Meinhard of Latvia

(d. 1196)

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(d. 1196) bishop.

An Augustinian canon of Segeberg in Holstein, Meinhard began a mission to the pagan Livs and other tribes in Livonia c.1180. Merchants brought him to the mouth of the Dvina river and he settled at Ikskile (20 miles east of Riga), where he built a stone church as well as a stone fort where the inhabitants would be safe from Lithuanian slave-traders. In 1186 Meinhard returned to Germany, where Hartwig, archbishop of Bremen, consecrated him first bishop of Ikskile. Pope Clement III formally approved his mission in 1193.

In spite of a pagan reaction after Meinhard's death, Christianity was restored by the efforts of Bishop Albert of Buxhovden and others. He founded Riga in 1201 as his episcopal city: there Albert's body was translated in 1226. It is still there, undisturbed (as happens elsewhere in Scandinavia) in the Lutheran cathedral.

The 8th centenary of Latvia's conversion to Christianity was celebrated in 1986. In 1993, by then independent of Russia, it was visited by Pope John Paul II, who re-established the veneration of Meinhard, bishop of Ikskile and apostle of Latvia with his feast on 14 August. The new Roman Martyrology however lists him on 12 October. Remains of Meinhard's church survive.

B.L.S. xii (Supplement), p. 283 R. Fletcher, The Conversion of Europe (1997), pp. 492–3.

Subjects: Christianity.

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