Saint Vicelinus

Oct 06, 2021 / Written by: Tonia Long

Feast December 12

Missionary and Bishop
Birth: 1086 — Death: 1154

Born around 1086 at Hemeln, Lower Saxony, Germany, St. Vicelinus was orphaned at an early age. He was raised by his uncle Ludolf, a priest in a neighboring village. He studied in the cathedral school of Paderborn, where he enjoyed his instructions and soon surpassed his companions and assisted in the management of the cathedral school.

Lower Saxony, Germany
Forest trail through Lower Saxony, Germany, birthplace of St. Vicelinus.

In 1122 he traveled all the way to Laon, France, to complete his studies under Abelard. Completing his education, St. Vicelinus received an appointment as a canon at Bremen, Germany, where he became head of the local school. In 1126, Vicelinus decided to travel to Madgeburg, in order to see St. Norbert of Xanten, who at that time was the archbishop. He hoped that Norbert would ordain him a priest and he could begin missionary work among the Slavs.

Ordained by St. Norbert at Magdeburg, he embarked upon a missionary life among the Wends in northern Germany, founding monasteries at Holstein, Segeberg, and Hogersdorf. Vicelinus' preaching gathered crowds of eager listeners, and many priests aided him in founding the new monastery in 1127, which was named Neumünster (new mission).

Interior of church in 1910 and in 2015
Left: Interior of church dedicated to St. Vicelin, Neumünster, Germany, 1910. Right: Interior of church dedicated to St. Vicelin, Neumünster, Germany, 2015.

This monastery of Canons Regular followed the Rule of St. Augustine, and was generously supported by the archbishop. Unfortunately, as often happened in the Germanic lands, in 1137 wars among local tribes caused the missionaries to abandon their labors for two years. Escaping with some of his priests, St. Vincelinus fled to safety in the Holy Roman Empire.

Some years later Vicelinus established missions at Segeberg, and later Hogersdorf. In Harsefeld, Archbishop Hartwig I made him Bishop of Staargard (today's Oldenburg) in 1149. There he did much for the spiritual and temporal welfare of his diocese. In 1152 he was struck by paralysis and lingered amid much suffering for two years before dying in Neumünster. St. Vicelinus is honored as the Apostle of Holstein.

Sacred Heart Altar
Parish Church of St. Maria-St. Vicelin, Neumünster, Sacred Heart Altar.