Saint Willigis was Archbishop of Mainz
Archbishopric of Mainz
The Archbishopric of Mainz or Electorate of Mainz was an influential ecclesiastic and secular prince-bishopric in the Holy Roman Empire between 780–82 and 1802. In the Roman Catholic Church hierarchy, the Archbishop of Mainz was the primas Germaniae, the substitute of the Pope north of the Alps...

 from 975 until his death as well as a statesman of the Holy Roman Empire
Holy Roman Empire
The Holy Roman Empire was a realm that existed from 962 to 1806 in Central Europe.It was ruled by the Holy Roman Emperor. Its character changed during the Middle Ages and the Early Modern period, when the power of the emperor gradually weakened in favour of the princes...



Born at Schöningen
Schöningen is a town of about 13,000 inhabitants in the district of Helmstedt, Lower Saxony, Germany. It is located near the border with Saxony-Anhalt, on the southeastern rim of the Elm hill range...

 in Saxony
Duchy of Saxony
The medieval Duchy of Saxony was a late Early Middle Ages "Carolingian stem duchy" covering the greater part of Northern Germany. It covered the area of the modern German states of Bremen, Hamburg, Lower Saxony, North Rhine-Westphalia, and Saxony-Anhalt and most of Schleswig-Holstein...

, the able and intelligent Willigis received a good education, and was recommended by Bishop Volkold of Meissen
Roman Catholic Diocese of Dresden-Meissen
The Diocese of Dresden-Meissen is a Diocese of Catholic Church in Germany. Founded as the Bishopric of Meissen in 968, it was dissolved in 1539 during the Protestant Reformation. The diocese was reestablished in 1921 and renamed Dresden-Meissen in 1980. The seat of the diocese is in Dresden and...

 to the service of Emperor Otto I
Otto I, Holy Roman Emperor
Otto I the Great , son of Henry I the Fowler and Matilda of Ringelheim, was Duke of Saxony, King of Germany, King of Italy, and "the first of the Germans to be called the emperor of Italy" according to Arnulf of Milan...

. From 971 onwards, Willigis held the office of a Chancellor
Chancellor is the title of various official positions in the governments of many nations. The original chancellors were the Cancellarii of Roman courts of justice—ushers who sat at the cancelli or lattice work screens of a basilica or law court, which separated the judge and counsel from the...

 and Emperor Otto II
Otto II, Holy Roman Emperor
Otto II , called the Red, was the third ruler of the Saxon or Ottonian dynasty, the son of Otto the Great and Adelaide of Italy.-Early years and co-ruler with Otto I:...

 in 975 made him Archbishop of Mainz and Archchancellor
An archchancellor or chief chancellor was a title given to the highest dignitary of the Holy Roman Empire, and also used occasionally during the Middle Ages to denote an official who supervised the work of chancellors or notaries....

 for Germany
Kingdom of Germany
The Kingdom of Germany developed out of the eastern half of the former Carolingian Empire....

. Soon he started to build the great Cathedral of Mainz
Mainz Cathedral
Mainz Cathedral or St. Martin's Cathedral is located near the historical center and pedestrianized market square of the city of Mainz, Germany...

. Willigis demanded solid learning in his clergy too. He was known as a good and fluent speaker. In March 975 he received the pallium
The pallium is an ecclesiastical vestment in the Roman Catholic Church, originally peculiar to the Pope, but for many centuries bestowed by him on metropolitans and primates as a symbol of the jurisdiction delegated to them by the Holy See. In that context it has always remained unambiguously...

 from Pope Benedict VII
Pope Benedict VII
Pope Benedict VII, born in Rome, the son of David or Deodatus , and previously Bishop of Sutri, died July 10, 983; belonged to the noble family of the Counts of Tusculum. He was elected by the Roman clergy and people under the influence of Sicco, imperial envoy of Emperor Otto II...

. In January 976 Willigis probably consecrated the first Bishop of Prague, Thietmar
Dětmar, Thietmar or Dietmar; died 2 January 982 in Prague) was the first Bishop of Prague. He came from Saxony and learned to speak Czech. The diocese of Prague was assigned to the archbishopric of Mainz, when Thietmar was elected as the first bishop in 973 at the time of government by Boleslaus II...

 (Dětmar) at Brumath
Brumath, also Brumpt, is a commune in the Bas-Rhin department in Alsace in north-eastern France.-History:Brumath occupies the site of the Roman Brocomagus....

 in Alsace, whose diocese was put under his jurisdiction.

At the 983 Reichstag
Reichstag (Holy Roman Empire)
The Imperial Diet was the Diet, or general assembly, of the Imperial Estates of the Holy Roman Empire.During the period of the Empire, which lasted formally until 1806, the Diet was not a parliament in today's sense; instead, it was an assembly of the various estates of the realm...

of Verona
Verona ; German Bern, Dietrichsbern or Welschbern) is a city in the Veneto, northern Italy, with approx. 265,000 inhabitants and one of the seven chef-lieus of the region. It is the second largest city municipality in the region and the third of North-Eastern Italy. The metropolitan area of Verona...

, Otto II vested him with large territories in the Rheingau
The Rheingau is the hill country on the north side of the Rhine River between Wiesbaden and Lorch near Frankfurt, reaching from the western Taunus to the Rhine. It lies in the state of Hesse and is part of the Rheingau-Taunus-Kreis administrative district...

 region, thereby laying the foundations for the Mainz Electorate. Upon the Emperor's death, Willigis as Primas Germaniae
Primas Germaniae
Primas Germaniae is a historical title of honour for the most important Catholic bishop in Germany.Since at least 965 the Title was held by the Archbishop of Mainz as most important Archbishop and most noble Prince-Elector of the Holy Roman Empire until the See of Mainz was secularized in 1803...

, on Christmas 983 crowned his three-year-old son Otto III
Otto III, Holy Roman Emperor
Otto III , a King of Germany, was the fourth ruler of the Saxon or Ottonian dynasty of the Holy Roman Empire. He was elected King in 983 on the death of his father Otto II and was crowned Holy Roman Emperor in 996.-Early reign:...

 Rex Romanorum
King of the Romans
King of the Romans was the title used by the ruler of the Holy Roman Empire following his election to the office by the princes of the Kingdom of Germany...

at Aachen
Aachen has historically been a spa town in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. Aachen was a favoured residence of Charlemagne, and the place of coronation of the Kings of Germany. Geographically, Aachen is the westernmost town of Germany, located along its borders with Belgium and the Netherlands, ...

. After the Dowager Empress Theophanu
Theophanu , also spelled Theophania, Theophana or Theophano, was born in Constantinople, and was the wife of Otto II, Holy Roman Emperor.-Family:...

 had died in 991, Willigis became guardian of the minor, thus making him, together with Otto's grandmother Adelaide of Italy
Adelaide of Italy
Saint Adelaide of Italy , also called Adelaide of Burgundy, was the second wife of Otto the Great, Holy Roman Emperor...

, de facto regent of the Empire until Otto III reached his majority in 994.

In 996 he was in the retinue of the king on his journey to Italy, together with Otto III he pushed the election of Pope Gregory V
Pope Gregory V
Pope Gregory V, né Bruno of Carinthia , Pope from May 3, 996 to February 18, 999, son of the Salian Otto I, Duke of Carinthia, who was a grandson of the Emperor Otto I the Great . Gregory V succeeded Pope John XV , when only twenty-four years of age...

 against the resistance of the Roman
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...

 nobility led by Crescentius the Younger
Crescentius the Younger
Crescentius the Younger , son of Crescentius the Elder, was a leader of the aristocracy of medieval Rome. During the minority of Otto III, Holy Roman Emperor he declared himself Patricius Romanorum, Consul or Senator of Rome and made himself de facto ruler of Rome...

 and was present at the consecration and at the synod
A synod historically is a council of a church, usually convened to decide an issue of doctrine, administration or application. In modern usage, the word often refers to the governing body of a particular church, whether its members are meeting or not...

 convened a few days later. In this council Willigis strongly urged the return of Bishop Adalbert of Prague
Adalbert of Prague
This article is about St Adalbert of Prague. For other uses, see Adalbert .Saint Adalbert, Czech: ; , , Czech Roman Catholic saint, a Bishop of Prague and a missionary, was martyred in his efforts to convert the Baltic Prussians. He evangelized Poles and Hungarians. St...

, who, unable to bear the conflicts with the Vršovci
The Vršovci were a noble Czech family and clan, probable or legendary ancestors of some bearers of the Oksza and the Rawicz coat of arms ....

 noble family and the ruling Přemyslid dynasty
Premyslid dynasty
The Přemyslids , were a Czech royal dynasty which reigned in Bohemia and Moravia , and partly also in Hungary, Silesia, Austria and Poland.-Legendary rulers:...

, had left his diocese for the second time, to which, after much correspondence between the Holy See
Holy See
The Holy See is the episcopal jurisdiction of the Catholic Church in Rome, in which its Bishop is commonly known as the Pope. It is the preeminent episcopal see of the Catholic Church, forming the central government of the Church. As such, diplomatically, and in other spheres the Holy See acts and...

 and Willigis, he had once already been forced to return in 993. In 997 Pope Gregory V sent the decrees of a synod at Pavia
Pavia , the ancient Ticinum, is a town and comune of south-western Lombardy, northern Italy, 35 km south of Milan on the lower Ticino river near its confluence with the Po. It is the capital of the province of Pavia. It has a population of c. 71,000...

 to Willigis, "his vicar", for publication.

He was on friendly terms with Rome, though the Papacy stood at its nadir. These relations were somewhat disturbed by the dispute of Willigis with Bishop Bernward of Hildesheim
Bernward of Hildesheim
Saint Bern[w]ard was the Bishop of Hildesheim from 993 until his death in 1022.Bernward came from a Saxon noble family and studied at the cathedral school of Hildesheim...

 about jurisdiction in the house of secular canonesses at Gandersheim Abbey
Gandersheim Abbey
Gandersheim Abbey is a former house of secular canonesses in the present town of Bad Gandersheim in Lower Saxony, Germany. It was founded in 852 by Duke Liudolf of Saxony, progenitor of the Liudolfing or Ottonian dynasty, whose rich endowments ensured its stability and prosperity.The "Imperial...

. The immediate monastery established in 852 was originally situated at Brunshausen in the Diocese of Hildesheim
Bishopric of Hildesheim
The Diocese of Hildesheim is a diocese or ecclesiastical territory of the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church in Germany. Founded in 815 as a missionary diocese by King Louis the Pious, his son Louis the German appointed the famous former archbishop of Rheims, Ebbo, as bishop...

, but was transferred to nearby Gandersheim
Bad Gandersheim
Bad Gandersheim is a town in southern Lower Saxony, Germany, located in the district of Northeim. , it had a population 10,572.Bad Gandersheim has many half-timbered houses and is located on the German Framework Road .- Geography :...

 within the territorial limits of the Mainz diocese. Both bishops claimed jurisdiction, until Pope Sylvester II finally declared in favour of Hildesheim, against Willigis' initial resistance.

His protégé was the scholarly and just Burchard
Burchard of Worms
Burchard of Worms was the Roman Catholic bishop of Worms in the Holy Roman Empire, and author of a Canon law collection in twenty books, the "Collectarium canonum" or "Decretum".-Life:...

, who was appointed Bishop of Worms
Bishopric of Worms
The Bishopric of Worms was an ecclesiastical principality of the Holy Roman Empire. Located on both banks of the Rhine around Worms just north of the union of that river with the Neckar, it was largely surrounded by the Palatinate. Worms had been the seat of a bishop from Roman times...

 by Emperor Otto III in 1000. Upon the Emperor's early death, Archbishop Willigis on 7 June 1002 crowned the Bavarian duke Henry IV
Henry II, Holy Roman Emperor
Henry II , also referred to as Saint Henry, Obl.S.B., was the fifth and last Holy Roman Emperor of the Ottonian dynasty, from his coronation in Rome in 1014 until his death a decade later. He was crowned King of the Germans in 1002 and King of Italy in 1004...

 King of the Romans at Mainz
Mainz under the Holy Roman Empire, and previously was a Roman fort city which commanded the west bank of the Rhine and formed part of the northernmost frontier of the Roman Empire...

, after the assassination of his rival Margrave Eckard I of Meissen
Eckard I, Margrave of Meissen
Eckard I was Margrave of Meissen from 985 until his death, the first margrave of the Ekkehardinger family that dominated Meissen until the extinction of the line in 1046.-Life:...

. Willigis presided at the 1007 synod
A synod historically is a council of a church, usually convened to decide an issue of doctrine, administration or application. In modern usage, the word often refers to the governing body of a particular church, whether its members are meeting or not...

 at Frankfurt am Main, where thirty-five bishops signed the Bull of Pope John XVIII
Pope John XVIII
Pope John XVIII was Pope in Pisa from 1004 to 1009. He was born Fasanius at Rapagnano, near Ascoli Piceno, the son of a Roman priest named Leo....

 for the erection of the Diocese of Bamberg.

Though Willigis has never been canonized
Canonization is the act by which a Christian church declares a deceased person to be a saint, upon which declaration the person is included in the canon, or list, of recognized saints. Originally, individuals were recognized as saints without any formal process...

, Roman Catholics celebrate his feast on February 23, the day of his death in 1011.


In his diocese he laboured by building bridges, constructing roads, and fostering commerce. In Mainz he built the Cathedral
Mainz Cathedral
Mainz Cathedral or St. Martin's Cathedral is located near the historical center and pedestrianized market square of the city of Mainz, Germany...

, which he consecrated on 29 August 1009, dedicating it in honour of Saint Martin
Martin of Tours
Martin of Tours was a Bishop of Tours whose shrine became a famous stopping-point for pilgrims on the road to Santiago de Compostela. Around his name much legendary material accrued, and he has become one of the most familiar and recognizable Christian saints...

, but on the same day, disastrously, it was destroyed by fire. Willigis immediately gave orders for reconstruction.

Willigis greatly helped the restoration of the old collegiate church
Collegiate church
In Christianity, a collegiate church is a church where the daily office of worship is maintained by a college of canons; a non-monastic, or "secular" community of clergy, organised as a self-governing corporate body, which may be presided over by a dean or provost...

 of St. Victor and built that of St. Stephan
St. Stephen's Church, Mainz
|right|300 px|thumb|St. Stephan at Mainz. View of the great belfry, the highest spot in the city for centuries, and the nave.The Collegiate Church of St. Stephan, known in German as St. Stephan zu Mainz, is a Gothic hall collegiate church located in the German city of Mainz.-History:St...

. He also built churches at Brunnen in Nassau and Seesbach
Seesbach is a municipality in the district of Bad Kreuznach in Rhineland-Palatinate, in western Germany....

. He showed great solicitude for the religious, and substantially aided the monasteries of St. Ferrutius at Bleidenstadt
Taunusstein is the biggest town in the Rheingau-Taunus-Kreis in the Regierungsbezirk of Darmstadt in Hesse, Germany. It consists of more than 29,000 inhabitants.- Location :...

, of Disibodenberg
thumb|right|Disibodenberg todaythumb|Disibodenberg ruinsthumb|Disibodenberg ruinsthumb|Disibodenberg pictureDisibodenberg is a monastery ruin in Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany. It was founded by Saint Disibod. Hildegard of Bingen, who wrote Disibod's biography "Vita Sancti Disibodi", also lived in...

, and Jechaburg
Sondershausen is a town in Thuringia, Germany, capital of the Kyffhäuserkreis district, situated about 50 km north of Erfurt. On 1 December 2007, the former municipality Schernberg was incorporated by Sondershausen....

 in Thuringia. Due to the fact that the cathedral still was not rebuilt, he was buried in the Church of St Stephan.


  • Officium et miracula Sancti Willigisi, ed. V. I. Guerrier
    Vladimir Guerrier
    Vladimir Ivanovich Guerrier was a Russian historian, professor of history at Moscow State University from 1868 to 1904. As the founder of the "Courses Guerrier", he was a leading instigator of higher education for women in Russia....

    (J. Deubner, 1869)

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