Willibald, St

Willibald, St.

and first bishop of Eichstiadt, was a steadfast supporter of Boniface in the work of Christianizing the Germans. He was born about A.D. 700, in England, of noble Saxon parents; and in his third year, during a severe sickness, was dedicated to the service of the Church. In his fifth year abbot Egbald, of Waltheim, undertook his education. In 720 he undertook a pilgrimage to Rome, in company with his father and brother (Wunnebald). From Rome he went, accompanied by two friends, on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, which extended over seven years and exposed him to many dangers and adventurous experiences. On his return he spent ten years in monastic retirement at Monte Cassinlo (729-739). ' He then accompanied a. Spanish priest to Rome, and there, as it would seem, made the acquaintance of Boniface, whose kinsman he was In 740 he came to Germany, and entered on his apostolic work at Eichstidt. In the same year he was consecrated to the priesthood, and in the following year (Oct. 21 or 22) to the bishopric. In 742 he was present as bishop of Eichstadt, at a council held by Carloman, duke of the Eastern Franks.

But little is known as respects the details of Willibald's activity. Descriptions of his career speak in general terms of the eradication of heathenism, the subduing of the soil, the maintenance of worship at stated times the regular preaching of the Gospel, and the multiplication of convents, under the rule of St. Benedict, in his diocese. His brother Wunnebald and his sister Walpurgis came to his assistance, as did other missionaries and he was thus able to multiply his labors and extend their area. In 765 he attended a synod at Attigny, held by Pepin. He attained to a great age and outlived most of the pupils and companions of Boniface. Reports of the 11th century fix the date of his death on July 7, 781; but a donation to Fulda, from his hand, is dated 786; and it might accordingly be more nearly correct to suppose that he died in 786 or 787.

The principal source for Willibald's life is the Vita Willibaldi, also entitled Hodaeporicum, written by a nun of Heidenheim, who terms herself his kinswoman, and states that she obtained many of the facts she records from his own lips. This Vitat was copied in Canisius, Lect. Antiq. 3,1, 105; Holland us, is Acta. SS. July, 2, 301; Mabillon, Acta SS. Ben. 3, 2,117; and in Falckenstein, Cod. Diplom. Nordgav. p. 445. A second Life is copied in Canisius, ut sup. p. 117; Bollandus, p. 512; and Mabillon, p. 383; which, however, is merely an abridgment of the first. A third Life, which, for no special reason, is usually ascribed to bishop Reginald (died 989), is given by Canisius alone. Abbot Adelbert, of Heidenheim, furnished a brief biography of Willibald, in connection with a historical sketch of his monastery, in the 12th century; and another was drawn up by bishop Philip of Eichstadt in the 14th century, both of which were published in Gretser, De Divis Tutelaribus (Ingolst. 1617). See Rettberg, Kirchengesch. Deutschl. 2, 348 sq.; Wright, Biog. Brit. Literaria (Anglo-Saxon Period); p 335; Herzog, Real-Encyklop. s.v.

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