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History of the Christian Church, Volume IV: Mediaeval Christianity. A.D. 590-1073.
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§ 160. St. Liudger.


I. S. Liudgerus, Minigardefordensis Episcopus: Opera, in Migne, Tom. XCIX. col. 745–820.

II. The old Lives of S. Liudger are four in number. They are found in Migne, but best in Die Vitae Sancti Liudgeri ed. Dr. Wilhelm Diekamp. Münster, 1881 (Bd. IV. of the series: Die Geschichtsquellen des Bisthums Münster). Dr. Diekamp presents revised texts and ample prolegomena and notes. (1) The oldest Vita (pp. 3–53) is by Altfrid, a near relative of Liudger and his second successor in the see of Münster. It was written by request of the monks of Werden about thirty years after Liudger’s death, rests directly upon family and other contemporary testimony, and is the source of all later Lives. He probably divided his work into two books, but as the first book is in two parts, Leibnitz, Pertz and Migne divide the work into three books, of which the first contains the life proper, the second the miracles wrought by the saint himself, and the third those wrought by his relics. (2) Vita Secunda (pp. 54–83) was written by a monk of Werden about 850. The so-called second book of this Life really belongs to (3) Vita tertia (pp. 85–134.) (2) Follows Altfrid, but adds legendary and erroneous matter. (3) Written also by a Werden monk about 890, builds upon (1) and (2) and adds new matter of a legendary kind. (4) Vita rythmica (pp. 135–220), written by a Werden monk about 1140. Biographies of Liudger have been recently written in German by Luise von Bornstedt (Münster, 1842); P. W. Behrends (Neuhaldensleben u. Gardelegen, 1843); A. Istvann (Coesfeld, 1860); A. Hüsing (Münster, 1878); L. Th. W. Pingsmann (Freiburg im Breisgau, 1879). Cf. Diekamp’s full bibliography, pp. CXVIII.-CXMI. For literary criticism see Ceillier, XII. 218. Hist. Lit. de la France, V. 57–59. Ebert, II. 107, 338, 339.


Liudger, or Ludger, first bishop of Münster, was born about 744 at Suecsnon (now Zuilen) on the Vecht, in Frisia. His parents, Thiadgrim and Liafburg, were earnest Christians. His paternal grandfather, Wursing, had been one of Willibrord’s most zealous supporters (c. 5).11381138    This sketch has been derived for the most part directly from Altfrid’s Acta seu Vita (ed. Diekamp, pp. 3-53, Migne, col. 769-796). The letter “c” throughout refers to the chapter of the Acta in Migne in which the statement immediately preceding is found. The dates are mainly conjectural. The Acta gives none except that of the saint’s death, but merely occasionally notes the lapse of time. He early showed a pious and studious disposition (c. 7). He entered the cloister school of Utrecht, taught by the abbot Gregory, whose biographer he became, laid aside his secular habit and devoted himself to the cause of religion. His proficiency in study was such that Gregory made him a teacher (c. 8). During the year 767 he received further instruction from Alcuin at York, and was ordained a deacon (c. 9). In 768 he was in Utrecht; but for the next three years and a half with Alcuin, although Gregory had been very loath to allow him to go the second time. He would have staid longer if a Frisian trader had not murdered in a quarrel a son of a count of York. The ill feeling which this event caused, made it unsafe for any Frisian to remain in York, and so taking with him “many books” (copiam librorum), he returned to Utrecht (c. 10). Gregory had died during his absence (probably in 771), and his successor was his nephew, Albric, a man of zeal and piety. Liudger was immediately on his return to York pressed into active service. He was sent to Deventer on the Yssel in Holland, where the, saintly English missionary Liafwin had just died. A horde of pagan Saxons had devastated the place, burnt the church and apparently undone Liafwin’s work (c. 13). Liudger was commissioned to rebuild the church and to bury the body of Liafwin, which was lost. Arrived at the spot he was at first unsuccessful in finding the body, and was about to rebuild the church without further search when Liafwin appeared to him in a vision and told him that his body was in the south wall of the church, and there it was found (c. 14). Albric next sent him to Frisia to destroy the idols and temples there. Of the enormous treasure taken from the temples Charlemagne gave one-third to Albric. In 777 Albric was consecrated bishop at Cologne, and Liudger at the same time ordained a presbyter.

For the next seven years Liudger was priest at Doccum in the Ostergau, where Boniface had died, but during the three autumn months of each year he taught in the cloister school at Utrecht (c. 15). At the end of this period Liudger was fleeing for his life, for the pagan Wutukint, duke of the Saxons, invaded Frisia, drove out the clergy, and set up the pagan altars. Albric died of a broken heart, unable to stand the cruel blow. Liudger with two companions, Hildigrim and Gerbert, retired to Rome, where for two and a half years he lived in the great Benedictine monastery of Monte Cassino (c. 18). There he not only had a pleasant retreat but also opportunity to study the working of the Benedictine rule. He did not, however, take monastic vows.

His fame for piety and learning had meanwhile reached the ears of Charlemagne,—probably through Alcuin,—and so on his return the emperor assigned to his care five Frisian districts (Hugmerchi, Hunusga, Fuulga, Emisga, Fedirga) upon the eastern side of the river Labekus (Lauwers), and also the island of Bant. His success as missionary induced him to undertake an enterprise in which even Willibrord had failed. He sailed over the German Ocean to Heligoland, then called Fosetelant (the land of the god Fosete). His confidence was justified by events. He made many converts, among them the son of the chief of the island who became a priest and a missionary. Shortly after on the mainland there was another irruption of pagans from East Frisia, and the usual disheartening scenes of burnt churches, scattered congregations, and martyred brethren were enacted. But once more the Christian faith conquered (c. 19). Charlemagne’s continued regard for Liudger was proved by his gift to him of the abbey Lothusa (probably Zele, near Ghent in Belgium), in order that its revenues might contribute to his support, or that being far from Frisia he might retreat thither in times of danger; and further by his appointment of him to the bishopric of Mimigernaford (later form Mimigardevord, now Münster, so called from the monasterium which he built there), in Westphalia, which was now sufficiently christianized to be ruled ecclesiastically. He still had under his care the five districts already named, although so far off. At first these charges were held by him as a simple presbyter, and in that capacity he carried out one of his darling purposes and built the famous monastery of Werden11391139    C. 18. Migne, l.c. col. 778. Erat enim cu piens haereditate sua coenobium construere monachorum, quod ita postea Domino opitulante concessum est in loco qui vocatur Vuerthina on the Ruhr, formerly called Diapanbeci. But persuaded by Hildebald he became the first bishop of Münster (c. 20). The year of this event is unknown, but it was between 802 and 805.11401140    A document of Jan., 802, calls him “abbott,” and one of April 23, 805, calls him “bishop.” Tireless in his activity he died in the harness. On Sunday, March 26, 809, he preached and performed mass at Coesfeld and at Billerbeck. In the evening he died (Acta II. c. 7). He was buried at Werden, which thus became a shrine of pilgrims.

The only extant writing of Liudger is his Life of St. Gregory,11411141    Vita S. Gregorii Migne, l.c. col. 749-770. which gives a pleasing picture of the saint, in whose school at Utrecht many famous men, including bishops, were trained. Twelve of its twenty-two chapters are taken up with Boniface. Much of the matter is legendary. He also wrote a life of Albric,11421142    Vita Altfridi, II. c. 6, Migne, l.c. col. 783, l. 4. which is lost. His connection with Helmstedt is purely imaginary. The Liudger Monastery there was not founded by him, for it dates from the tenth century. The colony of monks may, however, have well come from Werden, and have therefore given the name Liudger to the monastery.



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