the Bollandists and Mabillon. The Bollandists have added a relation of certain miracles said to have been performed by the relics of this saint at Abbeville.

Rev. Alban Butler (1711–73).  Volume III: March. The Lives of the Saints.  1866.