mardi 7 juillet 2015

Saint WILLIBALD de EICHSTÄTT, évêque et confesseur

Statue de saint Willibald dans la cathédrale Notre-Dame-de-l'Assomption d'Eichstätt.

Saint Willibald

Évêque d'Eischstätt ( 787)

ou Guilbaud ou Willibald. 

Fils de saint Richard, roi d'Angleterre, nous avons de lui le récit de son pèlerinage aux Lieux-Saints. Ce qui fait de saint Guillebaud le premier pèlerin anglais que nous connaissons en Terre Sainte. Vers 738, il rejoignit son cousin saint Boniface en Allemagne, lequel l'ordonna prêtre et lui conféra l'épiscopat pour la charge de l'Église d'Eichstadt en Bavière.

À Eichstadt en Franconie, l’an 787, saint Guillebaud (Willibald), évêque. Il fut d’abord moine et se fit longtemps pèlerin dans les lieux saints et dans de nombreuses régions où il restaura la vie monastique ; enfin, ordonné premier évêque d’Eichstadt par saint Boniface, il coopéra à l’œuvre d’évangélisation de la Germanie et convertit au Christ bien des peuples.

Martyrologe romain


Willibald (RM)

Died 786; feast day was formerly July 7.

The life of St. Willibald had been despaired of as a child and he had been cured, so it was believed, by being placed at the foot of a market cross where his royal parents had prayed and made a vow that if his life were spared it should be dedicated to the service of God. As a result, when five years old, he was placed for education in a monastery. Later he accompanied his father and brother to the Holy Land, and at one point was arrested as a spy and imprisoned. After an absence of six years he settled in the great monastery of Monte Cassino, where he was appointed sacristan and for eight years acted as porter.

At the end of that time he was sent to join his uncle Saint Boniface in Germany, where he was ordained priest and became bishop of Eichstaett. It was a hard and rough task in a barbarous land, for it was pioneering work demanding great qualities of energy and evangelism. During that period he lived in the abbey ruled by his brother, and afterwards by his sister, where he found a welcome retreat from the cares of his work, but was no less diligent in his pastoral oversight. "The field which had been so arid and barren soon flourished as a very vineyard of the Lord."

For over 50 years he labored for God in a foreign land and no story of missionary enterprise is more exhilarating than that of this faithful prince, who, whether as porter of a monastery or bishop of a diocese, served the needs of men and to the glory of God. And thus these three children of the good Saxon King Richard came to be numbered among the saints.

Sts. Willibald and Winnebald


Members of the Order of St. Benedict, brothers, natives probably of Wessex in England, the former, first Bishop of Eichstätt, born on 21 October, 700 (701); died on 7 July, 781 (787); the latter, Abbot of Heidenheim, born in 702; died on 18 (19) December, 761. They were the children of St. Richard, commonly called the King; their mother was a relative of St. Boniface. Willibald entered the Abbey of Waltham in Hampshire at the age of five and was educated by Egwald. He made a pilgrimage to Rome in 722 with his father and brother. Richard died at Lucca and was buried in the Church of St. Frigidian. After an attack of malaria Willibald started from Rome in 724 with two companions on a trip to the Holy Land, passed the winter at Patara, and arrived at Jerusalem on 11 November, 725. He then went to Tyre, to Constantinople, and in 730 arrived at the Abbey of Monte Casino, after having visited the grave of St. Severin of Noricum in Naples. In 740 he was again at Rome, whence he was sent by Gregory III to Germany. There he was welcomed by St. Boniface, who ordained him on 22 July, 741, and assigned him to missionary work at Eichstätt. Possibly the ordination of Willibald was connected with Boniface's missionary plans regarding the Slavs. On 21 October, 741 (742), Boniface consecrated him bishop at Sülzenbrücken near Gotha. The Diocese of Eichstätt was formed a few years later. Winnebald had, after the departure of his brother for Palestine, lived in a monastery at Rome. In 730 he visited England to procure candidates for the religious state and returned the same year. On his third visit to Rome, St. Boniface received a promise that Winnebald would go to Germany. Winnebald arrived in Thuringia on 30 November, 740, and was ordained priest. He took part in the Concilium Germanicum, 21 April, 744 (742), was present at the Synod of Liptine, 1 March, 745 (743), subscribed Pepin's donation to Fulda, 753; joined the League of Attigny in 762; and subscribed the last will of Remigius, Bishop of Strasburg. With his brother he founded the double monastery of Heidenheim in 752; Winnebald was placed as abbot over the men, and his sister, St. Walburga, governed the female community. Winnebald's body was found incorrupt eighteen years after his death. His name is mentioned in the Benedictine Martyrology. Willibald blessed the new church of Heidenheim in 778. His feast occurs in the Roman Martyrology on 7 July, but in England it is observed by concession of Leo XIII on 9 July. A costly reliquary for his remains was completed in 1269.

Mershman, Francis. "Sts. Willibald and Winnebald." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 15. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912. 6 Jun. 2016 <>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Michael C. Tinkler.

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


St. Willibald, Bishop of Aichstadt, Confessor

HE was son of the holy king St. Richard, and was born about the year 704 in the kingdom of the West-Saxons, about the place where Southampton now stands. When he was three years old his life was despaired of in a violent sickness; but when all natural remedies proved unsuccessful, his parents carried him and laid him at the foot of a great cross which was erected in a public place near their house, according to the custom in Catholic countries to this day. There they poured forth their prayers with great fervour, and made a promise to God that in case the child recovered they would consecrate him to the divine service. God accepted their pious offering, and the child was immediately restored to his health. St. Richard kept the child two years longer at home, but only regarded him as a sacred depositum committed to him by God; and when he was five years old placed him under the Abbot Egbald, and other holy tutors in the monastery of Waltheim. The young saint, from the first use of his reason, in all his thoughts and actions seemed to aspire only to heaven, and his heart seemed full only of God and his holy love. He left this monastery about the year 721, when he was seventeen years old, and his brother Winibald nineteen, to accompany his father and brother in a pilgrimage of devotion to the tombs of the apostles at Rome, and to the Holy Land. They visited many churches in France on their road; but St. Richard died at Lucca, where his relics are still venerated in the church of St. Fridian, and he is commemorated in the Roman Martyrology on the 7th of February. The two sons went on to Rome, and there took the monastic habit.

Above two years after this, Winibald having been obliged to return to England, St. Wil libald, with two or three young Englishmen, set out to visit the holy places which Christ had sanctified by his sacred presence on earth. They added most severe mortifications to the incredible fatigues of their journey, living only on bread and water, and at land using no other bed than the bare ground. They sailed first to Cyprus and thence into Syria. At Emesa St. Willibald was taken by the Saracens for a spy, was loaded with irons, and suffered much in severe confinement for several months, till certain persons, who were charmed with his wonderful virtue, and moved with compassion for his disaster, satisfied the caliph of his innocence, and procured his enlargement. The holy pilgrims expressed their gratitude to their benefactors, and pursued their journey to the holy places. They resolved in visiting them to follow our Divine Redeemer in the course of his mortal life; and therefore they began their devotions at Nazareth. Our saint passed there some days with his companions in the continual contemplation of the infinite mercies of God in the great mystery of the incarnation; and the sight of the place in which it was wrought drew from his eyes streams of devout tears during all the time of his stay in that town. From Nazareth he went to Bethlehem, and thence into Egypt, making no account of the fatigues and hardships of his journey, and assiduously meditating on what our Blessed Redeemer had suffered in the same. He returned to Nazareth, and thence travelled to Cana, Capharnaum, and Jerusalem. In this last place he made a long stay to satisfy his fervour in adoring Christ in the places where he wrought so many great mysteries, particularly on the mountains of Calvary and Olivet, the theatres of his sacred death and ascension. He likewise visited all the famous monasteries, lauras, and hermitages in that country, with an ardent desire of learning and imitating all the most perfect practices of virtue, and whatever might seem most conducive to the sanctification of his soul. The tender and lively sentiments of devotion with which his fervent contemplation on the holy mysteries of our redemption inspired him at the sight of all those sacred places, filled his devout soul with heavenly consolations, and made on it strong and lasting impressions. In his return a severe sickness at Acon exercised his patience and resignation. After seven years employed in this pilgrimage he arrived safe with his companions in Italy.

The celebrated monastery of Mount Cassino having been lately repaired by Pope Gregory II., the saint chose that house for his residence, and his fervent example contributed very much to settle in it the primitive spirit of its holy institute during the ten years that he lived there. He was first appointed sacristan, afterwards dean or superior over ten monks, and during the last eight years porter, which was an office of great trust and importance, and required a rooted habit of virtue which might suffer no abatement by external employs and frequent commerce with seculars. It happened that in 738 St. Boniface, coming to Rome, begged of Pope Gregory III. that Willibald, who was his cousin, might be sent to assist him in his missions in Germany. The pope desired to see the monk, and was much delighted with the history of his travels, and edified with his virtue. In the close of their conversation, he acquainted him of Bishop Boniface’s request. Willibald desired to go back at least to obtain the leave and blessing of his abbot; but the pope told him his order sufficed, and commanded him to go without more ado into Germany. The saint replied that he was ready to go wheresoever his holiness should think fit. Accordingly he set out for Thuringia, where St. Boniface then was, by whom he was ordained priest. His labours in the country about Aichstadt, in Franconia and Bavaria, were crowned with incredible success, and he was no less powerful in words than in works.

In 746 he was consecrated by St. Boniface bishop of Aichstadt. This dignity gave his humility much to suffer, but it exceedingly excited his zeal. The cultivation of so rough a vineyard was a laborious and painful task; but his heroic patience and invincible meekness overcame all difficulties. His charity was most tender and compassionate, and he had a singular talent in comforting the afflicted. He founded a monastery which resembled in discipline that of Mount Cassino, to which he often retired. But his love of solitude diminished not his pastoral solicitude for his flock. He was attentive to all their spiritual necessities, he visited often every part of his charge, and instructed all his people with indefatigable zeal and charity. His fasts were most austere, nor did he allow himself any indulgence in them or in his labours on account of his great age, till his strength was entirely exhausted. Having laboured almost forty-five years in regulating and sanctifying his diocess, he died at Aichstadt on the 7th of June, 790, being eighty-seven years old. He was honoured with miracles, and buried in his own cathedral. Pope Leo VII. canonized him in 938. In 1270 the Bishop Hildebrand built a church in his honour, into which his relics were translated, and are honourably preserved to this day; but a portion is honoured at Furnec in Flanders. See the three lives of St. Willibald, written by contemporary authors, especially that by a nun of his sister St. Walburga’s monastery. She gives from the saint’s own relation a curious and useful description of the Holy Land, as it stood in that age; which is rendered more curious by the notes of Mabillon, and those of Basnage in his edition of Canisius’s Lect. Antiquæ. On St. Willibald, see Solier the Bollandist, t. 2. Julij, p. 485.

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


Saint Willibald of Eichstätt

Also known as
  • Willebald

Born a prince, the son of Saint Richard the King. Brother of Saint Winnebald of Heidenheim and Saint Walburga. Related to Saint Boniface. He nearly died as an infant, leading his parents to pray for his life, vowing that he would be dedicated to God if he survived. Entered the Abbey of Waltham, Hampshire, England at age five. Educated by Egwald. Benedictine monk. Pilgrim to Rome, Italy in 722 with Saint Richard and Saint Winnebald; his father died on the way, and Willibald suffered from malaria while there.

Pilgrim to the Holy Lands in 724. He reached Jerusalem on 11 November 725, and is the first known Englishman in the Holy Land; the book of his travels, Hodoeporicon, is the first known English travelogue. Pilgrim to assorted holy sites throughout Europe. At one point he was arrested by Saracens at Emessa as a Christian spy, and imprisoned in Constantinople.

Willibald then spent ten years helping Saint Petronax restore the monastery of Monte Cassino; served there as sacristan, dean, and porter. In 740 he was sent by Pope Gregory III to help Saint Boniface evangelize the area that is modern Germany. Ordained on 22 July 741 by Saint Boniface, and consecrated as a missionary bishop by him on 21 October 741. Founded a missionary monastery in Eichstätt, Franconia (in modern Germany. Worked with Saint Sebaldus. First bishop of the diocese of Eichstätt. With Saint Winnebald, he founded the double monastery at Hiedenheim in 752.


San Villibaldo

Wesse (Inghilterra meridionale), ca. 700 - Eichstätt (Germania), 786/787

Nasce intorno al 700 a Wesse, in Inghilterra. La sua famiglia lo mette a scuola dai monaci di Waltham, dove poi decide di farsi monaco. Ma è già fuori dalla cella e dall'Inghilterra prima dei voti definitivi: va in Terrasanta con un gruppo di pellegrini. Sta due anni a Roma, poi continua verso la Palestina, allora sotto gli arabi. Nel 729 rieccolo a Roma, dopo sette anni. Papa Gregorio II (715-731) lo manda a Montecassino, dove il tenacissimo bresciano Petronace ha rimesso in piedi i muri dopo la distruzione longobarda. Così il quasi-monaco d'Inghilterra ricompone una comunità nel solco della vera tradizione e dello stile di vita insegnato dal Fondatore. Dopo dieci anni torna a Roma, vi trova un Papa nuovo, Gregorio III (731-741), che lo invia a evangelizzare i tedeschi. Dalla Germania lo ha richiesto Winfrido, detto poi Bonifacio. Sta organizzando in Baviera una struttura diocesana, e nel 740 ordina Villibaldo sacerdote, consacrandolo poi vescovo di Eichstätt già l'anno dopo. Il vescovo Villibaldo costruisce la sua cattedrale, fonda un monastero. Si fa poi predicatore itinerante, davanti ad ascoltatori che solo in parte sono cristiani. Quest'opera lo impegna fino alla morte, avvenuta nel 787. (Avvenire)

Martirologio Romano: A Eichstätt nella Franconia, in Germania, san Villibaldo, vescovo, che, divenuto monaco, peregrinò a lungo per luoghi santi e per molte regioni per rinnovare la vita monastica e aiutò nell’evangelizzazione della Germania san Bonifacio, dal quale fu ordinato primo vescovo di questa città, convertendo a Cristo molte genti.

E' a questo camminatore inglese che Montecassino deve la sua rinascita spirituale, dopo la distruzione a opera del longobardo Zottone nel 580-81. La sua famiglia lo mette a scuola dai monaci di Waltham, dove poi Villibaldo decide di farsi monaco. Ma è già fuori dalla cella e dall’Inghilterra prima dei voti definitivi: va in Terrasanta con un gruppo di pellegrini, tra cui suo padre (che morirà a Lucca) e suo fratello Vinnibaldo. Sta due anni a Roma, poi continua senza il fratello verso la Palestina, allora sotto gli arabi. I pellegrini cristiani vi sono in genere bene accolti; in quel momento, tuttavia, per tensioni politiche con l’Impero d’Oriente, Villibaldo e i suoi rischiano la prigione: li credono spie. Ma il soggiorno prosegue in pace, e nel 729 rieccolo a Roma, dopo sette anni. 

Ma non torna poi in patria. Papa Gregorio II (715-731) lo manda nel 729 a Montecassino, dove il tenacissimo bresciano Petronace ha rimesso in piedi i muri. Ora si tratta di rifare i monaci, dopo l’abbandono dei tempi di Zottone, quando con l’abate Bonito essi cercarono scampo a Roma, portando con sé soltanto la provvista di pane e il libro della Regola. Così il quasi-monaco d’Inghilterra (non ha ancora emesso la “professione” definitiva) ricompone una comunità nel solco della vera tradizione e dello stile di vita insegnato dal Fondatore. E in quest’opera spende altri dieci anni. 

Tornato poi a Roma, vi trova un Papa nuovo, Gregorio III (731-741), che gli dice: "C’è bisogno di te per evangelizzare i tedeschi". Pronto, Villibaldo riparte, a suo agio dovunque, e soprattutto “di casa” in ogni parte d’Europa. Dalla Germania lo ha richiesto al papa Winfrido, detto poi Bonifacio, l’apostolo del mondo tedesco, che è imparentato con lui e ha già con sé il fratello Vinnibaldo. Sta organizzando in Baviera una struttura diocesana, e nel 740 ordina Villibaldo sacerdote, consacrandolo poi vescovo di Eichstätt già l’anno dopo. 

Il vescovo Villibaldo costruisce la sua cattedrale, fonda un monastero e soprattutto controlla rigorosamente tutti gli altri, per incarico di Bonifacio. E poi incomincia per lui un’esperienza nuova: quella del predicatore itinerante, davanti ad ascoltatori che solo in parte sono cristiani. Quest’opera lo impegna fino alla morte. E lo rende eccezionalmente popolare, già con una fama di santità in vita, che poi si trasformerà in culto spontaneo e duraturo, molto in anticipo sul riconoscimento canonico.

Autore: Domenico Agasso


Huneberc of Heidenheim: The Hodoeporican of St. Willibald, 8th Century :