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Kilian

(d. c. 689) missionary in Franconia


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(d. c.689),

bishop at Wurzburg and martyr. An Irishman, possibly from Mullagh, he set out, perhaps already a bishop, with eleven companions for Germany arriving at Ascaffenburg on the Rhine and then sailing up this river and the Main to Wurzburg. Here he converted the local ruler from paganism. He then visited Pope Conon (686–7), who is said (anachronistically) to have given him a mission to Thuringia and Eastern Franconia. On returning from Rome he found that King Gozbert had married his brother's widow, who, when Kilian attempted to separate them, had him murdered.

It seems clear that he met a violent death, but the details may not be historical. His cult was early and important. His relics were translated in 752 by Burchard and he is found with Boniface in the calendar of Godescale (c.782). There are also records of him in the early 9th-century Irish martyrologies. Kilian is the principal patron of Wurzburg; his figure appears on seals and coins. The Kilianifest every year is the occasion of an annual mystery play of his life. Some old hymns in Latin and German survive in his honour. Feast: 8 July, especially celebrated in Wurzburg, Vienna, and Ireland.

AA.SS. Iul. II (1721), 599–619: Herbipolis Iubilans (1952); A. Gwynn, ‘Ireland and Wurzburg in the Middle Ages’, I.E.R., lxxxiii (1952), 401–11; id., ‘New Light on St Kilian’, I.E.R., lxxxviii (1957), 1–16; J. Hennig, ‘Ireland and Germany in the Tradition of St Kilian’, I.E.R., lxxxiii (1952), 21–33.

Subjects: Christianity.


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