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Walpurgis

WALPURGIS (WALPURGA or WALBTJRGA),* ST (d. c. 780), English missionary to Germany, was born in Sussex at the beginning of the Sth century. She was the sister of Willibald, the first bishop of Eichstatt in Bavaria, and Wunnibald, first abbot of Heidenheim. Her father, Richard, is thought to have been a son of Hlothere, gth king of Kent; her mother, Winna or Wuna, a sister of St Boniface. At the instance of Boniface and Willibald she went about 750 with some other nuns to found 1 The Letters of Henry Walpole, S.J., from the original manuscripts at Stonyhurst College, were edited by the Rev. Augustus Jessopp for private circulation (1873). See the Rev. A. Jessopp, One Generation of a Norfolk House (1878).

1 French forms of the name are Gualbourg, Falbourg, Vaubourg and Avougourg.

religious houses in Germany. Her first settlement was at Bischofsheim in the diocese of Mainz, and two years later (754) she became abbess of the Benedictine nunnery at Heidenheim in the diocese of Eichstatt. On the death of Wunnibald in 760 she succeeded him in his charge also, retaining the superintendence of both houses until her death. Her relics were translated to Eichstatt, where she was laid in a hollow rock, trom which exuded a kind of bituminous oil afterwards known as Walpurgis oil, and regarded as of miraculous efficacy against disease. It is still said to exude from the saint's bones (especially from October to February) and was chosen by Cardinal Newman as an example of a credible miracle. The cave became a place of pilgrimage, and a fine church was built over the spot. Walpurgis is commemorated at various times, but principally on the 1st of May, her day taking the place of an earlier heathen festival which was characterized by various rites marking the beginning of summer. She is regarded as the protectress against magic arts (cf. the Walpurgis- Nacht dance in Goethe's Faust). In art she is represented with a crozier, and bearing in her hand a flask of balsam.

Her life was written by the presbyter Wolfhard and dedicated to Erkenbald, bishop of Eichstatt (884-916). See the BoUandist Ada sanctorum, vol. lii. February 25. On Walpurgis, Willibald and Wunnibald see G. F. Browne, Boniface of Creation and his Companions (London, 1910), vii.

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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