St Macarius of Wurzburg

Author: Rev. Clifford Stevens


Feast: December 19

About 689, an Irish monk named Kilian was martyred at Wurzburg in Germany, where he had been commissioned a roving bishop by Pope Conon. His tomb at Wurzburg became the site of pilgrimages from Ireland and so many Irish pilgrims came over the centuries that in the year 1134 the bishop asked the Irish monks of St. James at Regensburg to establish a hospice there for these pilgrims.

The Irish monks from St. James established a monastery at Wurzburg and St. Macarius was named abbot. Like his predecessors, he was a man of deep learning and a calligrapher of great skill. He inaugurated at Wurzburg a remarkable literary activity and left behind at Wurzburg the largest collections of Irish manuscripts in existence, in the tradition of the <Book of Kells> and the <Book of Durrow.> The Irish monks were superb calligraphers and illuminators and produced some of the most beautiful manuscripts of the Middle Ages. Long before the invention of printing, they had large libraries and left their mark upon the learning of medieval Europe.

Macarius attracted to Wurzburg learned and talented monks from Ireland, among them David, a historiographer and head of the cathedral school, who became chaplain to the emperor. The influence of these Irish monks was remarkable and their monasteries were staffed with monks from Ireland until the year 1497, when they were driven out by Scottish monks.

Macarius died in 1153. In 1615, his body was exhumed and transferred to the abbey church. In 1818, his relics were moved to the Mariankapelle in Wurzburg. Like all the Irish monks, Macarius joined holiness of life to holy learning and worked not only for the establishment of religion but also for the creation of a uniquely Christian culture. To learning, they also joined a love of beauty, and the books they produced are considered masterpieces of the arts of illumination.

Thought for the Day: Belief is not enough: we have to embody that belief in works that bring the faith alive. St. Macarius realized that religion thrived where Christian literature flourished, and he produced beautiful books for the Christian people. His work lives on in his books and in the people whose lives he influenced.

From 'The Catholic One Year Bible': ". . . I will gather you together and bring you home again, and give you a good name, a name of distinction among all the peoples of the earth, and they will praise you when I restore your fortunes before your very eyes,". . .—Zephaniah 3:20

Taken from "The One Year Book of Saints" by Rev. Clifford Stevens published by Our Sunday Visitor Publishing Division, Our Sunday Visitor, Inc., Huntington, IN 46750.