The Two Ewalds, Martyrs
SOON after St. Willibrord with eleven companions in 690 had opened the spiritual harvest in Friesland, two brothers, both priests, of the English nation, followed their example, and went over into the country of the ancient Saxons in Westphalia, in Germany, to preach the gospel to blind idolaters. 1 They had travelled into Ireland, to improve themselves in virtue and sacred learning. Both were called by the same name, Ewald or Hewald; but, for distinction’s sake, from the colour of their hair, the one was called the Black, the other the White Ewald. The first was esteemed more learned, in the holy scriptures, but both seemed equally to excel in the fervour of devotion and holy zeal. The old Saxons in Germany were at that time governed by several petty princes, who in time of war joined their forces, and cast lots who should command the army in chief, and him the rest were bound to obey; and, as soon as the war was over, they were all reduced to their former condition. The two brothers arriving in this country about the year 694, met with a certain steward, whom they desired to conduct them to his lord. All the way they were constantly employed in prayer and in singing psalms and sacred hymns, and every day offered the sacrifice of the holy oblation, for which purpose they carried with them sacred vessels, and a consecrated table for an altar. The barbarians observing this, and fearing lest the preachers might prevail upon their lord to forsake his idols, resolved to murder them both. The White Ewald they killed by the sword upon the spot; but they inflicted on the other brother most cruel torments, and at length tore him limb from limb. The lord of the territory being informed of this inhuman action, was highly incensed, put the authors of it to the sword, and burned their village. The bodies of the martyrs, which had been thrown by the murderers into the Rhine, were discovered by a heavenly light which shone over them, and by other miracles, to their companions, who were forty miles distant from the place where they were martyred; and one of them, whose name was Tilmon, or as it is more correctly written in King Alfred’s paraphrase of Bede, Tilman, was admonished in a vision to take them up. This Tilman being a person of high birth, had formerly been an officer in the English army, but was then a monk, and one of the missionaries in Germany. These relics were first taken up and interred by their fellow missionaries, Tilman and his companions, forty miles from the place of their martyrdom; but, immediately after, by an order of Pepin, duke of the French, were honourably conveyed to Cologn, where they are kept at this day in a gilt shrine in the church of St. Cunibert. Their martyrdom happened between the years 690 and 700, most probably in 695. They were honoured among the saints immediately after their death, as appears from Ven. Bede’s prose Martyrology, which seems to have been written a year after their death. St. Anno, archbishop of Cologn, in 1074, translated their relics in this church. He bestowed their heads on Frederic, bishop of Munster, where they seem to have been destroyed by the Anabaptists in 1534. They are honoured through all Westphalia as tutelar saints of the country, and are mentioned in the Roman Martyrology on the 3rd of October, which was probably either the day of their death or of some translation. See Bede, Hist. l. 5, c. 11, and in his prose Martyrology; Alcuin’s poem on the saints of the diocess of York, published by Gale, v. 1045; Massini, Vite de Santi, t. 2, p. 232, 3 Oct.
Note 1. Old Saxony, in the age of Charlemagne, lay betwixt the Rhine, the Yssel, and the Wesel, where are now the bishoprics of Munster, Osnaburgh, and Paderborn, and the county of La Mark. See Cluverius in Germania Antiqua, l. 3. D’Anville, &c. [back]
Rev. Alban Butler (1711–73). Volume X: October. The Lives of the Saints. 1866.