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Statue of St. Walburga in the church at Contern

Walburga (also Walburg , Waltpurde , Walpurgis , Walpurga , Valborg , in France Vaubourg , Falbourg , in the Norman Le Perche Gauburge ; "fortified castle") (* presumably around 710 in the southern English town of Wessex ; † presumably 25 February 779 , according to other sources 780 in Heidenheim ) was an Anglo-Saxon Benedictine and abbess of the Heidenheim monastery . Walburga is considered to be the daughter of the West Saxon Christian king in the Anglo-Saxon Empire Richard of Wessex and is considered by most sources to be a niece of St. Boniface . In the Catholic Church she is venerated as a saint .

Live and act

Portrait in the old Peter in Munich

Walburga was born around 710 as one of the many children of a wealthy English family in Devon, Wessex. The royal ancestry, according to which she was the daughter of King Richard the Anglo-Saxon and his wife Wuna or Wina, has not been proven, but a wealthy or perhaps even privileged social position of her family, i.e. nobility, can certainly be assumed. Orphaned at an early age, she is said to have been accepted into the monastery of Wimborne in Dorset at the age of 10 or 11, known at the time for its scholarship and good education for young women from the West Saxon upper class. Walburga spent around 26 years of her life there and was carefully prepared by Abbess Tetta for a job as a missionary in the German lands, which at that time were largely still pagan .

She may have been impressed when her two brothers Wunibald and Willibald von Eichstätt followed their uncle Bonifatius' call to the mainland. Both first made a pilgrimage to Rome, Willibald even to Jerusalem, the two most important pilgrimages of Christianity to this day . Then they settled on the papal mandate in what is now southern Germany for the purpose of a mission: Wunibald in Heidenheim (Middle Franconia) and Willibald in Eichstätt as the founder of the local diocese , which he headed as bishop for more than 45 years until his death in 787.

After her brother Wunibald was able to win her over for the mission during a visit back home, Walburga also crossed the English Channel and probably went ashore near Antwerp . During this crossing, the young nun Hugeburc , who later wrote a vita for the Walburgas brothers, Willibald and Wunibald, was also present, as were Walburga's relatives Lioba and other nuns. The voyage was stormy and the ship got into distress. According to legend, Walburga is said to have spent the entire time kneeling on deck in prayer until the ship entered the port of Antwerp safely. Therefore she is still considered the patron saint of seafarers and patron saint against storms.

Her new home was initially in Tauberbischofsheim , where she lived in the monastery run by Lioba. After the death of her brother Wunibald von Heidenheim in 761, Walburga took over the Heidenheim men's monastery, which he had founded about ten years earlier, an important mission base; a little later a convent was added. Through the leadership of this powerful double monastery , Walburga became one of the most important women in Christian Europe. St. Boniface, the 754 in the Frisian Dokkum the martyrdom suffered, is considered one of the first to specifically began women in the mission.

The Walpurgis biographer Wolfhard von Herrieden reports about 200 years later of two miracles that Walburga is said to have worked during this time. According to this, she is said to have saved a child from starvation with the help of three ears of wheat and at another time successfully calmed a rabid dog. There are also reports of the healings of the sick and the rescue of a woman who had recently given birth in childbed fever. Therefore, in addition to many other responsibilities, she is also the patron saint against diseases and epidemics, rabies, famine and poor harvests and as the patroness of the sick and those who have recently given birth, but also of the farmers.

The exact date of Walburga's death cannot be clearly proven. The date of death set by the Heidenheim monastery annals on February 25, 779 is controversial; the year 780 would also come into question . According to tradition, her brother Willibald, Bishop of Eichstätt, donated the sacraments to her . The two monasteries in Heidenheim fell back to him and were later abandoned.


The crypt with the relics of St. Walburga in the St. Walburg Monastery

The canonization of Walburga is said to have taken place on May 1st (around the year 870 by Pope Hadrian II ) on the occasion of the reburial of her bones , initiated by Bishop Otgar von Eichstätt . Her relics were initially in the Holy Cross Church , today they are in the St. Walburg Abbey in Eichstätt.

In the period that followed, the flourishing cult of relics around Walburga was promoted and promoted primarily by the Benedictine order, bishops and the aristocracy in order to counterbalance the popular saints of the people and to permanently secure the claim to leadership of the nobility within the Christian world. The Walburga cult reached a high point in the 11th century under the Archbishop of Cologne , Anno II. , Who brought Walburga's brainshell and travel stick to Berg (later Walberberg ) around 1069 ; there are these relics in the parish church of the place.

Already in 893 the nun Liubila had founded a monastery in Monheim together with her sister Gerlind , placed it under the protection of St. Walburga and asked for relics for it. Especially in the late Middle Ages, which was marked by severe epidemics and hunger epidemics, Walburga was often called upon as an emergency helper and patron saint, especially in Germany and northern France. Relics and pilgrimage sites of the saints can be found not only in Eichstätt, Monheim and Walberberg, but also u. a. also in Cologne, in Overath , in the Eifel town of Usch , in places in Austria and Switzerland, in the Netherlands and especially often in Normandy and in Belgian cities such as Antwerp, Oudenaarde and Veurne . St. Walburga was especially venerated by nuns, including in the Essen monastery ; on the cover of the Theophanu Gospel , she is with the Abbess Theophanu. Relics of the saints have also been venerated in the women's monastery in Meschede since the 10th century. Even in small villages and on mountains, so-called Walpurgis chapels can be found as popular pilgrimage destinations to this day. On the coasts of Flanders and Normandy, the beleaguered population of Walburga asked above all for assistance against marauding pirates. Some places whose patron saint is St. Walburga, like St. Walburga in Werl , Westphalia , is on the pilgrimage route of the Way of St. James .

Walburga shrine in the St. Walburga Church in Meschede

Since 1042 a liquid, the so-called Walburgis oil , has been said to leak out from under Walburga's reliquary every year from October to the end of February . Pilgrims can get it filled in bottles in the monastery. Especially on February 25th, the feast day of St. Walburga, numerous pilgrims flock to the miraculous shrine in Eichstätt. Since the 15th century St. Walburga also always depicted with the bottle in paintings. In 2000, the Middle Franconian sculptor Ernst Steinacker created in front of the Walpurgis Chapel on the St. Walburga named Berg Walberla or Ehrenbürg in Kirchehrenbach near Forchheim, a modern bronze statue of the patron saint with a traveling stick and a small oil bottle slung around the neck. In 2011, the forensic biologist Mark Benecke had a sample of the liquid examined; it is hard water with a neutral pH value .

Statue of Ernst Steinacker in Wolframs-Eschenbach

Memorial days


In addition to the many St. Churches consecrated to Walburga ( Walburgakirche ) is the patron saint of several hospitals, such as the St. Walburga Hospital in Meschede in the Sauerland. Furthermore, there is since 1919 in the Sauerland Menden the Walburgisgymnasium - a Catholic, state-approved private school sponsored by the Sisters of St. Mary Magdalen Postel .

In the South Tyrolean Ulten Valley there is a village called St. Walburg after the holy Walburga . In the Rhenish foothills, a place and a mountain are named after the saint. The place Walberberg (today a district of Bornheim in the Rhineland) was first mentioned in 1118 as Mons sanctae walburgis . It can be assumed that with the transfer of the relics of the holy Walburga, the settlement was also referred to as the "mountain of holy Walburga" and has therefore already undergone a name change since 1069. These relics have made Walberberg a place of pilgrimage to this day.


  • Andreas Bauch: Walpurgis Abbess of Heidenheim (approx. 710–779). In: Alfred Wendehorst, Gerhard Pfeiffer (Ed.): Fränkische Lebensbilder. ( Publications of the Society for Franconian History, Series VII A. Volume 9). Volume 9. Commission publishing house Degener & Co, Neustadt / Aisch 1980, ISBN 3-7686-9057-1 , pp. 1-10.
  • Gabriele Lautenschläger:  Walburga, saint. In: Biographisch-Bibliographisches Kirchenlexikon (BBKL). Volume 3, Bautz, Herzberg 1992, ISBN 3-88309-035-2 , Sp. 178-179.
  • Sigmund Ritter von Riezler:  Walburg . In: Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie (ADB). Volume 40, Duncker & Humblot, Leipzig 1896, p. 645 f.
  • Festschrift for the 1200th anniversary of St. Walburga, in: History of the Benedictine Order and its Branches, Volume 90, 1979
  • Hermann Holzbauer: Medieval Adoration of Saints - Saint Walpurgis (Eichstätter Studies)
  • Maria Mengs: literature on the life and veneration of the Eichstätter diocesan saints Willibald, Wunibald, Walburga, Wuna, Richard and Sola (= sources and studies of church history), St. Ottilien 1987
  • Vera Schauber and Hanns M. Schindler: Saints and Patrons of the Year, Augsburg 1993, p. 80f

Web links

Commons : Walburga  - collection of images, videos and audio files


  1. Stefan Petersen : When did Saint Walburga die? On the life and death of the last abbess of Heidenheim. In: Studies and communications on the history of the Benedictine order and its branches 116 (2005), pp. 7-18.
  2. Casanova, Gertrude. St. Walburga. The Catholic Encyclopedia . Vol. 15. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912; online: https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Catholic_Encyclopedia_(1913)/St._Walburga (accessed on June 7, 2018): “In the Roman Martyrology she is commemorated on May 1, [...]; sometimes she is represented in a group with St. Philip and St. James the Less, and St. Sigismund, King of Burgundy, because she is said to have been canonized by Pope Adrian II on 1 May, the festival of these saints. " ("She is said" = no secure information).
  3. Casanova, Gertrude. St. Walburga. The Catholic Encyclopedia . Vol. 15. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912; online: https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Catholic_Encyclopedia_(1913)/St._Walburga (accessed June 7, 2018): “About 870, Otkar, then Bishop of Eichstadt, determined to restore the church and monastery of Heidenheim, which were falling to ruin. The workmen having desecrated St. Walburga's grave, [...]. "- ​​According to the source mentioned, the reburial should not have taken place until September 21 of the same year:" she one night appeared to the bishop, reproaching and threatening him . This led to the solemn translation of the remains to Eichstadt on 21 Sept. of the same year. "
  4. Mark Benecke : The corpse oil of the holy Walburga In: Skeptiker 24 (3/2011)
  5. See Grotefend Directory of Saints .