Dictionary of National Biography – Adalbert

Saint Adalbert of EgmondArticle

Adalbert Levita or Diaconus (fl. 700), an early English saint, was the contemporary of Saint Willibrord (658–738) and his fellow-worker in the conversion of the Frisians. He is said to have been the first archdeacon of Utrecht, and to have been despatched by Willibrord to preach the gospel in Kennemaria (702), where he built a church at Egmont, near Alkmaar, in North Holland. The date of his death is given by Le Cointe as 25 June 705. This Adalbert was patron saint of Egmont, where his faithful worshipper, Theodoric I, count of Holland (c.922), erected a shrine for his relics. At the bidding of Egbert, archbishop of Treves and grandson of Theodoric I, who believed himself to have been cured of a fever by this saint’s intercession, certain ‘monachi Mediolacenses’ (Metloch, near Saarbrück, in the diocese of Treves) drew up in the tenth century a life of Adalbert. This life, together with another account written by a monk at Egmont in the twelfth century, is our chief authority on this subject. According to the first of these writers a certain English priest named Egbert, being divinely forbidden to undertake a personal mission among the heathen of North Germany, despatched Willibrord, Adalbert, and ten others in his stead.

According to all accounts Adalbert was of noble birth, and it is not improbable that he was the grandson of Oswald, king of Deira, who died in 642. For Marcellinus (who claims to have himself been one of the above-mentioned twelve), in his life of Saint Swidbert, calls Adalbert’s father ‘Edelbaldus filius Oswaldi regis,’ and we know from Bede that Oswald did leave a son Edilwald, Adilwald, or Oidilwald, who, for a short time, reigned over Deira till he played the traitor to Oswy, and lost his kingdom with the overthrow of Penda (655). Adalbert, if a son of this Edilwald, might well enough have been a contemporary of Saint Willibrord (658–738). Following the same authority we find Adalbert’s name occurring among a list of preachers despatched into various districts of West Germany by order of the council of Utrecht (702), with Egmont specially mentioned as the scene of his labours. But the whole question is involved in doubt, as this ‘Vita Swiberti,’ if not a complete forgery, is extremely incorrect, and has been subject to large interpolations. The Bollandist fathers refuse to give it any credit; but Le Cointe (iv. 204) allows that it may contain a substratum of truth, and follows it, though with some hesitation.

The abbey of Egmont, dedicated to the memory of this saint, was long a most important institution till it was utterly destroyed by the Spaniards at the siege of Alkmaar in 1573. However, even so late as 1709, when the Bollandist fathers drew up their account of Saint Adalbert, the villagers of Egmont and the neighbourhood still kept 25 June sacred to the memory of their patron saint. Other authorities assign a somewhat different date (c. 740) to the subject of this article, and this has led to his life appearing twice in Dr. Smith’s ‘Dictionary of Christian Biography’. Tanner mentions certain ‘Epistolæ’ of Adalbert’s as still extant, and the ‘Epistola ad Herimannum’ has also been, without authority, assigned to this author.

MLA Citation

  • Thomas Andrew Archer. “Adalbert”. Dictionary of National Biography, 1885. CatholicSaints.Info. 6 April 2019. Web. 29 July 2021. <>