Thursday, 7 July 2011

The Patron Saint of Würzburg St Kilian

Würzburg and Saint Kilian

St Kilian is the patron saint of Würzburg and the Würzburg Cathedral is dedicated to him.
St Kilian (also known as Killian, Cillian and Killena) was another of the Celtic "wandering monks" ("Wandermönche") who visited this area of southern Germany on missionary work.
St Kilian himself is supposed to have hailed from a rich family in the north of Ireland. With his two companions Totnan and Kolonat (both also originally Irish monks) he settled in this part of Franconia in the middle of the 7th century and started preaching his message of Christianity.
He managed to convert the local ruler, Count Gosbert, but mixed himself too far into marital (and political) matters. In the Franconian area it was customary for a widow to be remarried to the brother of her dead husband, so that she could be cared for and this is what Gosbert and his sister-in-law had done in the past.
However, this apparently didn't agree with Christian teachings of the time and St Kilian told Gosbert that he had to separate from his former sister-in-law. The irate Countess Gailana waited until her husband was off on a military campaign and ordered the assassination of the troublesome missionaries, who were stabbed while praying and whose bodies were then buried in the count's stables.
However, at least according to official Catholic records, the Countess went mad and died; the murderer committed suicide; and Gosbert was also later killed. Following that the local population may have decided that it was a wise move to to convert from their old beliefs.
Around 70 years later the bones were rediscovered. Supposedly, horses would paw at the ground in the stables in a particular place and, when the area was excavated, three skeletons were discovered.
After the miraculous cure from blindness of a local philosopher who visited the grave, the location was declared holy, the skeletons were declared to be those of the martyrs and the three monks were raised to sainthood. Perhaps not coincidentally the location also became a place of pilgrimage (a good source of income in those days) and the site of the first Würzburg Cathedral (which was a wooden structure) and a later more imposing stone building (although it is not sure these days where the original cathedral was exactly situated).
The current cathedral is the third cathedral and even this also had to be rebuilt after the bombing damage from the Second World War.
The Feast Day of St Kilian is on July 8 and the bones (which are kept in a crypt in the Neumünster) are paraded through the streets of the city. According to the local farmers' almanac St Kilian's Day is also the start of the harvest time - "Kilian, the holy man, marks the first days of cutting" (it rhymes in German!).
The Kiliani-Volksfest is one of the biggest festivals in Franconia, with rides, stands, processions and beer tents and is held over a fortnight around St Kilian's Day.

original article
 The Patron Saint of Würzburg St Kilian