July 4 – St. Ulrich

June 30, 2022

St. Ulrich

Bishop of Augsburg, born at Kyburg, Zurich, Switzerland, in 890; died at Augsburg, 4 July, 973. He was the son of Count Hucpald and Thetbirga, and was connected with the dukes of Alamannia and the imperial family of the Ottos. As a child he was sickly; when old enough to learn he was sent to the monastic school of St. Gall, where he proved to be an excellent scholar. He resolved to enter the priesthood, but was in doubt whether to enter the Benedictine Abbey of St. Gall or to become a secular priest. He was sent before April, 910, for his further training to Adalbero, Bishop of Augsburg, who made him a chamberlain. On Adalbero’s death (28 April, 910) Ulrich returned home, where he remained until the death of Bishop Hiltine (28 November, 923).

Fish miracle of Saint Ulrich

Through the influence of his uncle, Duke Burchard of Alamannia, and other relatives, Ulrich was appointed Bishop of Augsburg by King Henry, and was consecrated on 28 Dec., 923. He proved himself to be a ruler who united severity with gentleness. He sought to improve the low moral and social condition of the clergy, and to enforce a rigid adherence to the laws of the Church. Ulrich hoped to gain this end by periodical visitations, and by building as many churches as possible, to make the blessings of religion more accessible to the common people. His success was largely due to the good example he set his clergy and diocese. For the purpose of obtaining relics he went on two journeys to Rome, in 910, and in 952 or 953.

Panel paintings depicting the life of St Ulrich, Church of St. Blasius, Kaufbeuren, Germany. Photo by Rufus46.

Ulrich demanded a high moral standard of himself and others. A hundred years after his death, a letter apparently written by him, which opposed celibacy, and supported the marriage of priests, suddenly appeared. The forger of the letter counted on the opinion of the common people, who would regard celibacy as unjust if St. Ulrich, known for the rigidity of his morals, upheld the marriage of priests (cf. “Analecta Boll.”, XXVII, 1908, 474). Ulrich was also steadfastly loyal, as a prince of the empire, to the emperor. He was one of the most important props of the Ottonian policy, which rested mainly upon the ecclesiastical princes. He constantly attended the judicial courts held by the king and in the diets. He even took part in the Diet held on 20 September, 972, when he defended himself against the charge of nepotism in regard to his nephew Adalbero, whom he had appointed his coadjutor on account of his own illness and desire to retire to a Benedictine abbey. During the struggle between Otto I and his son Duke Ludolf of Swabia, Ulrich had much to suffer from Ludolf and his partisans.

Detail of the panel. Photo by Mattis.

When in the summer of 954 father and son were ready to attack each other at Illertissen in Swabia, at the last moment Ulrich and Bishop Hartbert of Chur were able to mediate between Otto and Ludolf. Ulrich succeeded in persuading Ludolf and Konrad, Otto’s son-in-law, to ask the king’s pardon on 17 December, 954. Before long the Magyars entered Germany, plundering and burning as they went, and advanced as far as Augsburg, which they besieged with the fury of barbarians. It was due to Ulrich’s ability and courage that Augsburg was able to hold out against the besiegers until the Emperor Otto arrived. On 10 August, 955, a battle was fought in the Lechfeld, and the invaders were finally defeated. The later assertion that Ulrich himself took part in the battle is incorrect, as Ulrich could not have broken through the ranks of the Magyars, who were south of him, although north of the emperor.

Tomb of St. Ulrich. Photo by Adrian Michael

As morning dawned on 4 July, 973, Ulrich had ashes strewn on the ground in the shape of a cross; the cross sprinkled with holy water, and he was placed upon it. His nephew Richwin came with a message and greeting from the Emperor Otto II as the sun rose, and immediately upon this, while the clergy sang the Litany, St. Ulrich passed away. His body was placed in the Church of St. Afra, which had been rebuilt by him. The burial was performed by Bishop Wolfgang of Ratisbon. Many miracles were wrought at his grave; and in 993, he was canonized by John XV. As early as the tenth century, there is a very beautiful miniature, in a manuscript now in the library of Einsiedeln (no. 261, fol. 140). Other miniatures are at the Royal Library of Munich, in manuscripts of 1454 (Cgm., 94, fo. 26v, and Cgm., no. 751).

Ulrich Schmid (Catholic Encyclopedia)


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