Saint Ludger (born at Zuilen
Zuilen is a former municipality in the Dutch province of Utrecht. It existed until 1954, when it merged with Utrecht.Nowadays, Zuilen is a neighbourhood of Utrecht.-External links: Map of the former municipality in 1868....

 near Utrecht
Utrecht (city)
Utrecht city and municipality is the capital and most populous city of the Dutch province of Utrecht. It is located in the eastern corner of the Randstad conurbation, and is the fourth largest city of the Netherlands with a population of 312,634 on 1 Jan 2011.Utrecht's ancient city centre features...

 about 742; died 26 March 809 at Billerbeck
Billerbeck is a municipality in the district of Coesfeld in North Rhine-Westphalia in Germany.-Neighbor towns/cities:Billerbeck has boundaries to Rosendahl, Laer, Altenberge, Havixbeck, Nottuln and Coesfeld.-City Districts:* Stadt Billerbeck,...

) was a missionary among the Frisians
The Frisians are a Germanic ethnic group native to the coastal parts of the Netherlands and Germany. They are concentrated in the Dutch provinces of Friesland and Groningen and, in Germany, East Frisia and North Frisia, that was a part of Denmark until 1864. They inhabit an area known as Frisia...

 and Saxons
The Saxons were a confederation of Germanic tribes originating on the North German plain. The Saxons earliest known area of settlement is Northern Albingia, an area approximately that of modern Holstein...

, founder of Werden Abbey
Werden Abbey
Werden Abbey was a Benedictine monastery in Essen-Werden , situated on the Ruhr.- The foundation of the abbey :Near Essen Saint Ludger founded a monastery in 799 and became its first abbot. The little church which Saint Ludger built here in honor of Saint Stephen was completed in 804 and dedicated...

 and first Bishop of Münster in Westphalia
Westphalia is a region in Germany, centred on the cities of Arnsberg, Bielefeld, Dortmund, Minden and Münster.Westphalia is roughly the region between the rivers Rhine and Weser, located north and south of the Ruhr River. No exact definition of borders can be given, because the name "Westphalia"...


Early life to ordination

St Ludger's parents, Thiadgrim and Liafburg, were wealthy Christian Frisians of noble descent. In 753 Ludger saw the great Apostle of Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

, Saint Boniface
Saint Boniface
Saint Boniface , the Apostle of the Germans, born Winfrid, Wynfrith, or Wynfryth in the kingdom of Wessex, probably at Crediton , was a missionary who propagated Christianity in the Frankish Empire during the 8th century. He is the patron saint of Germany and the first archbishop of Mainz...

, which, together with the subsequent martyrdom of the saint, made a deep impression on him. At his own request he was sent to the Utrecht Cathedral School (Martinsstift), founded by Saint Gregory of Utrecht in 756 or 757, and made good progress. In 767 Gregory, who did not wish to receive episcopal consecration himself, sent Alubert, who had come from England to assist him in his missionary work, to York
York is a walled city, situated at the confluence of the Rivers Ouse and Foss in North Yorkshire, England. The city has a rich heritage and has provided the backdrop to major political events throughout much of its two millennia of existence...

 to be consecrated bishop. Ludger accompanied him to be ordained into the diaconate (as he duly was, by Ethelbert of York
Ethelbert of York
Æthelbert was an eighth century scholar, teacher, priest and Archbishop of York.-Life:...

) and to study under Alcuin
Alcuin of York or Ealhwine, nicknamed Albinus or Flaccus was an English scholar, ecclesiastic, poet and teacher from York, Northumbria. He was born around 735 and became the student of Archbishop Ecgbert at York...

, but after a year he returned to Utrecht. Some time later he was granted an opportunity to continue his studies in the same school, when he developed a friendship with Alcuin which lasted throughout life.

In 772 friction arose between the Anglo-Saxons
Anglo-Saxon is a term used by historians to designate the Germanic tribes who invaded and settled the south and east of Great Britain beginning in the early 5th century AD, and the period from their creation of the English nation to the Norman conquest. The Anglo-Saxon Era denotes the period of...

 and the Frisians, and Ludger, for the sake his personal safety, left for home, taking with him a number of valuable books. He remained in the Martinsstift until the death of Gregory in 775, in honour of whose memory he wrote the biography Vita Gregorii. He was then sent to Deventer
Deventer is a municipality and city in the Salland region of the Dutch province of Overijssel. Deventer is largely situated on the east bank of the river IJssel, but also has a small part of its territory on the west bank. In 2005 the municipality of Bathmen Deventer is a municipality and city in...

 to restore the chapel destroyed by the pagan Saxons and to find the relics of Saint Lebuinus, who had worked there as missionary, built the chapel, and died there in c. 775. Ludger succeeded, and returned to teach in the Martinsstift, after which he and others were sent north to destroy pagan places of worship west of the Lauwers Zee.

The Netherlands

After Ludger had been ordained at Cologne
Cologne is Germany's fourth-largest city , and is the largest city both in the Germany Federal State of North Rhine-Westphalia and within the Rhine-Ruhr Metropolitan Area, one of the major European metropolitan areas with more than ten million inhabitants.Cologne is located on both sides of the...

 on 7 July 777 the missions of Ostergau (or Ostracha, i.e., East Frisia
East Frisia
East Frisia or Eastern Friesland is a coastal region in the northwest of the German federal state of Lower Saxony....

) were committed to his charge, of which missions Dokkum
Dokkum is a Dutch fortified town in the municipality of Dongeradeel in the province of Friesland. It has 13,145 inhabitants . The fortifications of Dokkum are well preserved and are known as the bolwerken . - History :...

, the place of the martyrdom of Saint Boniface, was made the centre. Every autumn however he came back to Utrecht to teach at the cathedral school. He worked in this way for about seven years, until Widukind
Widukind was a pagan Saxon leader and the chief opponent of Charlemagne during the Saxon Wars. Widukind was the leader of the Saxons against the Frankish king Charlemagne...

 in 784 persuaded the Frisians to drive out the missionaries, burn the churches, and return to the pagan gods. Ludger escaped with his disciples.
Ludger escaped with his disciples, and in 785 visited Rome
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...

, where he was well received by Pope Adrian I
Pope Adrian I
Pope Adrian was pope from February 1, 772 to December 25, 795. He was the son of Theodore, a Roman nobleman.Shortly after Adrian's accession the territory ruled by the papacy was invaded by Desiderius, king of the Lombards, and Adrian was compelled to seek the assistance of the Frankish king...

, who gave him much advice and special faculties. From Rome he went to Monte Cassino
Monte Cassino
Monte Cassino is a rocky hill about southeast of Rome, Italy, c. to the west of the town of Cassino and altitude. St. Benedict of Nursia established his first monastery, the source of the Benedictine Order, here around 529. It was the site of Battle of Monte Cassino in 1944...

, where he lived according to the Rule of Saint Benedict, but did not bind himself by vows. The news of Widukind's submission, and the arrival of Charlemagne
Charlemagne was King of the Franks from 768 and Emperor of the Romans from 800 to his death in 814. He expanded the Frankish kingdom into an empire that incorporated much of Western and Central Europe. During his reign, he conquered Italy and was crowned by Pope Leo III on 25 December 800...

 at Monte Cassino in 787, put an end to St. Ludger's peaceful retirement. He was appointed missionary to five districts east of the river Lauwers
The Lauwers is a river in the Netherlands. It forms part of the border between the provinces of Friesland and Groningen. From the 730's to Widukind's defeat in 785 it was part of the border of the Frankish Empire....

, around the estuaries of the Hunze, the Fivel
The Fivel was a historical river in the province of Groningen in The Netherlands. It received its water from peat bogs around Kolham and Slochteren, flowed past Woltersum, Wittewierum and Ten Post, and meandered north of Winneweer. The Fivel debouched inte a wide estuary of the Wadden Sea...

, and the Ems, which were still occupied almost entirely by pagans. He began his work armed with characteristic energy and faith in God, and had a significant advantage in that he knew the language and habits of the people, and put this knowledge to good use in achieving their conversion.

He worked in many places: the island of Bant, long since sunk beneath the sea, is mentioned as the scene of his apostolic work. He visited Heligoland
Heligoland is a small German archipelago in the North Sea.Formerly Danish and British possessions, the islands are located in the Heligoland Bight in the south-eastern corner of the North Sea...

 (Fossitesland), where Saint Willibrord
__notoc__Willibrord was a Northumbrian missionary saint, known as the "Apostle to the Frisians" in the modern Netherlands...

 had preached, where he destroyed the remains of paganism and built a Christian church. The well, formerly sacred to the pagan gods, he re-dedicated as his baptismal font. On his return he met the blind bard Bernlef, last of the Frisian skald
The skald was a member of a group of poets, whose courtly poetry is associated with the courts of Scandinavian and Icelandic leaders during the Viking Age, who composed and performed renditions of aspects of what we now characterise as Old Norse poetry .The most prevalent metre of skaldic poetry is...

s, cured his blindness, and made him a devout Christian.

Westphalia and Saxony

In 793 Charlemagne wished to make Ludger Bishop of Trier, but he declined, while declaring himself willing to undertake the evangelization of the Saxons. Charlemagne accepted the offer, and north-western Saxony was thus added to Ludger's missionary field. The monastery of St. Ludger's Abbey
St. Ludger's Abbey
St. Ludger's Abbey was a former monastery of the Benedictine Order in Helmstedt, Lower Saxony, founded by Saint Ludger around 800. Until it was secularised in 1802 it was an Imperial Abbey, with sovereignty over the whole town of Helmstedt until the 15th century.- History :Shortly before 800 the...

 at Helmstedt
Helmstedt is a city located at the eastern edge of the German state of Lower Saxony. It is the capital of the District of Helmstedt. Helmstedt has 26,000 inhabitants . In former times the city was also called Helmstädt....

 was founded as part of his missionary activity in this part of Germany. To meet necessary expenses the income of the Abbey of Leuze
Leuze may refer to the following places:*Leuze-en-Hainaut, in the province of Hainaut, Belgium*Somme-Leuze, in the province of Namur, Belgium*Leuze, Aisne, in the department of Aisne, France...

, in the present Belgian
Belgium , officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a federal state in Western Europe. It is a founding member of the European Union and hosts the EU's headquarters, and those of several other major international organisations such as NATO.Belgium is also a member of, or affiliated to, many...

 province of Hainaut, was given him, and he was told to pick his fellow-workers from the members of that abbey.

As Mimigernaford (also Mimigardeford or Miningarvard) had been designated the centre of the new district, Ludger built a monastery there, from which the place took the name of Münster
Münster is an independent city in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. It is located in the northern part of the state and is considered to be the cultural centre of the Westphalia region. It is also capital of the local government region Münsterland...

. Here he lived with his monks according to the rule of Saint Chrodegang of Metz
Metz is a city in the northeast of France located at the confluence of the Moselle and the Seille rivers.Metz is the capital of the Lorraine region and prefecture of the Moselle department. Located near the tripoint along the junction of France, Germany, and Luxembourg, Metz forms a central place...

, which in 789 had been made obligatory in the Frankish
The Franks were a confederation of Germanic tribes first attested in the third century AD as living north and east of the Lower Rhine River. From the third to fifth centuries some Franks raided Roman territory while other Franks joined the Roman troops in Gaul. Only the Salian Franks formed a...

 territories. He also built a chapel on the left bank of the Aa
Aa River
Aa River may refer to:* Aa River , a river in northern France* Aa River , a river in North Brabant, Netherlands* Aa of Weerijs, a river in North Brabant, Netherlands* Drentsche Aa, a river in Groningen, Netherlands...

 in honour of the Blessed Virgin, as well as the churches of Billerbeck
Billerbeck is a municipality in the district of Coesfeld in North Rhine-Westphalia in Germany.-Neighbor towns/cities:Billerbeck has boundaries to Rosendahl, Laer, Altenberge, Havixbeck, Nottuln and Coesfeld.-City Districts:* Stadt Billerbeck,...

, Coesfeld
Coesfeld is the capital of the district of Coesfeld in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia.-History:Coesfeld received its city rights in 1197, but was first recorded earlier than that in the biography of St. Ludger, patron and first bishop of the diocese of Munster who was born north of...

, Hersfeld, Nottuln
Nottuln is a municipality in the district of Coesfeld in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany.-Neighbouring municipalities:* Billerbeck* Havixbeck* Senden, North Rhine-Westphalia* Dülmen* Coesfeld-Division of the municipality:...

 and others. Near the church of Nottuln he built a home for his sister, Saint Gerburgis, who had consecrated herself to God. Many other women soon joined her, and so originated the first convent
A convent is either a community of priests, religious brothers, religious sisters, or nuns, or the building used by the community, particularly in the Roman Catholic Church and in the Anglican Communion...

 in Westphalia (c. 803). Better known among his foundations, however, is the abbey at Werden
Werden Abbey
Werden Abbey was a Benedictine monastery in Essen-Werden , situated on the Ruhr.- The foundation of the abbey :Near Essen Saint Ludger founded a monastery in 799 and became its first abbot. The little church which Saint Ludger built here in honor of Saint Stephen was completed in 804 and dedicated...

, founded (after an abortive attempt to establish a religious house at Wichmond on the Erft
The Erft is a river in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. It flows through the foothills of the Eifel, and joins the Lower Rhine . Its origin is near Nettersheim, and its mouth in Neuss-Grimlinghausen south of the Josef-Cardinal-Frings-bridge. The river is 103 km long, which is significantly...

) in c. 800 and consecrated in 804, on ground which Ludger himself had acquired, in fulfilment of his desire, formed since his stay at Monte Cassino
Monte Cassino
Monte Cassino is a rocky hill about southeast of Rome, Italy, c. to the west of the town of Cassino and altitude. St. Benedict of Nursia established his first monastery, the source of the Benedictine Order, here around 529. It was the site of Battle of Monte Cassino in 1944...

, to found a Benedictine house.

Later life

At the request of Charlemagne, Ludger received episcopal consecration, from Hildebold, Archbishop of Cologne, on 30 March 805. His principal concern was to have a good and efficient clergy. To a great extent he educated his students personally, and generally took some of them on his missionary tours.

It was said of him that his peaceful methods were far more effective in promoting Christianity than the aggressive tactics of Charlemagne. He was criticised during his life for spending money on alms that should have gone towards the ornamentation of his churches suffered thereby, but was able to convince Charlemagne that this was no fault.

Death and relics

On Passion Sunday
Passion Sunday
Passion Sunday is a name that the Roman Rite liturgy gives to the sixth Sunday of Lent, but that in the pre-1960 form of that liturgy was given to the fifth Sunday...

 809, Ludger heard Mass
Mass (liturgy)
"Mass" is one of the names by which the sacrament of the Eucharist is called in the Roman Catholic Church: others are "Eucharist", the "Lord's Supper", the "Breaking of Bread", the "Eucharistic assembly ", the "memorial of the Lord's Passion and Resurrection", the "Holy Sacrifice", the "Holy and...

 at Coesfeld early in the morning and preached, then went to Billerbeck, where at nine o'clock he again preached, and said his last mass. That evening he died peacefully in the company of his followers.

A dispute arose between Münster and Werden for the possession of his body. His brother Hildegrim was appealed to, and after consultation with the Emperor
Holy Roman Emperor
The Holy Roman Emperor is a term used by historians to denote a medieval ruler who, as German King, had also received the title of "Emperor of the Romans" from the Pope...

, decided in favour of Werden, where the relics still remain. Portions have however since been brought to Münster and Billerbeck.


The successive Vitae, beginning with the serious contemporary biographical work of Altfrid
Saint Altfrid was a leading figure in Germany in the ninth century. A Benedictine monk, he became Bishop of Hildesheim, and founded Essen Abbey. He was also a close royal adviser to the East Frankish King Louis the German.He is a Roman Catholic saint...

 and passing through the Vita Secunda and Vita Tertia to the Libellus Monasteriensis de miraculis sancti Liudgeri (The Little Book of Münster on the Miracles of Saint Ludger) of c. 1170, demonstrate the growth of the legend. Votive practice
Votive office
A Votive Office was a Roman Catholic practice to celebrate particular feasts that were not in the Catholic liturgical calendar....

 in Münster seems to have focused on a very large and elaborate cross containing a number of relics of the saint. The cult seems to have remained mostly local, and largely to have faded in the later Middle Ages.

St. Ludger is represented either as a bishop reciting his breviary
A breviary is a liturgical book of the Latin liturgical rites of the Catholic Church containing the public or canonical prayers, hymns, the Psalms, readings, and notations for everyday use, especially by bishops, priests, and deacons in the Divine Office...

 or as standing between two geese (occasionally described as swans). His feast day is celebrated on 26 March.
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