Saints of the Day – Bernward of Hildesheim

detail of a statue of Saint Bernward of Hildesheim, artist unknown; Hildesheim, Domhof, Germany; photographed on 24 February 2009 by Rabanus Flavus; swiped off Wikimedia CommonsArticle

(also known as Berward)

Born c.960; died at Hildesheim, 1022; canonized 1193 by Pope Celestine III. The Saxon Saint Bernward was ordained a priest by Saint Willigis in Mainz, and after serving as tutor and chaplain to Emperor Otto III was made bishop of Hildesheim in 993. His episcopate was disturbed by political and ecclesiastical troubles, including a seven-year dispute with Saint Willigis about the convent at Gandersheim.

Bernward is one of the most attractive figures of medieval Germany- -a German Saint Dunstan. He is primarily remembered as a patron of the arts. He himself excelled as an architect, sculptor, decorator, painter and metal-worker, and Hildesheim became famous for its ‘school’ of sacred art: the Bernward bronze doors, cross, column, and candlesticks are still there to testify to its achievements.

He was also responsible for building Saint Michael’s abbey church at Hildesheim, which has been said to ‘represent religious architecture in the absolute.’

He died “after having assumed the habit of Saint Benedict” (Butler-Thurston). In the crypt of this church Saint Bernward lies buried (Attwater, Benedictines, Encyclopedia, Husenbeth).

In art Saint Bernward is a bishop making a chalice using a goldsmith’s hammer. Sometimes he also holds a short cross in his hand (Roeder). He is the patron of architects, goldsmiths, painters, and sculptors (Roeder).

MLA Citation

  • Katherine I Rabenstein. Saints of the Day, 1998. CatholicSaints.Info. 12 August 2020. Web. 26 November 2020. <>