Weninger’s Lives of the Saints – Saint Anno, Arcbbishop of Cologne

detail from Saint Anno of Cologne Receiving the Donation of Siegburg, by the Master of the Saints Agilolfus and Anno, 1520, Altarpiece, Antwerp, Belgium; Chazen Museum of Art, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, Wisconsin, USA; photographed on 21 July 2013 by Daderot; swiped off Wikimedia CommonsArticle

Saint Anno was a Count, and a native of Suabia. Walter, his father, wished to educate him for the army, but his uncle, a canon of Bamberg, took him away from his father’s house and had him carefully instructed in the liberal arts and ecclesiastical sciences, as he had perceived that Anno had unusual talents. The young man made rapid progress in all his studies and gained the highest esteem. He united with great knowledge, deep and heartfelt piety, as well as blameless conduct; besides this, he possessed an agreeable form, and a frank disposition, free from all dissimulation. He was gifted with remarkable tact in arranging the most important affairs; and on this account, Henry III, the Emperor, called him to court. When Herman, Archbishop of Cologne, had become acquainted with the excellent qualities, erudition, and virtues of Anno, he advised the canons to choose him as their Bishop, as soon as his own death would have vacated the See. His advice was followed, in the year 1055. Anno, raised against his will to so high a dignity, resolved at once, not merely to bear the name of Bishop, but also to fulfill most perfectly, all the duties of an ecclesiastical chief. Hence, his first care, so far as he himself was concerned, was to conduct himself in all his actions in such a manner as to serve as a model of virtue to his flock. After this, he was solicitous to further the honor of God and the salvation of those who were given into his charge. He appointed pious and learned priests to the parishes, and trusted the temporal affairs only to such as possessed the necessary knowledge and ability. He visited in person all the towns and villages in his diocese, preached everywhere with great zeal, and admonished the people to lead a Christian life. In his episcopal palace, every one had admittance to him; he listened patiently to all complaints and requests, and dismissed no one without comfort Some conscientious counsellors informed him that the poor farmers had been burdened by his predecessors with too heavy taxes. The compassionate Archbishop gave immediate orders to lessen and even annul these taxes, as he needed them not for the maintenance of his household; for he had already abolished, not only all entertainments, but also the luxuries and superfluities of his table, and by these means had considerably diminished the expenses of his palace. The money he thus saved he gave to the needy and to convents and churches. The poor daily received food at his door, and twenty-four of the most miserable of those who assembled there he took to his own table, washed their feet and dismissed them with a piece of money. His own table was plentifully provided, but before he sat down, he sent the tenth part of the food to the houses of the poor and sick. The rest was consumed by strangers and the poor priests who came to Cologne, for whom he always kept open house. He himself partook of so little that it hardly sufficed to keep him alive, and he abstained entirely from all delicacies. He frequently visited the houses of the poorer citizens and gave them rich alms. He built a magnificent hospital for the sick, and endowed it richly. In it he received the aged, or such as were enfeebled by poverty and misery, who found there the most loving care. The zeal of the holy bishop to promote the honor of God and the spiritual welfare of men went so far, that he even built several convents and churches in other dioceses, while he richly endowed others, in order that the clergy might serve the Lord undisturbed by temporal thoughts. One of the most famous of these is the monastery of Siegberg, which he rebuilt for some zealous religious, and endowed with considerable property. He frequently retired to this house, in order to attend to his own soul, far from the distractions of his high dignity. When he left it, he always commended himself and his whole diocese to the prayers of the religious, in which he had the greatest confidence. It is recorded, that in his entire diocese there was not a single convent of which he had not been a benefactor, by enriching it with buildings, increasing its income, or by other gifts, in order that the occupants might praise God more zealously, and obtain the divine blessing for his people. Besides providing for the religious houses, he took care of the churches in and out of the city. He founded several new ones, while he rebuilt and adorned others. The most celebrated of these, in Cologne, are the Collegiate Church of Saint Mary, and the Collegiate Church of Saint George, for which he provided so well, that, in each of them, thirty Canons could be maintained. In this manner the holy bishop employed his income. His life was an almost continual mortification of himself; and we can only wonder that the Saint was able to preserve his strength by the little rest he allowed himself, as he passed the greater part of the night, and often the whole of it, in prayer and devout contemplation. He often visited the churches at night barefoot and clad in a rough hair-shirt, or with a sharp-pointed chain around his loins, and, accompanied by a single servant, he there recited his prayers, frequently in a flood of tears.

One day, he found in the street an infant in swaddling clothes. The kind man carried it to his palace, laid it on his own bed, and immediately sent out to seek a nurse, to whom he might give the child in charge. He himself became god-father when it was baptized, and afterwards took care that it was properly educated.

After the Saint had labored long for the honor of God, and for his own salvation and that of others, the Almighty was pleased to give him occasion to exercise Christian patience and fortitude. Anno fell into disgrace with the Emperor, whose misdeeds he had not hesitated to reprove with Episcopal freedom. His own subjects, the inhabitants of Cologne, becoming suspicious of him, revolted against him, and one evening, as he was at supper with the bishop of Munster, they entered the palace, with weapons to kill him. He saved himself by flight, and went to the Church of Saint Peter; but not being secure there, he secretly fled from the city and went to Neuss. When those of his flock who lived out of the city heard of it, they came together by thousands, and entering Cologne well armed, they demanded that the people should immediately bring back the innocently banished Saint into the city and his palace, and further, that they should humbly beg his pardon for the wrong they had done him, and give him due satisfaction: otherwise, they would sack the city with fire and sword. The citizens could not resist the power of the armed men, and as they had already come to the knowledge of the wrong they had done, they promised to comply with the request. Thus Saint Anno was brought back to his residence, and received with great honors. The holy man showed in this, as well as in other persecutions, a heroic Christian patience and fortitude. He neither complained of the displeasure of the Emperor under which he had fallen, nor of the evil this had drawn upon him, nor of the wickedness of his subjects; but turned his eyes to the Lord, who had permitted all this in order to try him like gold in the fire. Several infirmities and painful maladies gave him occasion again to exercise himself in patience and endurance; and in the practice of these virtues he ended his holy life, in 1075, after having governed his See in the most exemplary manner for twenty years. His holy body was carried through all the churches, by the clergy, for seven days, and was at last buried reverentially in the church of the monastery of Siegberg. His tomb is celebrated for the many miracles wrought there.

MLA Citation

  • Father Francis Xavier Weninger, DD, SJ. “Saint Anno, Arcbbishop of Cologne”. Lives of the Saints, 1876. CatholicSaints.Info. 3 June 2018. Web. 20 September 2018. <>