Saint Benno of Meissen

Also known as

  • Benedict



Born to the Saxon nobility, the son of Blessed Bezela of Goda; as an adult he was heavily involved in the power politics of his day. Educated in the abbey of Saint Michael, Hildesheim, Germany. Priest. Canon at the imperial chapel at Gozlar, Hanover. Chaplain to Emperor Henry III. Bishop of Meissen in 1066. Participated in the synod of Forcheim, Germany in 1078.

He spent a year in prison for backing the nobility and Pope Saint Gregory VII against Emperor Henry IV over lay investiture and the control of the Church by the State. At one point he was summoned to Rome, Italy; he ordered the canons to lock the cathedral while he was gone in case emperor Henry tried to occupy it. Henry did, and threw the keys of the cathedral into the river as a symbol to show no one could lock the church against him. When Benno returned, he went to the river and found the key; legend says it was protected by a fish.

Following the death of Pope Gregory VII, Benno pledged his allegiance to the anti-pope Guibert, but in 1097 he returned to support of the lawful Pope Urban II.

Even with all the polical involvement and turmoil, Benno never lost sight of his calling as a diocesan bishop. He visited parishes, preached and conducted Mass, enforced discipline among his clergy, and fought simony any place he found it. He was an accomplished musician, supported music and chant in the churches and monasteries, and wrote on the Gospels. In his later years he served a missionary to the Wends.

Benno continued to be an involved and controversial figure in politics even after his death. His biographer, Jerome Emser, worked a lot of Church versus State material into the book. Martin Luther wrote a furious diatriabe against Benno’s canonization.






MLA Citation

  • “Saint Benno of Meissen“. CatholicSaints.Info. 23 June 2020. Web. 20 October 2021. <>