Javascript is currently disabled. This site requires Javascript to function correctly. Please enable Javascript in your browser!

Saint Willehad of Bremen

Saint Willehad of Bremen
  • Century: 8th Century
  • Patronage: Saxony
  • Feast Day: November 8th

St. Willehad was born in Northumbria and received his education at York.  He was ordained about the year 766, and he went to Frisia to continue the missionary work of St. Boniface who had been martyred by the Frisians in 754. 

From 780 he preached in the region of the lower Weser River.  He barely escaped with his life when the Frisians wanted to kill him as well, and he returned to the area around Utrecht.  Once again, he and his fellow missionaries barely escaped with their lives when the local pagans wanted to kill them for destroying some of their pagan temples.  Finally in 780, Charlemagne sent him to evangelize the Saxons.  He preached to them for two years, and in 782, the Saxons under Widukind, rebelled against Charlemagne and St. Willehad was forced to flee back to Frisia. 

He took this opportunity to travel to Rome where he reported to Pope Adrian I on his work.  On his return trip he retired to the monastery of Echternach, in present day Luxembourg.  He spent two years there reassembling his missionary team.  After Charlemagne had once more ruthlessly subjected the Saxons and had Widukind baptized, Willehad returned to his Saxon mission.  In 787 he was made Bishop of the Saxons with his see at the newly found city of Bremen.  He built numerous churches in his diocese, including the Cathedral in Bremen. 

He is buried in the City’s Cathedral, which was consecrated shortly before his death in 789.  In 860, a sick girl traveled to his grave, where she was cured by a miracle, and this put the small village on the historical documents. 

Practical Take Away

St. Willehad was a person who selflessly gave of himself to serve the Church.  He had to move from one place to another, and back again, to escape death and bring Christ to a world in need.  His work as a missionary, and in keeping his team of fellow missionaries together during this turbulant time, shows his commitment to our church and faith.  His efforts ensured that you and I have the ability to practice our faith today.  We would do well to not take that faith for granted, as at anytime, we too, could be called to defend it at the same degree St. Willehad spent his life doing.