Corbinian of Freising B (RM)
Born at Châtres (near Melun), France; died 730. This early apostle of Bavaria was baptized Waldegiso after his father, but his mother changed his name to Corbinian, after herself--it must a been a very interesting family life! He lived as a anchorite for 14 years in a cell that he built near a chapel in Châtres on the road to Orléans. The fame of his sanctity, which was increased by the occurrence of several miracles and the prudent advice that he gave in spiritual matters, drew several followers whom he formed into a religious community under his discipline.
The distraction that this gave him made him think of seeking some new place where he might live in obscurity, and because he also had a devotion to Saint Peter, he determined to go to Rome and become an anchorite. He visited Pope Saint Gregory II to received his apostolic blessing on his new undertaking. But when the holy father discovered the saint's abilities, he admonished Corbinian to use his talents to harvest God's fields. The Frank agreed because he had learned to listen to what he thought was God's voice.
So Gregory sent Corbinian, who may already have been a bishop or who was so consecrated by Gregory, to preach in Bavaria, where he put himself under the protection of Duke Grimoald. After having successfully increased the number of Christians, he fixed his residence at Freising, in Upper Bavaria, which, however, did not become a regular episcopal see until Saint Boniface made it such in 739.
Though indefatigable in his apostolic duties, Corbinian was careful not to undertake more than he could handle, lest he should forget what he owed to his own soul. He always performed the divine office leisurely, and reserved several hours daily for holy meditation, so that he would have the spiritual resources with which to complete his obligations in the mission field.
When Saint Corbinian discovered that his Christian patron Grimoald had defied Church discipline by marrying his brother's widow, Biltrudis, he refused to deal with the duke until they separated. But the lady Biltrudis was offended by this truth and persecuted Corbinian in the hope of cowing him into allowing her to be reinstated. She abused him as a foreign interloper, specifically, a British bishop--which of course he was not. Losing hope she conspired to have him murdered. The saint took refuge at Meran, and remained in semi-exile until Grimoald (who had rejoined Biltrudis in his absence) was killed in battle shortly after and Biltrudis was carried off by the Franks.
Thereafter, Corbinian was recalled by Grimoald's successor, and continued his missionary work throughout Bavaria. Corbinian was buried at a monastery he had founded at Obermais, at Meran, but his body was brought to Freising in 765 by Aribo, his second successor and biographer (Benedictines, Delaney, Husenbeth, Walsh).
In art, Saint Corbinian is portrayed as a bishop making a bear carry his luggage because it has eaten his mule. The image may show just the bishop and a bear. Corbinian might also be shown with Duke Grimoald at his feet and the bear and mule in the background (Roeder).
St. Corbinian, Bishop of Frisingen, Confessor
HE was a native of France, being born at Chatre, on the road to Orleans, and he lived a recluse fourteen years in a cell which he built in his youth near a chapel in the same place. The fame of his sanctity, which was increased by the reputation of several miracles, and the prudence of the advice which he gave in spiritual matters to those who resorted to him, rendered his name famous over the whole country, and he admitted several fervent persons to form themselves into a religious community under his discipline. The distraction which this gave him made him think of seeking some new solitude in which he might live in his former obscurity; and his devotion to St. Peter determined him to go to Rome, and there choose a cell near the church of the prince of the apostles. The pope, whose blessing he asked, becoming acquainted with his abilities, told him he ought not to live for himself alone, whilst many nations, ripe for the harvest, were perishing for want of strenuous labourers, and ordaining him bishop, gave him a commission to preach the gospel. Corbinian was affrighted at such language, but being taught to obey, lest he should resist the voice of God, returned first to his own country, and, by his preaching, produced great fruit among the people. In a second journey to Rome he converted many idolaters in Bavaria, as he passed through that country. Pope Gregory II. sent him back from Rome into that abandoned vineyard, commanding him to make it the field of his labours. Corbinian did so, and having much increased the number of the Christians, fixed his episcopal see at Frisingen, in Upper Bavaria. Though indefatigable in his apostolic functions, he was careful not to overlay himself with more business than he could bear, lest he should forget what he owed to his own soul. He always performed the divine office with great leisure, and reserved to himself every day set hours for holy meditation, in order to recruit and improve the spiritual vigour of his soul, and to cast up his accounts before God, gathering constantly resolution of more vigilance in all his actions. Grimoald, the duke of Bavaria, who, though a Christian, was a stranger to the principles and spirit of that holy religion, had incestuously taken to wife Biltrude, his brother’s relict. The saint boldly reproved them, but found them deaf to his remonstrances, and suffered many persecutions from them, especially from the princess, who once hired assassins to murder him. They both perished miserably in a short time. After their death St. Corbinian, who had been obliged to conceal himself for some time, returned to Frisingen, and continued his labours till his happy death, which took place in 730. His name occurs in the Roman Martyrology. See his life, with an account of many miracles wrought by him, compiled by Aribo, his third successor in the see of Frisingen, thirty years after the saint’s death, extant in Surius, Mabillon, Acta Bened, t. 3, p. 500, and the History of Frisingen, published in folio, in the year 1724. See also Bulteau, Hist. Monast. de l’Occid., t. 2. Suysken the Bollandist, p. 261
Rev. Alban Butler (1711–73). Volume IX: September. The Lives of the Saints. 1866.