Évêque et martyr en Thuringe (✝ 689)
Probalement d'origine irlandaise, il serait venu, avec onze compagnons, en Thuringe. Ces migrations évangélisatrices venues d'Irlande furent fréquentes à cette époque. Devenu évêque de Wurzbourg, il convertit le duc de Thuringe qui accepte de rompre l'union illégitime qu'il avait contractée avec sa belle-sœur. Mais celle-ci, furieuse, fait massacrer Kilien et deux de ses compagnons. Cinquante ans plus tard, lorsque saint Boniface entreprendra l'évangélisation de cette partie de la Germanie, les traces de l'évangélisation de saint Kilien seront encore vivantes.
D'origine irlandaise, il résolut d'évangéliser la Bavière, encore païenne. Il prêche d'abord en Thuringe et en Franconie, puis parvint à Wurtzbourg. Le duc Guzbert lui réserva le meilleur accueil. Pour son baptême il fallait régulariser sa situation matrimoniale. Kilien se rendit à Rome pour plaider la séparation du couple illégitime. L'épouse qui ne voulait quitter le duc résolut à faire disparaître Kilien lors d'un voyage du duc. Elle fit enterrer Kilien et ses collaborateurs avec tous leurs ornements et objets du culte... A son retour le duc crut que Kilien avait définitivement quitté le pays. Le pays sera évangélisé 50 ans plus tard par Boniface. (source: Saints du Pas de Calais - diocèse d'Arras)
Des internautes nous signalent:
- "St Kilian (Mullagh en Irlande +689(?) Würzburg en Allemagne) était un moine irlandais parti évangéliser la Franconnie (l'actuelle Franken annexée à la Bavière). Il est le patron des viticulteurs."
- "Ce Moine Irlandais a évangélisé l'Alsace et la Lorraine, St Kilien est le patron de la paroisse de Dingsheim en Alsace (67)."
À Wurtzbourg en Germanie, vers 689, saint Kilian, évêque et martyr. Originaire d’Irlande, il parvint en cette région pour y annoncer l’Évangile et, à cause des exigences morales du christianisme qu’il rappelait, il fut massacré avec ses compagnons, le prêtre Coloman et le diacre Totnan.
Kilian, Colman, and Totnan MM (RM)
(also known as Chillien or Chilianus, Colman, and Tadhg)
Died c. 689. Kilian, an Irish monk from Mullagh, County Cavan, was consecrated bishop and set out to evangelize Germany with eleven companions. They arrived at Aschaffenburg on the Rhein and then sailed up to the River Main and Würzburg. With the able, zealous assistance of Colman, a priest, and Totnan, a deacon, he was successful in his missionary endeavors, especially after he converted the local lord, Duke Gosbert (Gospert) of Würzburg.
Somewhat anachronistically, about 686, he went to Rome and received permission from Pope Conon to evangelize Franconia (Baden and Bavaria) and East Thuringia. Upon his return his mission ran into a roadblock, Duke Gosbert had married Geilana, his brother's widow. Like most Irish missionaries, the trio spoke out fearlessly against any breach of faith or morals. In this case Kilian openly rebuked the duke for his irregular marriage to his brother's widow. According to legend, while Gosbert was away on a military expedition, Geilana had the three missionaries beheaded when she found that Gosbert was going to leave her because their marriage was forbidden by the Church.
A strong cultus was immediately established in Germany and spread as far as Vienna, Austria, and Ireland. Even today, the Kilianfest is one of the better known festivals of the German peoples, including German-Americans. Kilian's Bible is exposed on the high altar of Würzburg cathedral on his feast and an annual mystery play of his life is produced. Kilian's relics were translated in 752 by Saint Burchard. The strength of the cultus of the three martyrs drew the attention of Pope Saint Zachary, who permitted public veneration of the martyrs in 752. From the time of Blessed Charlemagne, it was common for emperors to make a pilgrimage to their shrine at Würzburg, which Saint Boniface established as a bishopric in honor of Saint Kilian. Kilian's name is also found with that of Saint Boniface in the calendar of Godescale (c. 782).
Kilian, Colman, and Totnan are also unusual in that the Irish themselves have shown veneration for the expatriates, rather than showing their usual disinterest. Many illustrious Irishmen have visited Würzburg over the centuries to honor the saints. In 1134, one of the 12 Irish monasteries governed by that in Regensburg was established in Würzburg. In 1650, Father Stephen White, SJ, a famous Irish historian, chose the city as the center for his studies of Irish antiquities in Germany (Benedictines, Delaney, Encyclopedia, Farmer, Montague).
In art, Saint Kilian is a bishop holding a sword (often large) and standing between two priests. Sometimes all three are shown assassinated at the command of the duchess or the Kilian is shown between Colman and Totnan buried in a stable as a blind priest is cured at their grave (Roeder). Kilian's image appears on seals and coins of the region. Some old hymns in Latin and German survive that honor him (Farmer). They are venerated at Aschaffenburg, Würzburg, Münnerstadt, and as the patrons of whitewashers. They are invoked against gout and rheumatism (Roeder).
Apostle of Franconia and martyr, born about 640 of noble parents probably in Ireland (according to others in Scotland though Scottica tellus, as it is called by the elder "Passio", may also in medieval times have meant Ireland. The later "Passio" says: "Scotia quæ et Hibernia dicitur"); died 8 July, probably in 689. He was distinguished from his youth for his piety and love of study, and, according to the later "Passio", embraced the monastic life. Trithemius and later writers say that he was a monk in the celebrated monastery of Hy: that he was later the abbot of this monastery is also held by Trithemius; however, that, a supposition, cannot be proved. The statement in the older "Passio" that Kilian was raised to the purple before leaving his native land may be accepted as trustworthy, although the later "Passio" refers this event to his sojourn in Rome. In accordance with the custom then prevailing in the Irish Church, he was assigned to no particular diocese, but was district bishop or travelling bishop. One day he made up his mind to be a missionary, left his native country with eleven companions, travelled through Gaul, thence across the Rhine, and finally reached the castle of Würzburg, inhabited by the Thuringian (Frankish) Duke Gozbert, who was, like his people, still pagan. Kilian resolved to preach the Gospel here, but first journeyed with his companions to Rome to receive missionary faculties from the pope. John V, whom he expected to find, had died meanwhile (2 August, 686), and was succeeded by Conon from whom Kilian obtained his faculties. From the sources already cited, we learn that the arrival of St. Kilian and his companions at Würzburg and the journey to Rome occurred in the summer of 686, that they arrived in the latter city in the late autumn, and that their labours at Würzburg continued during 687 and the following years. The original group separated on the return journey — some departing to seek other fields of missionary work, while St. Kilian with two companions, the priest Coloman and the deacon Totnan, came back to Würzburg. He took this town as the base of his activity, which extended over an ever-increasing area in East Franconia and Thuringia, and converted Duke Gozbert with a large part of his subjects to Christianity. Concerning the cause of the martyrdom of the three missionaries, the early documents supply the following information: After Duke Gozbert had become a Christian, St. Kilian explained to him that his marriage with Geilana, his brother's widow, was unlawful under the Christian dispensation, and secured the duke's promise to separate from her. In consequence of this action, Geilana plotted vengeance against the saint, and caused him and his two companions to be secretly murdered in the absence of the duke, their corpses being immediately buried at the scene of the crime together with the sacred vessels, vestments, and holy writings. This is generally held to have happened on 8 July, 689, although opinions vary as to the exact year. The early documents relate further that, after the duke's return, Geilana at first denied any knowledge of what had become of the missionaries; the murderer, however, went mad, confessed his crime, and died miserably, Geilana also dying insane. Recent critics, especially Hauck and Riezler (see bibliography), question without sufficient grounds the authenticity of these statements in the matter of detail, especially as regards the cause and the immediate circumstances of the martyrdom of the three missionaries. Through prejudice against the Irish Church the Protestant party has also disputed the absolutely reliable information about the journey to Rome undertaken by St. Kilian and his assistants. His missionary labours through Eastern Franconia and his martyrdom are, however, accepted without question by everyone. Although Kilian's work was not continued after his death, St. Boniface on his arrival in Thuringia found at least evidence of his predecessor's influence. The relics of the three martyrs, after wonderful cures had brought renown to their burial place, were transferred in 743 by Saint Burchard, first Bishop of Würzburg, to the Church of Our Lady, where they were temporarily interred. Later, when Burchard had obtained Pope Zachary's permission for their public veneration, they were solemnly transferred — probably on 8 July, 752 — to the newly finished Cathedral of the Saviour. Still later they were buried in St. Kilian's vault in the new cathedral erected on the spot where tradition affirms the martyrdom to have taken place. The New Testament belonging to St. Kilian was preserved among the treasures of Würzburg Cathedral until 1803, and since then has been in the university library. Kilian is the patron saint of the diocese, and his feast is celebrated in Würzburg on 8 July with great solemnity.
The chief source of information is the older and shorter "Passio" (which begins "Fuit vir vitæ venerabilis Killena nomine"), formerly considered to date from the tenth or ninth century. Emmerich (after the example of the "Histoire littéraire de la France", IV, Paris, 1738, p. 86), and Hefner (see below) on very good grounds now connect the appearance of this chronicle with the solemn translation of the relics in 752, which raises its historic value beyond the reach of attack. The later and more voluminous "Passio" is an amplified and embellished version of the earlier one and cannot be relied upon when the accounts differ. Both have been published by H. Canisius, "Antiquae lectiones", IV, pt. ii (Ingolstadt, 1603), pp. 625-47; by Mabillon, "Acta Sanctorum O.S.B.", II (Paris, 1669), p. 991-3; in the "Acta Sanctorum" for 8 July (see below), and finally, with a collection of later sources and with the office of St. Kilian of the Würzburg Church, by Emmerich (see below).
Acta SS., II, July (Paris and Rome, 1867), 599-619; Eckhart, Commentarii de rebus Franciæ orientalis, I (Würzburg, 1729), 270-83, 451 sqq.; Gropp, Lebensbeschreibung des hl. Kiliani und dessen Gesellen (Würzburg, 1738); Stamminger, Franconia sancta, I (Würzburg, 1881), 58-133; Emmerich, Der heilige Kilian, Regionarbischof u. Martyrer (Würzburg, 1896; Göpfert, St. Kilianus-Büchlein (Würzburg, 1877; 2nd ed., 1902); Bellesheim, Gesch. der kath. Kirche in Irland, I (Mainz, 1890), 168-71; Schrödl in Kirchenlex., s.v.; O'Hanlon, Lives of the Irish Saints, VII (Dublin, s.d.), 122-43; Moore in Dict. Nat. Biog., s.v. Cilian. The authenticity of the older "Passio" is combated by: Hauck, Kirchengesch. Deutschlands, I (3rd and 4th ed.), 386 sq.; Riezler, Die Vita Kiliani in Neues Archiv der Gesellschaft für ältere deutsche Geschichtskunde, XXVIII (1903), 232-4. In opposition to the views put forward in these works, the authenticity of the document is upheld in Hefner, Das Leben des hl. Burchard in Archiv des historischen Vereins von Unterfranken u. Aschaffenburg, XLV — published separately (Würzburg, 1904), pp. 33, 57; cf. also Hagiographischer Jahresbericht für die Jahre 1904-1906 (Kempten and Munich, 1908), 110.
Lauchert, Friedrich. "St. Kilian." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 8. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910. 8 Jul. 2015 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/08639a.htm>.
SS. Kilian, Bishop, Colman, Priest, and Totnan, Deacon, Martyrs
KILIAN or Kuln was a holy Irish monk, of noble Scottish extraction. With two zealous companions he travelled to Rome in 686, and obtained of Pope Conon a commission to preach the gospel to the German idolaters in Franconia; upon which occasion Kilian was invested with episcopal authority. The missionaries converted and baptized great numbers at Wurtzburg, and among others Gosbert, the duke of that name. This prince had taken to wife Geilana, the relict of his deceased brother; and though he loved her tenderly, being put in mind by St. Kilian that such a marriage was condemned and void by the law of the gospel, he promised to dismiss her, saying that we are bound to love God above father, mother, or wife. Geilana was tormented in mind beyond measure at this resolution; jealousy and ambition equally inflaming her breast; and, as the vengeance of a wicked woman has no bounds, during the absence of the duke in a military expedition, she sent assassins, who privately murdered the three holy missionaries in 688. The ruffians were themselves pursued by divine vengeance, and all perished miserably. St. Burchard, who in the following century was placed by St. Boniface in the episcopal see of Wurtzburg, translated their relics into his cathedral. A portion of those of St. Kilian, in a rich shrine, was preserved in the treasury of the elector of Brunswic-Lunenburgh in 1713, as appears from the printed description of that cabinet: See the acts of these martyrs compiled by Egilward, monk of St. Burchard’s at Wurtzburg, extant imperfect in the eleventh century, in Surius, t. 4, entire in Canisius, t. 4, par. 2, p. 628, and t. 3, ed. Basn. p. 174. Also among the Opuscula of Serrarius, printed at Mentz in 1611, in the collection of the writers of Wurtzburg published by Ludewig, p. 966, and in Mabillon and the Bollandists. See also Thesaurus reliquiarum Electoralis Brunsvico-Luneburgicus. Hanoveræ, 1713, and Solier, t. 2, Julij, p. 600.
Rev. Alban Butler (1711–73). Volume VII: July. The Lives of the Saints. 1866.