Saints of the Day – Wolfgang of Ratisbon

detail of a bas-relief sculpture of Saint Wolfgang of Ratisbon, 16th century, artist unknown; museum in the castle of Cadolzburg, Middle Franconia, Germany; photographed on 14 January 2018 by Wolfgang Sauber; swiped from Wikimedia CommonsArticle

(also known as Wolfgang of Regensburg)

Born in Swabia (Germany) c.925; died at Puppingen near Linz (Austria) in 994; canonized 1052 by Pope Leo IX.

As a little boy, Wolfgang was taught by a friendly priest. Thereafter, he was sent to the abbey of Reichenau on Lake Constanz to continue his schooling. There he became the best friend of a young nobleman named Henry whose elder brother Poppo was bishop of Würzburg. The bishop set up a great school there, employing a brilliant Italian named Stefano of Novara to teach in it, and Henry persuaded Wolfgang to journey with him to study at the Italian’s feet.

Wolfgang was incomparably the better pupil, though both young men were devout. After finishing his formal studies, Wolfgang taught at the school. When, in 956, Henry was made archbishop of Trier (Trèves), he asked Wolfgang to go there with him to teach in the cathedral school. In Trier, Wolfgang met the reforming monk, Saint Rambold, and Wolfgang joined Henry in his efforts to strengthen the faith of the see.

Henry died in the year 964. Wolfgang had stayed by his side faithfully, but now left Trier to become a Benedictine monk at Einsiedeln. The abbot, an English Benedictine named George, soon saw that he had with him a teacher of genius, and he put Wolfgang in charge of the abbey school. It became the best in the land.

In 971, Wolfgang was ordained to the priesthood by Saint Ulric, after which he engaged in a short and discouraging mission in Pannonia (Hungary). But the Emperor Otto II recognized his worth, and, upon the recommendation of Saint Rambold, named Wolfgang to fill the vacant see of Regensburg. Although Wolfgang would have preferred to retire to his monastery, he was taken to the emperor at Frankfurt and invested in the temporalities. On Christmas Day 972 he was consecrated bishop of the city over which he presided until his death.

He at once initiated a reform of the clergy and the monasteries in his diocese, including two disorderly convents. He encouraged the canons to return to a regular life. One of the sources of revenue for the see was the abbey of Saint Emmeram at Regensburg, which the bishops held in commendam, with the usual bad results. Wolfgang restored ts autonomy and made Rambold its abbot.

Saint Wolfgang earned the love of his people. He continued to preach widely and vigorously. Known for his generosity to the poor, he became known as “Eleemosynarius Major” (the “Great Almoner”). He never abandoned his monastic habits. On one occasion he attempted to leave his see in order to seek a life as a hermit but was compelled to return by popular demand. He ceded part of his see in Bohemia to set up a new diocese – Prague.

He also earned the respect of the imperial court. He accompanied the emperor on a trip to France. He was for a time tutor to the future emperor, Saint Henry II of Bavaria.

Wolfgang became ill while travelling down the Danube into Lower Austria and died at a little place called Puppingen, not far from Linz (Attwater, Bentley, Delaney, Encyclopedia, Walsh, White).

In art Saint Wolfgang is portrayed as a bishop with a hatchet and model cathedral. Sometimes he is shown (1) with the little emperor (Henry II) near him with words ‘post sex’ over him; (2) with the devil who holds the book while Wolfgang reads the Gospel; (3) building the church of Saint Wolfgang, Regensburg; (4) giving alms; (5) tormented by devils; or (6) striking a fountain from the ground with his crosier (Roeder, White); or (7) praying for a miracle (by Michael Pacher).

Patron of carpenters, shepherds, woodsmen. Invoked against gout, hemorrhage, lameness, stomach troubles, and wolves (Roeder).

MLA Citation

  • Katherine I Rabenstein. Saints of the Day, 1998. CatholicSaints.Info. 7 August 2020. Web. 26 November 2020. <>