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St Willibrord (658—739) missionary, archbishop of the Frisians, and abbot of Echternach


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(late 7th century),

archbishop of Sens, and missionary. The son of a court official of King Dagobert, Wulfram became a monk and through his court connection was offered the archbishopric of Sens, which he accepted. He ruled his diocese for only two years, and resigned partly because a former archbishop was still alive, partly because he wished to evangelize the Frisians. For this purpose he went to Fontenelle and obtained monks to help him. They met with some success and made a few conversions, but as elsewhere in Europe at this time, the attitude of the king was likely to be decisive. They converted the son of King Radbod, but the king refused to interfere against the local custom of human sacrifices. In spite of himself he was impressed by both the missionaries and their miracles, but when at the point of baptism he asked where his ancestors were, Wulfram said that Hell was the lot of all idolators. Radbod answered that he would rather be in Hell with them than in Heaven without them, and so withdrew. Wulfram eventually returned to Fontenelle where he died.

His relics were translated to Abbeville, where they are still venerated. There are two ancient English churches dedicated to him, one of which is at Grantham. In Lincolnshire also the abbey of Croyland celebrated both his feasts, due probably to the fact that their abbot Ingulfph (1086–1109) was a monk of Fontenelle. But in Wulfram's own life there was probably some association with the English Willibrord, the principal apostle of Frisia. Feast: 20 March; translation 15 October.

Life written at Fontenelle c.800 edited by W. Levison, M.G.H., Scriptores rerum merov., v. 657–73; AA.SS. Mar. III (1668), 143–65; W. Glaister, The Life and Times of Saint Wulfran (1878); B.T.A., i. 642–3; W. Levison, England and the Continent in the Eighth Century (1956), pp. 55–7; J. Laporte, Inventio et Miracula S. Vulfrani (1938).

Subjects: Christianity.

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