Vicelinus, St

Vicelinus, St.

the apostle of Holstein, was a native of Quernheim, on the Weser. His early education was directed by the clergy of that place; after the death of his parents and the loss of his inheritance he became the charge of the lady of Everstein; and ultimately, having been taunted by the priest of the castle on account of his illiteracy, he entered himself at the flourishing school of Paderborn, and rapidly became noted for the energy and success with which he pursued his studies. After a time he became principal of the school at Bremen, and administered its affairs with great credit and success; but his craving for knowledge was such that he soon resigned his place and went, accompanied by his favorite pupil Thetmar, to Paris, where they sat at the feet of Rudolph and Anselm (q.v.), and acquired a correct understanding of the Holy Scriptures and of practical Christianity. After his return to his home he declined the office of canon at Bremen, and went to Magdeburg to prepare himself for the work of a missionary to the heathen. He was consecrated priest by archbishop Nortbert of Magdeburg, and commissioned by archbishop Adalbert II of Bremen to labor among the Slavs, and at once petitioned Henry, the powerful king of the Obotrites, to allow the preaching of the Gospel among his subjects.

The Obotrites (frequently written Abodrites) were a branch of the stock of Wends or North German Slavs. They were coarse, cruel, false, and indolent, but given to hospitality towards strangers. Their priests held the first place in the public estimation, and exercised a leading influence over public affairs, besides having exclusive possession of what little scientific information was extant among them. Their numerous gods of whom Suwantewid or Svatovid, the four-headed victor, Prove, the god of justice, and Rudegast were most prominent-stood under the direction and rule of one supreme god of heaven, and administered their offices in his name. The Obotrites' first .became acquainted with Christianity in the beginning of the 9th century, when they allied themselves with Charlemagne in his war against the Saxons. They were defeated in 931 at Lenzen, in a bloody battle, by Henry I, made tributary to the German realm, and pledged to receive Christianity. For a time encouraging progress was made in converting them to the new religion; but when the German emperors empowered the dukes of Saxony to govern the Wendish tribes, and imposts and taxes were consequently increased, a feeling of discontent arose which the heathen priests were able to intensify until it became open rebellion, and a contest began between the opposing religions which continued during nearly a hundred and fifty years. In the last quarter of the 11th century the Christian part of the population was wholly subdued, and the country was altogether without Christian influences until Henry seized the throne in 1105, and with the aid of the Saxons overcame his opponents. This prince endeavored to accustom his subjects to the labor of cultivating the soil, and to reintroduce Christianity among them; and the application of Vicelinus and his companions for permission to preach the Gospel was accordingly received with favor, and a church at Lubeck turned over to them for use. Henry's death, in 1126, destroyed the prospect of successful missionary labor, however, by inaugurating a bitter internal war in the kingdom, and Vicelinus was obliged to return to Bremen. An opportunity to establish himself at Faldera (now Neumimnster, in Holstein) soon afterwards occurred, which enabled Vicelinus to return to the borders of the Slavs; and from this place as a centre he was able to carry the Gospel in every direction during many years, and with a measure of success which induced other missionaries to come to his assistance. An association of celibate laymen and clergymen was also formed for pious purposes which contributed materially towards the extension of Christianity. In 1134 the emperor Lothaire established the fortress of Segeburg for the protection of the region in which Vicelinus labored, and in time a church and monastery grew up in its vicinity, which were placed under his care; and as the Church at Lubeck was also intrusted to his guidance, he naturally became the head of the entire missionary work among the Slavs. One of his first undertakings now was the planting of missionary training-schools in both Segeburg and Lubeck. The death of the emperor, in Hi 37, interrupted the progress of Christianity among the Slavs, and once more Vicelinus saw the devastations of war sweep away the results of the labors of many years. Count Adolphus of Holstein finally subdued the restless population, and restored the former condition of things. In 1149 Vicelinus was consecrated bishop of Aldenburg; but after a few years of toil in that office, rendered difficult by the exactions of his superior, the archbishop Hartwig of Bremen, on the one hand, and of duke Henry the Lion. the sovereign of the country, on the other, he suffered a stroke of paralysis in 1151 which deprived him of the ability to travel and of thepower of speech. He died Dec. 12,1154.

Literature. — Helmold, Chronicon Slavorum (to 1170); Adami Bremens. Gesta Hamburg,. Eccl. Pontific., ed. Lappenberg, in Pertz, Monum. vol. 7:Scriptt.; Saxonis Grammatici Hist. Daniac Libri X VI; Crantz, Metropolis and Wandalia; Gerken, Versuch in d. iltesten Gesch. d. Slaven in Deutschl. (Leips. 1771); Gebhard, Gesch. d. Slaven u. Wenden (Halle, 1790-97, 4 vols. 4to); also in Welt-Historie, vol. 33-36; Frank, AItes u. neues Mecklenburg (Leips. 1753-58); Rudloff, Pragmat. Handb. d. mecklenb. Gesch. (1780, 2 vols.; 2d ed. 1822); Heffter Weltkampf d. Deutschen u. Slaven (Hamb. 1847); Lappenberg, Die Bischofe v. AIdenburg, in Pertz, Archiv f. oiltere deutsche Geschichtskunde, 9:384- 395; Kruse, Leben d. heil. Vicelin (1828); Wiggers, Kirchengesch. Mecklenburgs (1840); Neander, Kirchengesch. 5, 1; Mooyer, Verzeichniss d. deutschen Bischofe (Minden, 1854). — Herzog, Real-Encyklop. s.v.

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