Weninger’s Lives of the Saints – Saint Otho, Bishop of Bamberg

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href=”saint-otto-of-bamberg”>statue of Saint Otto of Bamberg, Monastery of Saint Michael, Bamberg, Bavaria, Germany; photographed by Dagny in December 2004; swiped off the Wikipedia web siteSaint Otho, who is commemorated in the Roman Martyrology, on the second day of July, was a descendant of a noble family of Suabia. His parents, Otho and Adelheid, educated him most piously, and the Almighty, who chose him to convert the heathens of Pomerania and to save many souls, endowed him for this purpose with unusual talents. His eminent learning, which was attained by unwearied application, his varied abilities, but above all, his virtue and piety, won him the esteem of high and low. The Emperor, Henry IV, chose him as chaplain to his sister, Judith, on her marriage with Boleslas III, Duke of Poland. In consequence of this, he went to that country and learned its language. After the death of Judith he returned to the imperial court, and became at first private secretary of the Emperor, and later was raised to the dignity of Chancellor.

After some years, when ghe See of Bamberg became vacant by the death of Rupert, Henry nominated him bishop, and conferred upon him the Episcopal ring and crosier. Although the humble Otho, upon bended knees, begged the emperor to spare him the burden of this great dignity, his request was not complied with, and the emperor had him accompanied to Bamberg, with all due honors, by the deputies of that city. A great part of the inhabitants came to meet him at Ammerbach, and when he was in sight of the city, he dismounted from his horse, and although it was winter and the ground covered with snow, he walked barefoot into the city, and went first into the Cathedral to commend himself to his God. After this, he reported to the Pope all that had taken place, and somewhat later, called by the Pope, he went to Rome, and laying ring and crosier at the feet of the Pontiff, he begged to be released from his dignity. But the Holy Father refused to consent, consecrated him bishop on the Festival of Pentecost, and sent him back to Bamberg. On his arrival, the Saint labored with all zeal to further the honor of God and the spiritual well-being of his flock. To relate the means by which he succeeded in this would require too much space. Of the great labor he performed we will only mention that, besides many churches, he erected twenty convents in different places, endowing all of them richly. Among these deserves especially to be mentioned the Monastery on what was called Mount Michael, at Bamberg, to which he was much attached, and in which he desired to live as a religious. At the base of this mountain he built a chapel and a hospital, in honor of Saint Aigidius. The Cathedral, of which the greater part was laid in ashes by a conflagration, he restored to more than its former grandeur. It was remarkable that, while the holy bishop erected and endowed so many magnificent buildings, the revenues of the See were not only not lessened, but, on the contrary, augmented, as he redeemed many castles and cities of which his See had been deprived. Every one had to acknowledge that, the more the holy man spent for the honor of God or the comfort of the poor, the more he miraculously received from heaven. He kept the names of the poor in alphabetical order, and cared for them like a loving father. During a famine, he emptied his granaries and cellars for them, and left no means untried to assist the suffering. As many became sick at the same time, he went, not only during the day, but also at night, from house to house, visited the sick, administered the holy sacraments to them, and even attended to their burial. He was seen carrying the dead, as Tobias had done, upon his shoulders to the grave. He very frequently sent the food, which was placed upon his table, to the needy, and partook only of water and bread, but never taking enough to satisfy himself. One day, they placed on his table a most costly fish; but Otho said: “Far be it from me to consume in one day so much money. Go, take this fish to a poor or sick man; I, who am yet strong, can content myself with a piece of bread.” These and other virtues made the name of the holy bishop known and venerated everywhere. Boleslas, Duke of Poland, who had known him when he was chaplain to the Duchess Judith, sent a delegation to him with a letter requesting him to come to Pomerania, and convert to the Christian faith the heathen nation which he had subdued. The holy bishop rejoiced to have so large a field of labor for the honor of the Almighty and the salvation of souls, hoping at the same time, that an opportunity might be offered to him to shed his blood for Christ’s sake. He therefore, with the permission of the Pope, left his diocese, and proceeded with some priests to Pomerania. The labors he there performed, and the cares, the sufferings, the persecutions he endured among this barbarous and idolatrous people, are known only to Him from whom nothing is hidden. The inhabitants of several places opposed him most violently, and were incited by their idolatrous priests to kill him and his companions. But God most miraculously protected him, and so evidently blessed his patience and perseverance, that, at last, the whole of Pomerania was, by his endeavors, subjected to the sweet yoke of Christ. Having accomplished this, he erected many churches, and placed them in charge of fervent priests; he consecrated Adalbert, bishop of the country, and left nothing undone that a zealous apostle is able to do, to disseminate the true faith, and to uproot idolatry; whence he rightly received the name of the Apostle of Pomerania. After having thus, by the assistance of the Most High, brought many thousands of souls to the knowledge of the True God, and after having also taken care of their future spiritual welfare, he returned to his bishopric. Being informed, however, after some time, that several cities of Pomerania had forsaken the true faith, he undertook a second journey, and succeeded in reconciling the apostates with God and the Church. Lothair, the Emperor, recalled him, after some time, to his See, where he arrived on the evening before the Festival of Saint Thomas, and was received with great rejoicings.

Feeling that the time of his departure from this world was drawing near, he redoubled his zeal in regard to the spiritual welfare of his flock, until, to the inexpressible sorrow of all under him, he became dangerously ill. He comforted them with all the strength which his trust in God imparted to him, and prepared himself, by most devoutly receiving the holy Sacraments, for a happy death. When first he felt ill, he called the Abbot of the Monastery of Mount Michael to him, and acquainted him with the fact that he had long since desired to resign his dignity as bishop and become a religious, and that now the moment had arrived in which he would request the Abbot to bestow on him the habit, and receive him among his subjects. The Abbot did not refuse, but neither bestowed the habit upon him, nor allowed him to reside in the Monastery. When Otho repeated his request, the Abbot asked him whether he had promised obedience to him when he had been received among the religious? The Saint replied that he had. “Then,” said the Abbot, “I command you to remain in the episcopal See, to the comfort of the poor, and the salvation of souls, until your end.” The bishop acquiesced after these words, and continued to discharge his functions with fervent zeal during the remainder of his life. He died praising the Lord; having requested that the matins of the office should be sung by several of the monks in his presence, he raised his hands and eyes to heaven and expired. His death occurred in the year 1189, the seventieth of his life, and the thirty-seventh from his consecration as bishop. His holy body was buried, according to his desire, on Mount Michael, in the Church which he himself had built; and God honored the tomb of His servant with many miracles, wrought upon the blind, the deaf and the dangerously sick, and even on some who were already dead. Many miracles are also related which the Saint performed in Pomerania, by means of which many heathens were moved to embrace the Christian faith.

Practical Considerations

1. Take notice of the fact, that the more Saint Otho spent for the poor and the honor of God, the more he miraculously received from the Almighty. God keeps the promise He made when He said: “Give, and it shall be given to you; good measure, pressed down and shaken together, and running over shall they give into your bosom.” Why then do you fear to lose when you contribute something for the building or adorning of a church, or for the comfort of the poor, or for some other charitable purpose? Do you not then believe your God rather than Satan, who endeavors to convince you of the contrary? Manifest your faith by your works. Especially assist the poor according to your means, and be assured that God commands you to give alms. The omission of alms-deeds may cause your eternal misery, as we must conclude from the sentence which the Divine Judge will one day pronounce over the wicked. You have also in Holy Writ the example of the rich man. Why was he damned? “Not because he imposed upon others,” says Saint Augustine, “nor for his stealing or oppression of orphans and widows; but because he had no compassion for the poor;” because he omitted to give alms.

2. No sooner did Saint Otho perceive that his disease was dangerous, than he prepared himself for death by receiving the Sacraments. What can be the reason that some people put off so long the reception of the holy sacraments when they are sick? Do they imagine that they will die sooner, or that they will become worse when the sacraments are administered to them? The very contrary of this is daily seen. May you not be among the number of these silly and presuming people. If you should become sick, and are told or feel that there is danger, do not put off confession and receiving the Holy Communion. Solicitous Christians demand of their physician, or of those about them, to be informed whether they are in danger, and when informed, they delay not to prepare themselves for the holy sacraments. Imitate these and you will bear your sufferings with more patience and peace of mind, and your merit will be greater. Should God restore your health, you will not be sorry that you have done your duty, and should He call you from this world, you will depart much more comforted and much happier than if you had delayed. Of course, Satan is always ready to persuade both sick and well that there is plenty of time. He endeavors, by this delay, to keep man fearless, and, so to say, reassured in his iniquities in order that he may die without receiving the sacraments, or that he may receive them without due preparation to his own condemnation, and thus be lost to all eternity. “Satan,” writes Saint Augustine, “gives man assurance in order to ruin him. Those who have been deceived by the vain hope of recovery are innumerable, and the vast number of men who, thus assured, have been suddenly taken away ought to be a warning to us.”

MLA Citation

  • Father Francis Xavier Weninger, DD, SJ. “Saint Otho, Bishop of Bamberg”. Lives of the Saints, 1876. CatholicSaints.Info. 13 March 2018. Web. 16 December 2018. <>