archbishop of Mainz. Born at Schoningen of humble origins, he soon showed ability and became a priest, then a canon of Hildesheim (near Hanover). Wolkold, precentor of Otto II who became archbishop of Meissen in 969, noticed Willigis and promoted him. He became chaplain to Otto and in 971 chancellor. Both before and after becoming archbishop of Mainz in 975 Willigis was prominent in promoting Christianity with great energy not only in the Empire but also in Schleswig, Holstein, Denmark, and Sweden. He also established or restored collegiate churches in Mainz and Halberstadt. His daily life included the constant study of the Bible and the organized relief of the poor.
On the death of Otto II Willigis became one of the most important and influential people in the Empire. Confirmed by Benedict VII in the right to crown emperors, Willigis crowned Otto III and later influenced him in favour of abandoning Italy and concentrating his resources north of the Alps. Otto III however died young in 1002. The disputed succession which followed was ended when Willigis crowned Henry II and his wife Cunegund at Paderborn. He then served this third monarch faithfully, now as an elder statesman and ecclesiastic. Like many others of his colleagues he was a notable art-patron: his motto was ‘by art to the knowledge and service of God’.
He died in old age at Mainz and was buried in St Stephen's church. The cult arose spontaneously at once. It is claimed that some of his Mass-vestments survive. Feast: 23 February.
Willigis is mentioned in the Chronicle of Thietmar of Merseburg (976–1018) and in the Hildesheim annals; account of his office and miracles by W. Guerrier (1869); Life by A. Bruck (1962); see also B.L.S., ii. 235–6; Bibl. SS., xii. 1122–6.