Tuesday, December 27, 2022

The Bishop of Eichstätt

Willibald spent ten years at Monte Cassino, sharing the experiences of his wide travels and helping to shape the monastic experience for Monte Cassino and another nearby Benedictine monastery.

This would change when Boniface, traveling to Rome in 738, told Pope Gregory III that he would like Willibald's help in evangelizing Germany. (It is believed that Boniface was related to Willibald through the latter's mother.) Gregory thought this was a good idea, and urged Willibald to travel once more.

Willibald came to Eichstätt, where Boniface ordained the monk, making him a priest on 22 July 741 and having him start missionary work. The following year, Boniface asked him to come to Thuringia, on the way to which Willibald ran into his brother Winibald, who had stayed behind in Rome in 724! The brothers had not seen each other in many years.

Returning to Eichstätt with Winibald, the brothers founded a "double monastery" at Heidenheim; that is, a monastery that had separate living arrangements for men and women, but sharing a single chapel and other facilities. This was more common in the eastern monastic communities and the influence of Willibald's travels. Winibald became its first abbot. They were joined by their sister, Walburga, who became its abbess.

In 746, Boniface made Willibald bishop of Eichstätt, where he served for over 40 years until his death c.787. He lived at the Heidenheim monastery, sharing his wisdom and knowledge of various countries and attracting many visitors.

Fascinating as the concept of a "double monastery" might be, the monastery of Monte Cassino has a long history that has caused it to be mentioned several times over the years of this blog, but it has never received proper attention. I'll correct that oversight tomorrow.

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