Willigis, Archbishop of Mayence
Willigis, archbishop of Mayence was a statesman and primate of the German Church in the period of the Saxon emperors. His origin is unknown and was probably obscure. His birthplace was, it may be assumed, the town of Schoningen, in Saxony. He was a canon at Hildesheim, when Volcold, tutor of the young Otto II, whose friendship he had been fortunate enough to gain, recommended him to notice, with the result that he was transferred, about A.D. 970, to the imperial chapel and received into the number of imperial councillors. On January 13, 975, he became archbishop of Mayence and archchancellor and metropolitan of Germany, by the appointment of emperor Otto II and the confirmation of the pope, Benedict VII. The papal bull provided that he should have pre-eminence over all prelates in Germany and Gaul in ecclesiastical matters, and particularly on the occasion of royal coronations and in respect to the holding of synods at places to be chosen by himself.
He took part in all the important affairs of the empire until other favorites temporarily usurped his place, but was not a participant in Otto's Italian campaign, A.D. 980. When Otto suffered defeat in Calabria, July 13, 982, Willigis accompanied other German princes to the imperial camp, and at the diet of Verona, where the infant son of Otto was chosen king and successor to his father, he appeared invested in all his former honors. Otto II died December 7, 983, at Aix-la-Chapelle. Willigis officiated at the coronation of the new king as the representative of the transalpine peoples, and in the dispute respecting the guardianship of the young emperor he was the head of the Saxon party and the most terrible opponent of duke Henry of Bavaria, who had seized the prince and had attempted to secure the throne. During this dispute, which closed in 985, Willigis was the constant companion of the empress. When the empress-mother died, June 15, 991, a commission was appointed to assist the grandmother. Adelheid, in exercising care over the prince, and of this commission Willigis was a member. Later authorities even confer upon him a regency of the empire during a period of three years. The education of young Otto was also the peculiar charge of Willigis, and was by him intrusted to his protege, Bernward, and later bishop of Hildesheim. Willigis prepared the first Roman expedition of his pupil and guided him over the Alps Easter 996, was celebrated at Pavia, and a delegation announcing the death of John XV and asking the king to choose a new pope was received in the same place. Willigis, more than any other person, determined Otto to choose his own cousin, Bruno, the son of the duke of Carinthia; and, in connection with Hildibald, chancellor and bishop of Worms, he escorted Bruno to Rome, and was present at his election by the clergy and people, and his enthronement as Gregory V, May 3, 996. Before leaving Rome he induced the pope to convoke a synod, through which he secured the return of Adalbert, bishop of Prague, to the diocese which that prelate had twice abandoned, though the return was not desired by the emperor, the pope, or Adalbert himself.
The next important affair in the life of Willigis was his dispute with bishop Bernward, of Hildesheim, respecting the right to exercise jurisdiction over the nunnery of Gandersheim, where Sophia, the emperor's sister, was about to take the veil. The emperor sided with Bernward, and Sophia with Willigis. The dispute was finally brought before a synod at Rome, which sent a legate to Gandersheim to forward the interests of Bernward. Willigis refused to obey this authority, and was accordingly suspended from his offices by the legate, and cited to appear before the pope. He nevertheless persisted in the exercise of his episcopal functions, and. found numerous supporters among the German clergy, as is evident from the large attendance of bishops at a synod convoked by him at Frankfort, August 20, 1002. Bernward's entrance at Gandersheim, on the other hand was resisted by its inmates with force of arms. The opposition against both pope and emperor was everywhere, whether in Rome or Germany, so strong as to make it possible for Willigis to despise the wrath of either. The emperor's death, followed by the accession of Henry II, occasioned a truce, during which Willigis consecrated Sophia as abbess of Gandersheim; and in 1007 a peace was negotiated, by the renunciation, on the part of Willigis, of jurisdiction in the disputed territory. Otto's idea of establishing a universal empire, in which Bernward and his coadjutors were his principal supporters and Willigis his principal opponent, had, however, been defeated, and papal intervention in the affairs of the German Church had been effectually rebuked, in the course of a quarrel which seemed to concern local matters only, but which, because of the prominence of the persons engaged, involved issues of the gravest importance for the entire Western Church.
On the accession of Henry II, he found in Willigis, the most prominent supporter of his claims as against those of margrave Eckard of Meissen and of duke Hermann of Suabia. Willigis, assisted by his suffragans, anointed and crowned the emperor, June 6 or 7, 1002, at Mayence, and the empress Kunigunde, August 10, at Paderborn. He accompanied the emperor to Aix- la-Chapelle, where the latter was recognised as sovereign by the assembled princes, and to Bruchsal, where the duke of Suabia made a voluntary surrender of his claims. He was present also at a synod held at Theonville, and was the influential personage who caused the punishment of death, denounced upon count Ernest of Austria, for rebellion, to be changed into the imposition of a fine.
Everything in the records thus reveals Willigis as the counsellor and influential friend of the emperor. His power is evidenced in numerous documents, and in many ecclesiastical provisions and arrangements of the time. He was incessantly, energetically active in the affairs of both Church and State. Several churches in the city of Mayence, a number of bridges and other public works, and various works of art, were among the permanent relics of his administration. He died February 23, 1011.
Literature. — Historical works, like Giesebrecht, Gesch. d. deutschen Kaiserzeit; Gfrorer, Allgem. k. Gesch. 3:3, 4; and monographs, e.g. De Willigisi Archicancellarii Regna Germ. et Archiepisc. Mogunt. Vita et Rebus Gestis, by Ossenbeck (Monasterii, 1859); Euler, Erzbischof Willigis von Mainz, etc. (Naumburg, 1860). See also Thietmar, Chronic. passim.; Pertz, Monum. Germi. Script. 2-7, etc.; Guden, Cod. Diplom.; Monum. Boica, 31; Origg. Guelficae, 4; Schunnat, Hist. Fuldens. 150, etc.; Bohmer, Font. Rer. Germ. 3; Thangmar, Vita Bernwardi Episc., Canaparius, Vita S. Adalbert; and Herzog, Real-Encyklop. s.v.