Butler’s Lives of the Saints – Saint Plechelm, Bishop and Confessor

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[Apostle of Guelderland] He was by birth a noble English Saxon, but born in the southern part of Scotland; for Lothian and the rest of the Lowlands as far as Edinburgh frith belonged for several ages to the Northumbrian English. Having received holy orders in his own country he made a pilgrimage to Rome, whence he returned home enriched with holy relics. Some time after, in company with the holy bishop Saint Wiro, and Saint Otger a deacon, he passed into those parts of Lower Germany which had not then received the light of faith. Having obtained the protection of Pepin, mayor of the palace in Austrasia, he converted the country now called Guelderland, Cleves, Juliers, and several neighbouring provinces lying chiefly between the Rhine, the Wahal, and the Meuse. When he had planted the gospel there with great success he retired to Saint Peter’s Mount near Ruremund, but continued to make frequent missions among the remaining infidels. Prince Pepin, who though he had formerly fallen into adultery, led afterwards a penitential and Christian holy life, went every year from his castle of Herstal to confess his sins to this holy pastor after the death of Saint Wiro, which the author of Saint Plechelm’s life relates in the following words: “Pepin, the king of the French, (that is, mayor with royal authority,) had him in great veneration, and every year, in the beginning of Lent, having laid aside his purple, went from his palace barefoot to the said mount of Peter where the saint lived, and took his advice how he ought to govern his kingdom according to the holy will and law of God, and by what means he might promote the faith of Christ and every advantage of virtue. There also having made the confession of his sins to the high priest of the Lord, and received penance, he washed away with his tears the offences which through human frailty he had contracted.” F. Bosch, the Bollandist, observes, this prince must have been Pepin, surnamed of Herstal, or the Fat, who though he never enjoyed the title of king, reigned in Austrasia with regal power, and with equal piety and valour. He died in 714, in the castle of Jopil on the Meuse, near Liege, which was his paternal estate, Saint Pepin of Landon his grandfather being son of Carloman, the first mayor of this family, grandson of Charles count of Hesbay near Liege, the descendant of Ferreol, formerly præfectus-prætorio of the Gauls. Saint Plechelm survived Pepin of Herstal seventeen years, is called by Bollandus bishop of Oldenzel and Ruremund, and died on the 15th of July, 732. He was buried in our lady’s chapel in the church, on the mountain of Saint Peter, now called of Saint Odilia, near Ruremund. His relics were honoured with many miracles. The principal portion of them is now possessed by the collegiate church of Oldenzel, in the province of Over-Yssel, part at Ruremund. His name is famous in the Belgic and other Martyrologies. His ancient life testifies that he was ordained bishop in his own country before he undertook a missionary life. Bede, in the year 731, mentions Pechthelm, who having been formerly a disciple of Saint Aldhelm, in the kingdom of the West-Saxons, returning to his own country was ordained bishop to preach the gospel with more authority. He afterwards fixed his see at Candida Casa, now a parliamentary town of Galloway in Scotland, called Whitehorn. The Bollandists in several parts of their work contend this Pechthelm to have been a different person from Saint Plechelm, whom Stilting demonstrates to have been at Mount Saint Peter, whilst the other, somewhat elder according to Bede, was in North-Britain at Candida Casa; though Antony Pagi and the author of Batavia Sacra endeavour to prove him, against F. Bosch and his colleagues, to have been the same.

MLA Citation

  • Father Alban Butler. “Saint Plechelm, Bishop and Confessor”. Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Principal Saints, 1866. CatholicSaints.Info. 12 July 2013. Web. 19 September 2017. <>