Home  »  Volume II: February  »  St. Anscharius, Archbishop of Hamburg and Bremen, Confessor

Rev. Alban Butler (1711–73). Volume I: January. The Lives of the Saints. 1866.

February 3

St. Anscharius, Archbishop of Hamburg and Bremen, Confessor

        From his excellent life compiled by St. Rembert his successor, with the remarks of Mabillon, Act. Bened. t. 4. p. 401. and the preliminary discourse of Henschenius, p. 391. Adam Bremensis, Hist. Episc. Hamb. and Olof Dolin, in his new and excellent history of Sweden in the reigns of Listen, Bel, and Bagnar, c. 16.

A.D. 865.

HE was a monk, first of Old Corbie in France, afterwards of Little Corbie in Saxony. Harold, or Heriold, prince of Denmark, having been baptized in the court of the emperor Lewis Debonnair, Anscharius preached the faith with great success, first to the Danes, afterwards to the Swedes, and lastly in the North of Germany. In 832, he was made archbishop of Hamburg, and legate of the holy see, by Pope Gregory IV. That city was burnt by an army of Normans, in 845. The saint continued to support his desolate churches, till, in 849, the see of Bremen becoming vacant, Pope Nicholas united it to that of Hamburg, and appointed him bishop of both. Denmark and Sweden had relapsed into idolatry, notwithstanding the labours of many apostolical missionaries from New Corbie, left there by our saint. His presence soon made the faith flourish again in Denmark, under the protection of King Horick. But in Sweden the superstitious King Olas cast lots whether he should be admitted or not. The saint, grieved to see the cause of God and religion committed to the cast of a die, recommended the issue to the care of heaven. The lot proved favourable, and the bishop converted many of the lower rank, and established many churches there, which he left under zealous pastors at his return to Bremen. He wore a rough hair shirt, and, whilst his health permitted him, contented himself with a small quantity of bread and water. He never undertook any thing without recommending it first to God by earnest prayer, and had an extraordinary talent for preaching. His charity to the poor had no bounds; he washed their feet, and waited on them at table. He ascribed it to his sins, that he never met with the glory of martyrdom in all that he had suffered for the faith. To excite himself to compunction and to the divine praise, he made a collection of pathetic sentences, some of which he placed at the end of each psalm; several of which are found in certain manuscript psalters, as Fleury takes notice. The learned Fabricius, in his Latin Library of the middle age, calls them an illustrious monument of the piety of this holy prelate. St. Anscharius died at Bremen in the year 865, the sixty-seventh of his age, and thirty-fourth of his episcopal dignity; and was honoured with miracles. His name occurs in the Martyrologies soon after his death. In the German language he is called St. Scharies, and his collegiate church of Bremen Sant-Scharies. That at Hamburg, which bore his name, has been converted by the Lutherans into an hospital for orphans. His name was rather Ansgar, as it is written in his own letter, and in a charter of Lewis Debonnaire. In this letter 1 he attributes all the fruits and glory of the conversion of the Northern nations, to which he preached, to the zeal of that emperor and of Ebbo, archbishop of Rheims, without taking the least notice of himself or his own labours. The life of St. Willehad, first bishop of Bremen, who died in 789 or 791, compiled by St. Anscharius, is a judicious and elegant work, and the preface a masterpiece for that age. It is abridged and altered by Surius, but published entire at Cologne, in 1642; more correctly by Mabillon; and again by Fabricius, among the historians of Hamburg, t. 2.
Note 1. Ap. Bolland, et Mabill. [back]