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

November 26

St. Conrad, Bishop of Constance, Confessor

THIS eminent servant of God was, by his humility and sanctity, the bright ornament of the most illustrious house of the Guelphs, in Germany, which so many princes have honoured with their martial achievements and sovereign dignities. Their pedigree is derived by some from Clodion, king of the Franks, and Wittekind the Great, (who was created by Charlemagne first duke of Saxony,) and consequently from Woden, the chief god, and the stock of the principal royal families of the Saxons which founded the Heptarchy in England. The name of Guelph or Guelf was taken by this family in the reign of Charlemagne, 1 at which time they were counts of Altorff, now called Weingarten in Suabia, not Altorff, the university near Nuremberg in Franconia; nor the capital of Uri in Switzerland. Conrad, abbot of Ursperg, who gives the noble pedigree of this family, exceedingly extols the devotion of its princes and princesses, their piety towards God, and their most religious attachment to the apostolic see. 2 Guelph I. whose name was retained by his descendants, was son of Isenbart, count of Altorff, and his wife Irmentrudis, sister-in-law to Charlemagne, and foundress of the great Benedictin abbey of Altorff. 3 Judith, daughter of Guelph I. was married to the emperor Lewis Debonnair, and is famous in the history of his troubles. Two of her brothers became dukes of Bavaria. Conrad Rudolf, brother of Judith, was the second count of Altorff of this name, and his son Henry the third count, and founder of the monastery of Altonmunster. He left two sons, St. Conrad, and Rudolf, fourth count of Altorff, whom Rimius calls Henry II. against the authority of the abbot Ursperg and Manlius, the former of whom was intimately acquainted with this illustrious family in the twelfth age, and copied his account of it from original records.  1
  Conrad was a saint from the cradle, and was sent young to the famous schools which then flourished at Constance under the direction of the bishop of that city. For the city of Vendonissa or Vindisch, near Baden, being destroyed by Childebert II. king of France, in 594, the episcopal see which had been founded there by St. Bert, about the year 490, was removed to Constance, a city so called from the emperor Constans. As the love of God had moved Conrad to despise the vanities of the world, so it inspired him with an uncommon fervour in his service, lest he should lose the crown by sloth, to purchase which he had forsaken all things. His seriousness showed how deeply the great concerns of eternity were impressed upon his mind, and restrained all sloth, levity, or dissolute mirth; yet was it far from carrying with it any thing of sourness and melancholy, which no less than all capriciousness, changeableness of temper, and uneasiness of mind, are certain signs of pride and unmortified passions. The temper of our saint’s mind was always even, serene, and cheerful, which discovered at the bottom a lasting joy, which is always the fruit of inward peace, and produces an unalterable sweetness in conversation even under the greatest disappointments. An unaffected simplicity, which is also an attendant of sincere virtue, shone with lustre in all his actions, and, joined with his perfect humility and religious piety, gave him in his whole deportment an air of dignity which belongs to virtue only, and is far superior to that which worldly greatness bestows. Hence every one approached him with awe and veneration mixed with confidence and affection, which the charms of his tender and obliging charity and humility inspired. Soon after he was ordained priest, the provostship of the cathedral, the next dignity to that of the bishop, was conferred upon him; and that prelate, whose name was Noting, dying in 934, our saint was unanimously chosen to fill the episcopal chair, though it was a considerable time before his consent could by any means be extorted. St. Ulric, bishop of Ausburg, who had strenuously promoted his election, frequently visited him for the sake of holding pious conferences together, and so close were the bands of holy friendship in which these two great prelates were linked together, that they almost seemed to have but one soul which animated two bodies. St. Conrad having dedicated himself with all that he possessed to God, made an exchange of his estates with his brother for other lands situate near Constance, and settled them all upon that church and the poor, having first built and endowed three stately churches at Constance, in honour of St. Maurice, St. John Evangelist, and St. Paul.  2
  The holy wars having made pilgrimages to Jerusalem very frequent in that age, our saint thrice visited those holy places, making his journeys truly pilgrimages of austere penance and devotion. Worldly conversation the saint always shunned as much as possible, not only as a loss of time (which is of all things the most precious to the servant of God) but also as the bane of the spirit of recollection and compunction, which in one who has dedicated himself to the divine service, and to the daily ministry of the altar, ought always to be most perfect. How religiously exact the holy bishop was in whatever belonged to his sacred functions, particularly to the adorable sacrifice of the mass, appears from the following instance: It happened that a great spider dropped into the chalice whilst the prelate was saying mass on Easter-day; the insect might have been taken out, and then decently burnt, some spiders being poisonous and dangerous; but out of devotion and respect for the holy mysteries, the bishop swallowed the spider; which he vomited up some hours after without receiving any harm. 4 In comforting and relieving the poor, in instructing and exhorting his flock, and in all other functions of his charge our saint was indefatigable; and he laboured in the vineyard of the Lord with equal fervour and watchfulness from the very beginning of the morning to the last hour of the day. He went to receive his salary in eternal joys in the year 976, having been bishop forty-two years. He was buried in the church of St. Maurice, and two blind men recovered their sight, and other sick their health, at his tomb. Other miracles are recorded in the Chronicle of Constance, subjoined to his life, and he was canonized by Calixtus II. about the year 1120. The Roman Martyrology commemorates him on the 26th of November. See his life published by Leibnitz, Scriptor. Brunswicens, t. 3, p. 1. Also in the History of the Illustrious Family of the Guelphs, ib. t. 2, p. 783. Likewise in F. Raderus’s Brevaria Sancta, t. 1, p. 101.  3
Note 1. Some say this name was the Roman Catulus or Catiline turned into German. Others tell us, that Charlemagne complimenting the Count of Altorff at court upon the birth of his son, called him his young Guelph, whence the count gave his son that name. (See these and other etymologies in Leibnitz’s collection.) From the silence of the ancient historians of this family the fabulous story of the birth of three hundred and sixty-five children, which was not so much as heard of by any of them, is abundantly confuted. This family was ingrafted upon that of Este by Azo of Este marrying the heiress of the Guelphs. The Actii, a Roman family in the time of the republic, retired to Este or Ateste (now in the Venetian Lombardy) and thence took the name of Este, or Atestina Domus. Henry of Este was created by Charlemagne prince of Treviso and margrave of Este. The princes of his posterity were often vicars of the empire in Italy, and much increased their territories. Boniface, a prince of this family, became margrave of Tuscany, and possessed Ferrara, Placentia, Mantua, Modena, Reggio, Parma, Lucca, Ancona, and Spoletto. His daughter and heiress Mathildes married Godfrey, duke of Lorrain, and after his death Guelph VI. duke of Bavaria. She bequeathed great part of her estates to the see of Rome. (See Vita Mathildis Comitissæ, a Denizone scripta, ap. Murat. Scrip. Ital. t. 5, p. 244; Ejusdem Chartula Donationis bonorum suorum facta Ecclesiæ Romanæ, p. 384.) From Azo IV. of Este, in 1060, the present house of Modena is descended. Ottoberto, of this family of Este, passed into Germany, with the Emperor Otho I. in 963. Azo, his descendant, in the next century, by a marriage with an only daughter of Guelph II. and sister to Guelph III. upon the death of this latter, inherited the dominions of that family in Suabia, and left them to his son Guelph IV. count of Altorff, who was afterwards made duke of Bavaria by the Emperor Henry IV. All his posterity took the name of Guelph: amongst them Henry the Lion was duke of Bavaria and Upper and Lower Saxony, and united in his own dominions the hereditary estates of five families. After many prosperous wars he was proscribed by the Emperor Henry I. in the diet of Wurtzburgh, in 1180, but afterwards recovered, by the intercession of the king of England and other friends, the duchies of Brunswick and Lunenburg, with other territories in Lower Saxony, lying between the Elbe and the Weser, which have been ever since possessed by his illustrious posterity. Bavaria passed from Henry the Lion into the family of Otho, count Wittelsbach, from which are descended the present electoral families of Bavaria and the Palatinate. See the collection of the Brunswick historians, made by the celebrated Leibnitz, who searched, for that purpose, the monasteries and libraries of Germany. See also Origines Guelphicæ, in two additional volumes, folio, by Schaldius, present historiographer to the house of Brunswick Lunenburg, at Hanover, in 1750. [back]
Note 2. Abbas Ursperg, in Chron. ad an. 1126. [back]
Note 3. Guelph III. count of Altorff; being created duke of Carinthia, removed the monastery of Altorff into his own neighbouring palace upon the hill called Weingarten, or of the vineyards, in 1094; whence this whole place took that name. Guelph IV. duke of Bavaria, and his wife, Judith, natural daughter to the King of England, much enriched this abbey. Their son, Guelph IV. who died without issue, was buried there in St. Oswald’s chapel, with his father, mother, and grandfather. His brother and successor, Henry, duke of Bavaria, after the death of his wife, in 1124, resigned his dominions to his son, Guelph VI. and made his monastic profession in this house. See Bruschius, Hist. Cœnobii Vinearum. Item, Manlii description, ejusdem. [back]
Note 4. Alpinus, in his History of Spiders, shows that some species of spiders are medicinal, and most others are harmless. Yet some are poisonous. See Philosophical Transactions, &c. [back]