(c. 700—787) bishop of Eichstätt

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St Walburga (c. 710—779) abbess of Heidenheim

Winnibald (c. 702—761) abbot of Heidenheim

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


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(d. 786/7),

bishop of Eichstatt. Brother of Winnibald and Walburga, Willibald was born in Wessex. He became a monk at Bishops Waltham (Hants.). Later he was one of the most travelled Anglo-Saxons of his time, by his journeys to Rome, Cyprus, Syria, and above all Palestine. Here he visited comprehensively both the Holy Places associated with Christ and numerous communities of monks and hermits. He dictated an account of these travels to Hugeburc, a nun of Heidenheim, who wrote it up under the title of Hodoeporicon. This was the first travel-book to be written by an Anglo-Saxon.

In 730 Willibald was back in Rome after a long stay in Constantinople. He chose to live at Monte Cassino; under his reforming influence, formed by his monastic experience in England and Palestine, Benedict's own monastery, restored by Petronax in 717, entered on a new period of stable prosperity. At the request of Boniface, Pope Gregory III sent Willibald into Germany. Boniface ordained him priest and later (742) bishop. His diocese was Eichstatt, the centre of his earlier preaching; at Heidenheim he founded a double monastery, whose observance was based on that of Monte Cassino. His brother Winnibald was abbot and, after his death, his sister Walburga abbess. This became an important centre, not only for the diocesan apostolate, but also for the diffusion and development of monasticism. Willibald was bishop for about forty-five years. He died at Eichstatt, where his relics are kept to this day. Feast, in R.M. and constantly elsewhere: 7 July.

AA.SS. Iul. II (1721), 485–519; the Hodoeporticon was edited by W. Holder-Egger, M.G.H., Scriptores, xv. 80–117, with Eng. tr. in C. H. Talbot, Anglo-Saxon Missionaries in Germany (1954); see also M. Coens, ‘Légende et Miracles du roi S. Richard’, Anal. Boll., xlix (1931), 353–97 and W. Levison, England and the Continent in the Eighth Century (1956).

Subjects: Christianity.

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