St. Walburge, Virgin, Abbess in England
SHE 1 was daughter to the holy king St. Richard, and sister to SS. Willibald and Winebald; was born in the kingdom of the West Saxons in England, and educated, in the monastery of Winburn in Dorsetshire, where she took the religious veil. After having passed twenty-seven years in this holy nunnery, she was sent by the abbess Tetta, under the conduct of St. Lioba, with several others, into Germany, at the request of her cousin St. Boniface. 2 Her first settlement in that country was under St. Lioba, in the monastery of Bischofsheim, in the diocess of Mentz. Two years after she was appointed abbess of a nunnery founded by her two brothers, at Heidenheim in Suabia, (now subject to the duke of Wirtemburg,) where her brother, St. Winebald, took upon him at the same time the government of an abbey of monks. This town is situated in the diocess of Aichstadt, in Franconia, upon the borders of Bavaria, of which St. Willibald, our saint’s other brother, had been consecrated bishop by St. Boniface. So eminent was the spirit of evangelical charity, meekness, and piety, which all the words and actions of St. Walburge breathed, and so remarkable was the fruit which her zeal and example produced in others, that when St. Winebald died, in 760, she was charged with a superintendency also over the abbey of monks till her death. St. Willibald caused the remains of their brother Winebald to be removed to Aichstadt, sixteen years after his death; at which ceremony St. Walburge assisted.
Two years after she herself passed to eternal rest, on the 25th of February, in 779, having lived twenty-five years at Heidenheim. Her relics were translated, in the year 870, to Aichstadt, on the 21st of September, and the principal part still remains there in the church anciently called of the Holy Cross, but since that time of St. Walburge. A considerable portion is venerated with singular devotion at Furnes, where, by the pious zeal of Baldwin, surnamed of Iron, it was received on the 25th of April, and enshrined on the 1st of May, on which day her chief festival is placed in the Belgic Martyrologies, imitated by Baronius in the Roman. From Furnes certain small parts have been distributed in several other towns in the Low Countries, especially at Antwerp, Brussels, Tiel, Arnhem, Groningue, and Zutphen; also Cologne, Wirtemberg, Ausberg, Christ Church at Canterbury, and other places, were enriched with particles of this treasure from Aichstadt. St. Walburge is titular saint of many other great churches in Germany, Brabant, Flanders, and several provinces of France, especially in Poitou, Perche, Normandy, Burgundy, Lorraine, Alsace, &c. Her festival, on account of various translations of her relics, is marked on several days of the year, but the principal is kept in most places on the day of her death. A portion of her relics was preserved in a rich shrine in the repository of relics in the electoral palace of Hanover, as appears from the catalogue printed in folio at Hanover in 1713. See her life written by Wolfhard, a devout priest of Aichstadt, in the following century, about the year 890; again by Adelbold, nineteenth bishop of Utrecht, (of which diocess Heda calls her patroness;) thirdly, by an anonymous author; fourthly, by the poet Medibard; fifthly, by Philip, bishop of Aichstadt; sixthly, by an anonymous author, at the request of the nuns of St. Walburge of Aichstadt. All these six lives are published by Henschenius. See also Raderus, in Bavaria Sancta, t. 3. p. 4. Gretser, de Sanctis Eystettensibus, &c. 1
Note 1. This saint is corruptly called, in Perche, St. Gauburge; in Normandy and Champagne, St. Vaubourg; about Luzon, St. Falbourg; in other parts of Poitou, St. Avougourg; in Germany, Walburge, Waltpurde, Walpoure; and in some places, Warpurg. Her English-Saxon name Walburge is the same with the Greek Eucharia, and signifies gracious. See Camden’s Remains.
Note 2. St. Boniface being sensible of how great importance it is for the public advantage of the church, and the general advancement of the kingdom of Christ in the souls of men, called over from England into Germany many holy nuns whom he judged best qualified to instruct and train up others in the maxims and spirit of the gospel. Among these he placed St. Tecla in the monastery of Kitzingen, founded by Alheide, daughter of King Pepin; St. Lioba was appointed by him abbess at Bischofsheim; St. Cunihilt, aunt of St. Lullus, and her daughter Berathgit, called also Bergitis, were mistresses of religious schools in Thuringia, and were honoured in that country among the saints. Cunihildis is also called Gunthildis and Bilhildis. See Thuringia Sacra, printed at Frankfort, an. 1737.
Rev. Alban Butler (1711–73). Volume II: February.
The Lives of the Saints. 1866.