Butler’s Lives of the Saints – Saint Conrad, Bishop of Constance, Confessor


This eminent servant of God was, by his humility and sanctity, the bright ornament of the most illustrious house of the Guelphs, in Germany, which so many princes have honoured with their martial achievements and sovereign dignities. Their pedigree is derived by some from Clodion, king of the Franks, and Wittekind the Great, (who was created by Charlemagne first duke of Saxony,) and consequently from Woden, the chief god, and the stock of the principal royal families of the Saxons which founded the Heptarchy in England. The name of Guelph or Guelf was taken by this family in the reign of Charlemagne, at which time they were counts of Altorff, now called Weingarten in Suabia, not Altorff, the university near Nuremberg in Franconia; nor the capital of Uri in Switzerland. Conrad, abbot of Ursperg, who gives the noble pedigree of this family, exceedingly extols the devotion of its princes and princesses, their piety towards God, and their most religious attachment to the apostolic see. Guelph I, whose name was retained by his descendants, was son of Isenbart, count of Altorff, and his wife Irmentrudis, sister-in-law to Charlemagne, and foundress of the great Benedictin abbey of Altorff. Judith, daughter of Guelph I was married to the emperor Lewis Debonnair, and is famous in the history of his troubles. Two of her brothers became dukes of Bavaria. Conrad Rudolf, brother of Judith, was the second count of Altorff of this name, and his son Henry the third count, and founder of the monastery of Altonmunster. He left two sons, Saint Conrad, and Rudolf, fourth count of Altorff, whom Rimius calls Henry II against the authority of the abbot Ursperg and Manlius, the former of whom was intimately acquainted with this illustrious family in the twelfth age, and copied his account of it from original records.

Conrad was a saint from the cradle, and was sent young to the famous schools which then flourished at Constance under the direction of the bishop of that city. For the city of Vendonissa or Vindisch, near Baden, being destroyed by Childebert II. king of France, in 594, the episcopal see which had been founded there by Saint Bert, about the year 490, was removed to Constance, a city so called from the emperor Constans. As the love of God had moved Conrad to despise the vanities of the world, so it inspired him with an uncommon fervour in his service, lest he should lose the crown by sloth, to purchase which he had forsaken all things. His seriousness showed how deeply the great concerns of eternity were impressed upon his mind, and restrained all sloth, levity, or dissolute mirth; yet was it far from carrying with it any thing of sourness and melancholy, which no less than all capriciousness, changeableness of temper, and uneasiness of mind, are certain signs of pride and unmortified passions. The temper of our saint’s mind was always even, serene, and cheerful, which discovered at the bottom a lasting joy, which is always the fruit of inward peace, and produces an unalterable sweetness in conversation even under the greatest disappointments. An unaffected simplicity, which is also an attendant of sincere virtue, shone with lustre in all his actions, and, joined with his perfect humility and religious piety, gave him in his whole deportment an air of dignity which belongs to virtue only, and is far superior to that which worldly greatness bestows. Hence every one approached him with awe and veneration mixed with confidence and affection, which the charms of his tender and obliging charity and humility inspired. Soon after he was ordained priest, the provostship of the cathedral, the next dignity to that of the bishop, was conferred upon him; and that prelate, whose name was Noting, dying in 934, our saint was unanimously chosen to fill the episcopal chair, though it was a considerable time before his consent could by any means be extorted. Saint Ulric, bishop of Ausburg, who had strenuously promoted his election, frequently visited him for the sake of holding pious conferences together, and so close were the bands of holy friendship in which these two great prelates were linked together, that they almost seemed to have but one soul which animated two bodies. Saint Conrad having dedicated himself with all that he possessed to God, made an exchange of his estates with his brother for other lands situate near Constance, and settled them all upon that church and the poor, having first built and endowed three stately churches at Constance, in honour of Saint Maurice, Saint John Evangelist, and Saint Paul.

The holy wars having made pilgrimages to Jerusalem very frequent in that age, our saint thrice visited those holy places, making his journeys truly pilgrimages of austere penance and devotion. Worldly conversation the saint always shunned as much as possible, not only as a loss of time (which is of all things the most precious to the servant of God) but also as the bane of the spirit of recollection and compunction, which in one who has dedicated himself to the divine service, and to the daily ministry of the altar, ought always to be most perfect. How religiously exact the holy bishop was in whatever belonged to his sacred functions, particularly to the adorable sacrifice of the mass, appears from the following instance: It happened that a great spider dropped into the chalice whilst the prelate was saying mass on Easter-day; the insect might have been taken out, and then decently burnt, some spiders being poisonous and dangerous; but out of devotion and respect for the holy mysteries, the bishop swallowed the spider; which he vomited up some hours after without receiving any harm. In comforting and relieving the poor, in instructing and exhorting his flock, and in all other functions of his charge our saint was indefatigable; and he laboured in the vineyard of the Lord with equal fervour and watchfulness from the very beginning of the morning to the last hour of the day. He went to receive his salary in eternal joys in the year 976, having been bishop forty-two years. He was buried in the church of Saint Maurice, and two blind men recovered their sight, and other sick their health, at his tomb. Other miracles are recorded in the Chronicle of Constance, subjoined to his life, and he was canonized by Calixtus II about the year 1120. The Roman Martyrology commemorates him on the 26th of November. See his life published by Leibnitz, Scriptor. Also in the History of the Illustrious Family of the Guelphs.

MLA Citation

  • Father Alban Butler. “Saint Conrad, Bishop of Constance, Confessor”. Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Principal Saints, 1866. CatholicSaints.Info. 25 November 2013. Web. 23 April 2021. <>