“CANONISED ON WALPURGIS NIGHT (WALPURGISNACHT)
St Walburga was born in Devonshire and descended from an aristocratic family. She was an English missionary to the Frankish Empire, and was canonised [declared a Saint] on May 1, 870 by Pope Adrian II. Walpurgis Night (or Walpurgisnacht) is the name for the eve of her day, which coincides with May Day.
OF A SAINTLY FAMILY
Walburga was the daughter of St Richard the pilgrim, one of the under-kings of the West Saxons and of Winna, sister of St Boniface, the Apostle of Germany who had travelled from his native Devon to convert the Saxons on the continent. Her brother St Winibald is buried in the Basilica of San Frediano, Lucca, where he died on pilgrimage in 722. Her other brother was St Willibald, making hers one of the saintliest families in English history.
BROUGHT UP AT WIMBORNE ABBEY
When St Richard went on pilgrimage with his two sons to the Holy Land, he entrusted St Walburga, just 11 years old, to the abbess of Wimborne. She was educated by the nuns of Wimborne Abbey in Dorset and remained there for 26 years. She then joined her brothers and mother in Germany in order to evangelise the pagans there.
A MISSIONARY IN GERMANY
Walburga became a nun in the double monastery of Heidenheim am Hahnenkamm, which was founded by her brother, Willibald, who she succeeded following his death in 751, when she became the abbess.
Walburga died on February 25 in 777 or 779 and was laid to rest in Heidenheim. In the 1870s her remains were transferred to Eichstaett.
SHE WAS LAID TO REST IN BAVARIA
Walburga is the patroness of Eichstaett, Oudenarde, Furdes, Antwerp, Weilburg, and Zutphen, and is the patron saint against hydrophobia (the condition that rabies victims suffer from), storms, and also sailors.
St Walburga’s Abbey is situated in Eichsmett, Bavaria and there is another Benedictine Abbey of St Walburga in Virginia Dale, Colorado.
She also gave her name to the historic St Walburga’s church in Preston, which at 309ft remains the tallest parish church in England, and shorter than only two cathedrals…”
– This article was published in “The Catholic Herald” issue February 21 2014. For subscriptions please visit http://www.catholicherald.co.uk (external link).