lundi 7 novembre 2016

Saint ENGELBERT de COLOGNE, archevêque

Buste reliquaire de saint Engelbert de Cologne, cathédrale d'Essen

Saint Engelbert

Archevêque de Cologne ( 1225)

Excommunié dans sa jeunesse en raison de ses actes de violence, il fit pénitence et, pour cela, partit à la croisade contre les Albigeois. Il fut archevêque de Cologne, mais sa manière vigoureuse à l'égard des puissants de ce monde, et son empressement pastoral à défendre les faibles lui attirèrent l'inimitié de plusieurs seigneurs qui l'assassinèrent.

Pour avoir pris la défense de la liberté de l’Église, il fut entouré sur la route par des agresseurs et tomba frappé de multiples blessures.

Martyrologe romain

Paul Wynand. Statue de saint Engelbert, Schloss Burg

Engelbert of Cologne BM (RM)

Born at Berg, Germany, c. 1187; died near Schwelm, 1225. Engelbert was the son of the count of Berg. While still a boy studying at the Cathedral school at Cologne, he received several ecclesiastic benefices through family influence. The future saint was excommunicated either for threatening Emperor Otto IV with armed violence or for taking unlawful possession of benefices. After he joined the crusade against the Albigensians, the excommunication was lifted. Shortly thereafter he was appointed archbishop of Cologne in 1217 (about age 30).

Engelbert's life was chiefly taken up with secular affairs of state, and he would hardly have received a saint's cultus had it not been for the circumstances of his death. He did, however, rule his see well, restored clerical discipline, brought Franciscans and Dominicans into the diocese, held regular synods, encouraged monastic life, and was generous to the poor.

As previously stated, he was also deeply involved in politics. He supported Emperor Frederick II (who appointed him regent during the minority of Henry's son in 1220 when the Emperor went to Sicily), tutored the crown prince, was chief minister of the empire, and crowned Henry King of the Romans in 1222.

Engelbert's crusade against the Albigensians did redeem him in the eyes of the church. Probably only a fighting bishop could have looked after the diocese of Cologne in those turbulent times. Although Engelbert did insist on discipline for the clergy and religious in his diocese, both groups knew they could always rely on his protection.

This led to the saint's murder. His cousin, Count Frederick of Isenberg, was in theory administrator and protector of the nuns of Essen. In practice he stole their lands and goods, and oppressed the vassals of the nuns. The archbishop vigorously protested against the abuse and deprived his cousin of the office. The count and 50 retainers waylaid the archbishop at Gevelsberg, Germany, on November 7, 1225, and left him dead with 47 wounds in his corpse. The young King Henry had the culprits brought to justice (Attwater, Benedictines, Bentley, Delaney, Encyclopedia, White).

Although he has never been formally canonized, he is referred to in the R.M. as Saint Engelbert, and is venerated in Cologne (Delaney).

In art, Engelbert is depicted in archiepiscopal vestments with a crozier in one hand and an upraised sword, piercing a crescent moon, in the other (White). 

Mémorial de Saint Engelbert, Gevelsberg

St. Engelbert of Cologne

Archbishop of that city (1216-1225); b. at Berg, about 1185; d. near Schwelm, 7 November, 1225. His father was Engelbert, Count of Berg, his mother, Margaret, daughter of the Count of Gelderland. He studied at the cathedral school of Cologne and while still a boy was, according to an abuse of that time, made provost of the churches of St. George and St. Severin at Cologne, and of St. Mary's at Aachen. In 1199 he was elected provost of the cathedral at Cologne. He led a worldly life and in the conflict between Archbishops Adolf and Bruno sided with his cousin Adolf, and waged war for him. He was in consequence excommunicated by the pope together with his cousin and deposed in 1206. After his submission he was reinstated in 1208 and, to atone for his sin, joined the crusade against the Albigenses in 1212. On 29 Feb., 1216, the chapter of the cathedral elected him archbishop by a unanimous vote. In appearance he was tall and handsome. He possessed a penetrating mind and keen discernment, was kind and condescending and loved justice and peace, but he was also ambitious and self willed. His archiepiscopal see had passed through severe struggles and suffered heavily, and he worked strenuously to repair the damage and to restore order. He took care of its possessions and revenues and was on that account compelled to resort to arms. He defeated the Duke of Limburg and the Count of Cleves and defended against them also the countship of Berg, which he had inherited in 1218 on the death of his brother. He restrained the impetuous citizens of Cologne, broke the stubbornness of the nobility, and erected strongholds for the defence of his territories. He did not spare even his own relations when guilty. In this way he gained the universal veneration of his people and increased the number of his vassals from year to year. Although in exterior bearing a sovereign rather than a bishop, for which he was blamed by pious persons, he did not disregard his duties to the Church, but strove to uplift the religious life of his people. The mendicant orders which had been founded shortly before his accession, settled in cologne during his administration, the Franciscans in 1219, the Dominicans in 1221. He was well disposed towards the monasteries and insisted on strict religious observance in them. Ecclesiastical affairs were regulated in provincial synods. Blameless in his own life, he was a friend of the clergy and a helper of the poor.

In the affairs of the empire Engelbert exerted a strong influence. Emperor Frederick II, who had taken up his residence permanently in Sicily, gave Germany to his son, Henry VII, then still a minor, and in 1221 appointed Engelbert guardian of the king and administrator of the empire. When the young king reached the age of twelve he was crowned at Aachen, 8 May, 122, by Engelbert, who loved him as his own son and honoured him as his sovereign. He watched over the king's education and governed the empire in his name, careful above all to secure peace both within and without the realm. At the Diet of Nordhausen (24 Sept., 1223) he made an important treaty with Denmark; in the rupture between England and France he sided with England and broke off relations with France. The poet Walther von der Vogelweide extols him as "Master of sovereigns", and "True guardian of the king, thy exalted traits do honour to our emperor; chancellor whose like has never been".

Engelbert's devotion to duty, and his obedience to the pope and to the emperor were eventually the cause of his ruin. Many of the nobility feared rather than loved him, and he was obliged to surround himself with a body-guard. The greatest danger threatened him from among his relations. His cousin, count Frederick of Isenberg, the secular administrator for the nuns of Essen, had grievously oppressed that abbey. Honorius III and the emperor urged Engelbert to protect the nuns in their rights. Frederick wished to forestall the archbishop, and his wife incited him to murder. Even his two brothers, the Bishops of Münster and Osnabrück, were suspected as privy to the matter. Engelbert was warned, commended himself to the protection of Divine Providence, and amid tears made a confession of his whole life to the Bishop of Minden. On 7 Nov., 1225, as he was journeying from Soest to Schwelm to consecrate a church, he was attacked on a dark evening by Frederick and his associates in a narrow defile, was wounded in the thigh, torn from his horse and killed. His body was covered with forty-seven wounds. It was placed on a dung-cart and brought to cologne on the fourth day. King Henry wept bitterly over the remains, put the murderer under the ban of the empire, and saw him broken on the wheel a year later at Cologne. He died contrite, having acknowledged and confessed his guilt. His associates also perished miserably within a short time. The crime, moreover, was disastrous for the German Empire, for the young king had now lost his best adviser and soon met a very sad fate, to the misfortune of his house and country.

Engelbert, by his martyrdom made amends for his human weaknesses. His body was placed in the old cathedral of Cologne, 24 Feb., 1226, by Cardinal Conrad von Urach. The latter also declared him a martyr; a formal canonization did not take place. In 1618 Archbishop Ferdinand ordered that his feast be celebrated on 7 November and solemnly raised his remains in 1622. In the martyrology Engelbert is commemorated on 7 Nov., as a martyr. A convent for nuns was erected at the place of his death. By order of Engelbert's successor, Henry I, Cæsarius of Heisterbach, who possessed good information and a ready pen, wrote in 1226 the life of the saint in two books and added a third about his miracles (See Surius, "Vitæ Sanctorum", 7 Nov.)


BÖHMER, Fontes rerum Germanicarum (Stuttgart, 1854), II, in which the third book of the Vitæ is omitted; FICKER, Engelbert d. hl. Erzbischof (Cologne, 1853); WINKELMANN, Kaiser Friedr. II. In Jahrbücher d. deutsch. Gesch. (Leipzig, 1889), I.

Meier, Gabriel. "St. Engelbert of Cologne." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 5. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1909. 7 Nov. 2016 <>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Theodore Rego.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. May 1, 1909. Remy Lafort, Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York.

Saint Engelbert of Cologne

Also known as
  • Engelbert of Berg

Son of the influential Count Englebert of Berg and Margaret, daughter of the Count of Gelderland. Studied at the cathedral school at Cologne, Germany. In a time when clerical and episcopal positions were a part of political patronage, Englebert was made provost of churches in Cologne and Aachen, Germany while still a young boy, and of the Cologne cathedral at age 14. He led a worldly and dissolute youth; known for his good looks, keen mind, and wild ways. Englebert went to war to support his cousin, Archbishop Adolf, against Archbishop Bruno; for this, and for threatening to attack the Holy Roman Emperor Otto IV, both Engelbert and Adolf were excommunicated in 1206.
In 1208 Engelbert publicly submitted to the pope‘s authority, and was received back into the Church. He fought the Albigensians in 1212. Chosen archbishop of Cologne on 29 February 1216. By this point, Engelbert had mellowed somewhat, and cared about his see, but still had worldly ambitions. To preserve the possessions and revenues of his see and the countship of Berg, he went to war with the Duke of Limburg and the Count of Cleves, restored civil order, demanded the allegiance of his nobles, erected defences around his lands, and even prosecuted family members when needed. He enforced clerical discipline, helped establish the Franciscans in his diocese in 1219 and the Dominicans in 1221, built monasteries and insisted on strict observance in them, and used a series of provincial synods to regulate church matters.

Engelbert was appointed guardian of the juvenile King Henry VII and administrator of the Holy Roman Empire by Emperor Frederick II in 1221. He supervised the kingdom and the king‘s education, and placed the crown himself during Henry’s coronation in 1222. Worked for a treaty with Denmark at the Diet of Nordhausen on 24 September 1223.

However, for all that he was loved by his people for the stability and security he brought, many of the nobility hated and feared him, and the archbishop had to travel with a troupe of bodyguards. Pope Honorius III and Emperor Frederick II advised Engelbert to protect the nuns of Essen who were being oppressed and harassed by Engelbert’s cousin, Count Frederick of Isenberg. To prevent action by the archbishop, Count Frederick and some henchmen ambushed Engelbert on the road from Soest to Schwelm, stabbing him 47 times. Considered a martyr as he died over the defense of religious sisters.


Saint Engelbert

·         Century: 12th & 13th Century

·         Patronage: -

·         Feast Day: November 7th

St. Engelbert was born in 1185 in Schloss Burg.  He was educated at the Cathedral School in Cologne.  As early as the age of twelve, he acquired a various number of provostships, in St. Severin in Cologne, Aachen, Deventer, and Zutphen.  His cousin was Archbishop of Cologne, and he supported him in the interests of Philip of Swabia against Otto of Brunswick, and was excommunicated by Pope Innocent III.  On his submission in 1208, he was pardoned, and in 1212, as an act of penance for his earlier rebellion, he took part in the Albigensian Crusade. He gave his allegiance to the future Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor.   

St. Engelbert was elected Archbishop of Cologne, in February 1216, and remained in that office until his death.  He trusted the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II, becoming imperial administrator and guardian of the Emperor’s son Henry VII of Germany, whom was crowned at the age of twelve.  He remained his tutor until his death.  Many political forces threatened the property of the Archdiocese, and St. Engelbert did his best to protect it.  He also defended his personal inheritance that was under attack.  He granted municipal rights to many places, and during his career as archbishop of Cologne, he continued to fight for the re-establishment and security of the archdiocese both as an ecclesiastical authority and also as a secular territory.  It was said of him that despite his personal piety he was more of a monarch than a churchman.  He was also a zealous champion of the Religious throughout his archdiocese.  

He earned the respect and affection of his subjects through his devotion to justice and his energy in maintaining law, and took great pains to ensure the well being of the religious within his authority.  His effectiveness in achieving his goals by all means necessary, including military action, his allegiance to the Pope and the Emperor, and his uncompromising defense of the law and the rights of religious persons and bodies, brought him into conflict with the nobility, including his own family, and this lead to his death.  

His cousin was Count Frederick of Isenberg, and was abusing his position by defrauding the Nuns of Essen Abbey.  St. Engelbert was determined to protect their interests, and sought to bring Frederick to justice.  On November 7, 1225, as they returned together from a judicial hearing, he was killed, believed, by Frederick.  It seems probable that behind the attack, he was to be taken captive rather than being killed, and was a major threat to a whole group of nobility.  His body was taken to Cologne on a dung-cart, and when examined, was found to have forty seven wounds.  

Practical Take Away 

St. Engelbert was the Archbishop of Cologne.  He worked his entire life in this position and fought diligently to keep the archdiocese assets together.  He worked hard to protect the lives and rights of Religious in his care, and when defending those very rights, was killed by his cousin Count Frederick who was abusing his power in this area