Saints of the Order of Saint Benedict – Saint Walburge, Abbess

illustration of Saint Walburge, Abbess, from the book 'Saints of the Order of Saint Benedict', designed by Father Amandus LiebhaberTo England, Germany is indebted, not only for the holy men who preached the Gospel to her barbarous tribes, but also for the pious women whose softening influence was no less instrumental in the conversion of the weaker sex. Among these there is no brighter name than that of Saint Walburge. She was the daughter of King Richard and of Wunna, the sister of Saint Boniface. Some years before our Saint came to Germany, her brothers, Wunibald and Willibald, with their father had set out from England, intending to proceed to the Holy Land. The father having died at Lucca in Italy, and Wunibald having fallen ill at Rome, Willibald with seven comrades continued his journey. Meanwhile Wunibald, having recovered from his illness, joined the Order of Saint Benedict. On Willibald’s return from Jerusalem, he chanced to visit Monte Cassino, and there he too enlisted under the standard of Saint Benedict. About this time Saint Boniface was in Rome on some business connected with his recently converted flock, and with the Pope’s consent he brought back Wunibald to take chargeof seven churches (others say seven monasteries) in Thuringia, and Pope Gregory III soon after sent Willibald also to his assistance. As sufficient provision had now been taken for the salvation of the men, the women next claimed the attention of Saint Boniface. To instruct them, and to keep them steadfast in the Faith, no means seemed more suitable than the example of one of their own sex. Accordingly, Walburge was invited to undertake this task by her brothers and by Saint Boniface. After long hesitation, and many prayers to the Almighty for guidance, by the Divine Will our Saint consented, and in due time arrived at Mayence, accompanied by Cunigildis, Bergitis, Chunitrudis, Thecla, and Lioba. There they were most kindly welcomed by Saint Boniface; but when Walburge learned that Wunibald was leading the monastic and solitary life among the Thuringians, she earnestly longed to devote herself to the same religious practices. From her brother’s hands then having received the veil, and having taken the vows of the Order of Saint Benedict, Saint Walburge was placed over a convent of virgins of noble birth, who had also bound themselves by the same Rule. After that the holiness of Saints Wunibald and Walburgf: became a household word among the Thuringians. By the advice of Willibald, now Bishop of Aichstadt, Wunibald removed to Heidenheim, and there built himself a new monastery. Thither he summoned Walburge with her sisters, and there they both for several years governed with great success, he the community of monks, she that of nuns. On the death of Wunibald, so conspicuous was Saint Walburge both for her religious fervour and zeal, that Willibald commanded her to superintend the community of monks in addition to her own. This double duty she continued to discharge, to the great advantage of both houses, till her death, A.D. 878.

Her remains were first buried at Heidenheim, and a century later they were transferred to Aichstadt. Since the translation of her relics to Aichstadt, from the body of this chastest of virgins there trickles an oil clearer than crystal, which, by the blessing of God, is often a remedy for every kind of disease.

– text and illustration taken from Saints of the Order of Saint Benedict by Father Aegedius Ranbeck, O.S.B.