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Liudger

(d. 809)


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St Boniface (c. 675—754) archbishop of Mainz, missionary, and martyr

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(d. 809),

bishop of Munster. Frisian by birth, Liudger was closely associated with the Anglo-Saxon mission on the Continent through his education at Utrecht under Gregory, the friend of Boniface, and at York under Alcuin (767–81). He then returned to Utrecht and rebuilt the church at Deventer, destroyed by pagans, where Lebuin was buried. He then preached in remote areas of Frisia and despoiled pagan shrines of considerable wealth, some of which was given to the Church by Charlemagne. In 777 he was ordained priest and then built several churches, including that at Dokkum, where Boniface died, for whose dedication Alcuin wrote some verses. But when the Saxons under Widekund invaded this district in 784 they drove out the priests, destroyed the churches, and tried to restore paganism.

Liudger took the opportunity to visit Rome and Monte Cassino, where he stayed for two years, planning to found a Benedictine monastery of his own, which he later achieved at Werden. In 786 he returned to Westphalia, where he rebuilt the ruined churches and where his gentle persuasiveness achieved far more for Christianity than Charlemagne's harsh repression had done. About 804 he was consecrated bishop of Munster, where he built a monastery for canons, following the Rule of St Chrodegang of Metz. Although he was denounced to Charlemagne for excessive almsgiving to the detriment of the ornamentation of churches, and kept the emperor waiting for an explanation until he had finished his devotions, he did not lose his favour. Liudger died at Werden after a long illness; most of his relics remain there today. His feast is recorded in liturgical books from the 9th century. Feast: 26 March.

AA.SS. Mar. III (1668), 626–65; W. Levison, England and the Continent in the Eighth Century (1946); H. Schrade, Die vita des heiligen Liudger und ihre Bilder (1960).

Subjects: Christianity.


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