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§ 26. The Pupils of Boniface. Willibald, Gregory of Utrecht, Sturm of Fulda.

Boniface left behind him a number of devoted disciples who carried on his work.

Among these we mention St. Willibald, the first bishop of Eichstädt. He was born about a.d. 700 from a noble Anglo-Saxon family and a near relative of Boniface. In his early manhood he made a pilgrimage to Rome and to the Holy Land as far as Damascus, spent several years among the Benedictines in Monte Casino, met Boniface in Rome, joined him in Germany (a.d. 740) and became bishop of Eichstädt in Bavaria in 742. He directed his attention chiefly to the founding of monasteries after the Benedictine rule. He called to his side his brother Wunnebald, his sister Walpurgis, and other helpers from England. He died July 7, 781 or 787. He is considered by some as the author of the biography of Boniface; but it was probably the work of another Willibald, a presbyter of Mainz.

Gregory, Abbot of Utrecht, was related to the royal house of the Merovingians, educated at the court, converted in his fifteenth year by a sermon of Boniface, and accompanied him on his journeys. After the death of Boniface he superintended the mission among the Friesians, but declined the episcopal dignity. In his old age he became lame, and was carried by his pupils to wherever his presence was desired. He died in 781, seventy-three years old.

Sturm, the first Abbot of Fulda (710 to Dec. 17, 779), was of a noble Bavarian family and educated by Boniface. With his approval he passed with two companions through the dense beech forests of Hesse in pursuit of a proper place for a monastery. Singing psalms, he rode on an ass, cutting a way through the thicket inhabited by wild beasts; at night after saying his prayers and making the sign of the cross he slept on the bare ground under the canopy of heaven till sunrise. He met no human being except a troupe of heathen slaves who bathed in the river Fulda, and afterwards a man with a horse who was well acquainted with the country. He found at last a suitable place, and took solemn possession of it in 744, after it was presented to him for a monastery by Karloman at the request of Boniface, who joined him there with a large number of monks, and often resorted to this his favorite monastery. “In a vast solitude,” he wrote to Pope Zacharias in 751, “among the tribes entrusted to my preaching, there is a place where I erected a convent and peopled it with monks who live according to the rule of St. Benedict in strict abstinence, without flesh and wine, without intoxicating drink and slaves, earning their living with their own hands. This spot I have rightfully secured from pious men, especially from Karloman, the late prince of the Franks, and dedicated to the Saviour. There I will occasionally rest my weary limbs, and repose in death, continuing faithful to the Roman Church and to the people to which I was sent?”122122    Condensed translation from Epist. 75 in Migne, fol. 778.

Fulda received special privileges from Pope Zacharias and his successors,123123    See ”Fulda und seine Privilegien“ in Jul. Harttung, Diplomatisch-historische Forschungen, Gotha, 1879, pp. 193 sqq. and became a centre of German Christianity and civilization from which proceeded the clearing of the forests, the cultivation of the soil, and the education of youths. The number of Benedictine monks was increased by large re-enforcements from Monte Casino, after an Italian journey of Sturm in 747. The later years of his life were disturbed by a controversy with Lullus of Mainz about the bones of Boniface after his martyrdom (755) and by calumniations of three monks who brought upon him the displeasure of King Pepin. He was, however, reinstated in his dignity and received the remains of his beloved teacher which repose in Fulda. Charlemagne employed him as missionary among the Saxons. His bones were deposited in the convent church. Pope Innocent II. canonized him, A. D, 1139.124124    The chief source is the Vita Sturmi by his pupil Eigil abbot of Fulda, 818 to 822, in Mabillon, ”Acta Sanct. Ord. Bened.” Saec. VIII. Tom. 242-259.

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