Monday, March 14, 2011

St. Matilda

Today we remember St. Matilda. According to Wikipedia:

As a young girl, she was sent to the convent of Herford, where her grandmother Matilda was abbess and where her reputation for beauty and virtue (probably also her Westphalian dowry) is said to have attracted the attention of Duke Otto I of Saxony, who betrothed her to his recently divorced son and heir, Henry the Fowler. They were married at Wallhausen in 909. As the eldest surviving son, Henry succeeded his father as Saxon duke in 912 and upon the death of King Conrad I of Germany was elected King of Germany (East Francia) in 919. He and Matilda had three sons and two daughters...

After her husband had died in 936, Matilda and her son Otto established Quedlinburg Abbey in his memory, a convent of noble canonesses, where in 966 her granddaughter Matilda became the first abbess. At first she remained at the court of her son Otto, however in the quarrels between the young king and his rivaling brother Henry a cabal of royal advisors is reported to have accused her of weakening the royal treasury in order to pay for her charitable activities. After a brief exile at her Westphalian manors at Enger, where she established a college of canons in 947, Matilda was brought back to court at the urging of King Otto's first wife, the Anglo-Saxon princess Edith of Wessex.

Matilda died at Quedlinburg, she outlived her husband by 32 years. Her and Henry's mortal remains are buried at the crypt of the St. Servatius' abbey church.

Saint Matilda was celebrated for her devotion to prayer and almsgiving; her first biographer depicted her (in a passage indebted to the sixth-century vita of the Frankish queen Radegund by Venantius Fortunatus) leaving her husband's side in the middle of the night and sneaking off to church to pray. St. Mathilda founded many religious institutions, including the canonry of Quedlinburg, which became a center of ecclesiastical and secular life in Germany under the rule of the Ottonian dynasty, as well as the convents of St. Wigbert in Quedlinburg, in Pöhlde, Enger and Nordhausen in Thuringia, likely the source of at least one of her vitae.

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