Medieval History

Selected Sources Full Text Sources Saints' Lives Law Texts Maps Medieval Films Search Help

Selected Sources Sections Studying History End of Rome Byzantium Islam Roman Church Early Germans Anglo-Saxons Celtic World Carolingians 10 C Collapse Economic Life Crusades Empire & Papacy France England Celtic States Nordic Europe Iberia Italy Eastern Europe Intellectual Life Medieval Church Jewish Life Social History Sex & Gender States & Society Renaissance Reformation Exploration
IHSP Credits

Internet Medieval Sourcebook

The Life of Burchard Bishop of Worms, 1025

Translated by W.L. North from the edition of G. Waitz in MGH SS 4, (Hannover, 1841), 830-46.

The life was composed, it seems, soon after Burchard's death in 1025 by a canon of Worms, perhaps Ebbo/Eberhard, cathedral master and custodian of Worms and later bishop of Konstanz (1034-46). The author had known the bishop personally and had been an eye-witness to many of the events that he reports. The communis opinio of scholars is that the canon dedicated the work to Walter, bishop of Speyer from 1004-1027 and a close friend of Burchard.[1]

[1] On this Life, see now Stephanie Coué, Hagiographie im Kontext, Arbeiten zur Frühmittelalterforschung 24, New York, 1997, 26-40 with earlier bibliography.


As I was thinking to myself about writing the life and happy deeds of my blessed father and dearest lord Bishop Burchard,[1] it occurred to me, most pious bishop N., to consign and dedicate the work to your name. For your wisdom is known to all and you are recognized by all to exercise the office of a wise man not only in your own camp but also in that of the emperor. You build up and rule the church entrusted to you by God with the utmost authority, you are openly proclaimed to be a man of the highest virtue and are rightly called "Father of the Poor" and "Solace of the Needy". You have shown this most plainly in my wretched case, when you mercifully welcomed me — a truly broken man who was despised and cast out by all — and supported me with you, consoling me with clemency, as befitted you. O such great deeds, my father, and me undeserving! For you seek not the things of men but the things of God, as is clear to all; you contemplate with a pure mind and do not attend to anyone's person but follow the straight path of the heavenly journey with a step that does not waver. Therefore, because I love your life (if I may presume to confess my feelings) the seal of Christ's love has been impressed upon my heart with an eternal glue. Although, to be sure, the poverty of my family's wealth denied me possibility to show proper mourning, my will shall nonetheless remain devoted to you always in Christ. This is why I have dedicated this work to your best and closest friend.

[2] Bishop of Worms, 1000- 1025.

Your dignity should know, however, that these things were written not out of any pride but, as God is my witness, I wrote to avoid idleness and the laziness of the heart, and especially for the memory of his blessed life, so that when his most pious deeds are read out, the iniquitous mouths of those who speak against him may be shut. If I have woven things together without order or in an unpracticed way, I have decided to offer to your correction and authority, hoping that it may be corrected and defended with your mercy. Finally, I would submit this little work to your judgment so that, if it displeases you, it may be destroyed, but if it pleases, it may remain as a testament of God's servant.

This little work began in the following way. One day as I was sitting by myself turning over various things in my mind and thinking not without some heavy sighs, a certain acquaintance of mine interrupted me and spoke in words like this: My dear friend, why are you sitting here alone, thinking with a troubled mind? Why do you stare with bowed head at the ground, sadder than is your wont? For if someone has troubled you through his words or deeds, he has just troubled me as well. If you tell me what is bothering you and do not conceal your mind's intent, you shall have my aid and counsel at the ready because you can call upon me whatever the case may be. Then I said: You do well, beloved brother, to have found me here, and you have come to me almost as if most desired. For I have long contemplated revealing to you some aspects of my intent either in something written or through the conveyance of language. But because many things blocked my affection, I was delayed until now. Among these impediments, the greatest was this: I hesitated to make public what I have conceived. For you know how pernicious modern men are and how full of diverse thoughts. What if someone, driven by envy, saw what I had said and confounded me by saying in rebuke that it is a great act of brazenness for me, a poor fool, to set my little proposition, assembled with a naked and thirsting wit, before prudent men. I confess that I may be a poor fool. But if I am poor, I am not ashamed to become rich; but a rich man is ashamed to become poor, just as we read a rich steward said: I am ashamed to beg.[Lk.16:3] It is more precious to me that I live as a poor man with Lazarus than be cast into the eternal fire with the rich man. We were all born poor and naked. But He who gave life, also gives food; and He who created the body has given us clothes. Indeed, He has and He shall give them to me, because the soul is greater than food and the body greater than clothes. He also does not spurn the poor but chooses the weak that He may confound the strong. If I am naked and parched in my wit, he shall nonetheless clothe me with a boldness of speech, because I hope that He is my helper who said: Open your mouth and I shall fill it.[Ps. 80:11] Truly He Himself shall perfect, confirm, and make solid in accordance with the promise of His clemency what I am about to do and say. Therefore I shall no longer delay speaking of these things, and I shall reveal to your love what our narrative demands should be said.

My mind constantly compels me with repeated urgings to write the holy life of our Bishop Burchard — a life which was dedicated to God and most worthy of all praise — according to the small measure of my wit and the testimony of my conscience. To complete this work, I implore your advice and aid on bended knee, because I know that you are most learned in divine things, aware of these matters, and very much suited to this business. For I have still not forgotten how at the time of a certain conversation, you asked me many things about the virtues of the aforementioned fellow. After I had recounted to you his holy studies and the honorableness of his behavior as well as with how much stability he had remained in the works of Christ, in sacred Scripture, in fasts, in vigils, and in prayers, I confess that I also explained and narrated to you (although not without tears) how the constancy of his prayer very often quieted the turmoil of the world and diverse adversities and terrors of the air. Thus did we spend a most pleasant day. Do you remember? Why not? For afterwards you urged me on, knocking day and night with the hand of holy desire, and asked that I publish some writings about the life and actions of this man or suggest someone to write them. Bowing to your pious requests, I shall strive with your help to narrate some compositions, albeit without eloquence, about his life, if supernal grace floods the dryness of my mind. But whenever I hear mention of that most blessed man, tears and lamentation afflict me. Indeed, my beloved, for me writing this is nothing less than pouring forth tears and sighs incessantly and thinking over these wretched thoughts silently to myself: Who was I? Who am I? Who shall I be? For I was raised by that man mercifully but then abandoned miserably. I have been established in labor and toil, the vilest of almost all men, of low birth, of sinning lineage, unknown to all but nonetheless aware of myself. There is a likeness in nation and a commotion of the head among the peoples. Indeed, I am rejected as lazy, I am spat upon as fetid, I am despised as putrid, and this not without reason. For each day, I, a most unfortunate man, purtrify in the sty of my own sins and, wretch that I am, I grow hot carrying a heavy burden that my neck cannot bear. Indeed, like the untested earth on any road, I soften to carry out whatever my labile mind desires, and having entirely forgotten the salvation of my mind, I immediately multiply hundredfold the sins committed which I lament once with tears that barely emerge. This is why my words are full of sorrow. I think that you recognize these things along with me, my brother, for I am scarcely unaware that you have sweated not once for similar ends. But where is all this going? Where am I leading you, my beloved, with my empty rationale? I call rationale empty which we profess in words but do not follow in deeds. For at the beginning of this account I was summoning you, my beloved, not to sadness, but to joy, not to sorrow but to happiness, not to vice but to proclaiming virtue. I shall therefore return to the discourse I had begun and I ask and implore your love most strongly that either you lead me with your questions and learn as I talk about the life of this man, or you correct me when I ask and teach by describing fully the aforementioned virtues.

Giving thanks, he said in response: It seems to me, dearest one, that your petition or admonition should not be rebuked but rather should be greatly praised. By asking these things as if you wrote them, you have urged me towards them by telling of wholesome matters, and thus you have moved me with salvific words. For you said that you still had not forgotten my question about the actions of our lord. And I, in fact, recall my inquiry and your exposition of his virtues. I, therefore, asked and I'll ask you again either to write something about the deeds of that happy man or to suggest scribes who will. For it is a wicked thing to lower the sail when a prosperous wind does not cease to blow. Therefore, fulfill your promise and do not delay any longer because good fortune blows! But those grave burned which you mentioned and the wretched cares of worldly affairs which are unknown to me by name until now — I already bear them upon shoulders so stooped that, alas!, I can neither breath nor look up because of the greatness of the burden. Those turbulent storms of the world and various attacks of adversities and terrors of the air which we felt only rarely while our blessed patron was alive, we now suffer almost every day or every instant because our sins require it. For aided in the eyes of God with his pious prayers while he was alive, we were protected from all dangers as if with a wall. But after we were deprived of his blessed presence, from the moment when our pastor died according to the Lord's word, we have been scattered and reduced to nothing, like sheep without a barrier. Consequently, when I heard you just now saying such things, I cried silently at almost every word and not with mere tears but, as my conscience is my witness, with the real tears of internal compunction. I beseech you, therefore, continue narrating what you promised about this man and if I can do anything, my brother, I shall not hesitate to suggest it to you.

I confess, I said, that we have always been protected from deadly darts by his pious prayers; and therefore I sinned with impunity, and great fool that I was at the time, I thought that I could sin with impunity because he prayed incessantly for us. Truly that pious pastor worked hard before God for the flock committed to him and sustained many calumnies and calamities in the world by resisting them manfully with a brave heart. All of these things we shall narrate more clearly with God's help in the appropriate places. But I must respond to the example with which you admonished me about fulfilling promises. You said that it was wicked to lower the sail when prosperous winds were still blowing. And I agree that this is true but I do not think this should be done without caution. For example, if someone decides to cross the greatness of the sea, he first fortifies the ship against the threats of the waves on all sides. Then, by exploring the depths of the water for rocks hidden beneath the waves, he cautiously makes sure that when he begins to sail, he need not fear the sea's threats and that he shall not collide with hidden rocks but rather shall arrive at the port of safety, steering the ship with the firm tiller of ruler, under full sail and with prosperous winds. In a similar way, in his greatness, we should implore faith and should sharpen the meagerness of our wit on both sides so that we do not collide with the vituperation of envious men but reach the end in safety. For the envious man often praises with adulation someone's deeds when they are present, but when they leave attacks them like a rabid dog barking senselessly. But because I fear to say more about the iniquitous behavior of envious men — behavior which has been dosed with the poison of envy and established with no trust, I shall lay my finger to my lips so that my mouth does not speak of the works of men.

Therefore, since I do not fear the envy of adulators or critics, let us begin to recount at least a few things about the actions of this just man with the help of divine mercy. Nonetheless, if we must recount all the good things that we have seen and learned about him from the accounts of religious men, we shall see the day end before the story. Reaching back to the beginning, let us begin with divine aid from his birth and thus we shall try to come swiftly to an end as we recount his deeds.

1. Burchard was born in the province of Hesse to parents who were not low according to the world's dignity. With his parents' commendation, this boy was at first raised as a canon at Koblenz, and then was sent for the sake of study to various places. Later he joined himself to Willigis, the venerable archbishop of the see of Mainz.[3] Since, despite his age, Burchard had been filled with that man's salutary wisdom and instructed by the model of his noble behavior, he avoided vicious deeds by fleeing them and turned his mind little by little towards better things. Indeed, after the first flower of his youth, he shined forth as outstanding in all good things. He stood firm in what was just, was provident in counsel, not puffed up in prosperity, not upset in adversity, obedient to his superiors, compassionate towards the needy, friendly to the wretched, merciful to his subjects, very generous, most honorable in his behavior, and vigorous in every work of God. There is no need to praise the patience within him, since he never uttered the slightest word of contradiction against those serving him, even though they often committed crimes against him.

[3] Willigis occupied the see of Mainz from 975-1011. On his person and career, see now G. Bayreuther, "Willigis, Erzbischof von Mainz (975-1011)," in Deutsche Fürsten des Mittelalters, edd. E. Holtz & W. Huschner. Leipzig, 1995, pp.87-95 with earlier bibliography.

2. Shining forth with these and other virtues, he was raised by the archbishop through each step of the clerical grade to the order of the diaconate and placed in charge of a certain very poor place. With the help of the archbishop, he enriched this place with the greatest of efforts and adorned it with all his might. For he built there an outstanding monastery along with a cloister of canons in honor of St Victor. After the rulers of the cloister had been established through the election of the brethren, he ordered that the rounds of the divine office (cursus) be kept and sung at certain times indicated by signals. And when ecclesiastical affairs had thus been rightly ordered in accordance with the rule of the canons, he conferred the many properties and servants that he had acquired either by his parents' transfer or by royal gift to this church as their property (in proprium). And so by the pious labors of this man, praise and thanksgiving are rendered unto our God in each day's office at the aforementioned place. Recognizing the holy intention (meditatio) of the man of God, the most religious Willigis chose him as his most intimate associate and established him as the teacher of his chamber and primate of the city. In this office, he gained eternal rewards not only in the eyes of men but also those of God, because he could not be deflected from the path of rectitude either by rewards, or gifts, or the consideration of any person, unlike certain men whom we now see fall easily from right judgment either through friendship or envy. Since his reputation increased from these and many other zealous acts of piety, news of him came to the ears of Emperor Otto III.[4] He, being a most pious man, loved Burchard very much and received him with clemency when he came to him. He sent him back laden with diverse gifts, after promising that Burchard would have his grace.

[4] Otto III, king of Germany, 983- January 24, 1002; Roman emperor, May 21, 996- January 24, 1002.

3. Meanwhile, it happened that Bishop Hildebald of the church of Worms closed his last day[5] and in his place Franco, brother of the aforementioned Lord Burchard, was established as bishop. There is more than enough that should be said about this man, if the smallness of our wit did not prevent us. But now that the mention of him has interrupted our account, even if we cannot talk about his greater deeds, let us mention some of his lesser ones. When Franco had accepted the bishopric, he remained for a time within the boundaries of Worms. Then, when the affairs of the church had been ordered according to reason, he set off on an expedition to Italy with the emperor. There he was zealous in the service of the emperor with a vigilant spirit for more than one year and was often a party to his secrets. Whenever something regarding more important matters was to be discussed, the emperor treated him with such great familiarity and authority (even though he was a youth) that only rarely was anything decided without his counsel. To all he was affable, to all kind, and acquired no modest glory in the eyes of all by giving many gifts. Whence all held him in the greatest honor and love, and already divined that he was like a saint. And because he was greatly honored by the emperor and held dear beyond all others, he both coerced the wicked with his counsel and ruled the republic in peace. It therefore came to pass that the emperor granted the monastery of Lorsch to the church of Worms and established this with a charter and a perpetual privilege. He also had ordered that this concession be recited and proclaimed both in the convent and in the council of the Romans. At the same time, the emperor and the aforementioned bishop, having put on hair shirts and with completely bare feet, entered a certain cave next to the church of San Clemente unbeknowst to all and hid there fourteen days in prayers, fasting, and vigils. Some say that they were constantly consoled by visions and divine conversations while in this place.[6] But since we have discovered little on this matter, we leave it to be chewed over in the judgment of the common people. But we nonetheless know this for certain, namely that the day and hour of his own death was divinely made known to the bishop. He announced this news to the emperor, when they returned home. The emperor was much aggrieved over this and, in the midst of his weeping, asked him whom he should have in his place or to whom he should commit the bishopric. Finally, as if forced, Franco responded: I have a brother; if it were pleasing to God, I would ask that he be my successor. But concerning all these things, may God provide the one in whom He is well pleased. Then the emperor swore with God as his witness that he would give the aforementioned bishopric to his brother. And in order that this promise could be better and more easily recalled, he received a letter of request (epistola deprecatoria) from the bishop which he placed in his satchel as a witness (ad testamentum). What more is there to say? On the very day and hour that he had predicted,[7] Franco succumbed to death and his body was buried in peace in Rome with great honor.

[5] August 4, 998.
[6] In 999.
[7] August 27, 999.


4. After the bishop died, various petitioners immediately called upon the emperor to give them the bishopric. Of these, a certain Erpho was distinguished by his reputation as a pastor (nomen pastorale). But he did not see his fourth day [after his election], because he died on the third. Once he was dead, there were again not a few who incessantly filled the emperor's ears with various requests and promises of money for the bishopric. Of these, one named Razo received the pastoral staff through very hard work and by promising not a little. But soon thereafter, as he was returned from Italy with great joy, he came to a place called Chur and there ended his life. Messengers returning to Italy brought back the episcopal staff to the emperor and told of the bishop's death. Finally, the emperor remembered his promise, closed his hand, and promised that he would give this bishopric to no one until he returned to the fatherland. Who shall not count it among the merits of this blessed father of ours and praise his life for the fact that he was so much the chosen one of God that the deaths of these men made this fact manifest? It is a wondrous and truly amazing thing that the one candidate did not see the fourteenth day after his election and acceptance of the bishopric, while the other had not even lived to see the fourth day. Here we can both see and understand the miracles of God. For no wisdom, no prudence nor any counsel is against the Lord. Clearly, what pleased men, displeased God; what the emperor chose, God rejected, and He chose the weak that they might confound the strong. For He knew that Burchard feared, loved, and worshipped Him with all his might; He called for the one who had been foreordained, He justified him once called, and magnified him, once justified, not with men's praise but with His own mercy.

5. When the emperor returned from Italy,[8] he entered Saxony and came to a place called Kirchberg. The bishop of Mainz and the venerable Burchard met the emperor there. Receiving the archbishop with honor, the emperor explained to him the case of the bishopric of Worms and fully recounted the amazing deaths of the two men. After much conversation, as the emperor was looking out the window, he spied Burchard whom he quickly summoned. Seizing his hand, he led him up and carefully explained what his brother had requested on his behalf and what he demanded of him. Then he revealed to him the letter that he was keeping in his satchel. And thus he began to offer the priesthood of Worms to him. Although Burchard greatly resisted and argued that he was unworthy to assume the episcopal office, the emperor insisted vigorously and compelled him to take it up, almost by force. In the end, he realized that he could not resist the potentate, and so he asked if he might discuss the matter with his superior, the archbishop. After he asked for and received counsel from the archbishop, he promised that he would endure what the emperor had commanded. When he said this, tears welled up in the eyes of all those present and the pastoral staff was entrusted to his most worthy merits.

[8] In the year 1000.

6. A few days later, when he had received the emperor's permission, he went with the archbishop to Heiligenstadt[9] and there received the mitre of the priestly office. On the following day he was venerably consecrated with the unction of the episcopal blessing. Then, dismissed with honor by the archbishop after many goodbyes and embraces, Burchard paid a visit to the bishopric assigned to him and came to Worms, which he found in ruins and almost deserted. Indeed, it was most suited not to man's use but to the lairs of beasts and especially wolves, because the flatness of the location and the destruction of the wall offered easy access to wild animals and robbers. Indeed, they say that wolves had often devoured sheep in the city while everyone looked on; and when people wanted to prevent this, the wolves boldly frightened them off with constant attacks and then escaped unharmed, even though all were pursuing them. Robbers also boasted that this was the most fitting place to carry out the iniquity of their will, because neither the valley's fortifications nor the obstacle of a wall ever offered them any difficulty in entering. If one of the citizens said something against their wishes, they went after him in nocturnal raids and, seizing everything he had, they took it with them, leaving the man either dead or half-dead. Such was the peace, such the security, such the fortification to which the citizens of Worms were accustomed in those days! In the end, the people left the city deserted, went outside the wall, and there established the houses and buildings necessary for their uses. They also proctected themselves and their possessions against robbers and wild animals with hedges, beams, and other wooden structures. Because of all this, Burchard was greatly saddened upon seeing the abandoned city and so, after receiving advise from his men, he surrounded the city with a most solidly built ditch. He rebuilt the wall on all sides and ordered the citizens both to build and to live within the wall. Indeed, in just five years, he recalled the citizens who had been driven out, strengthened the peace within these boundaries, and properly restored a city that had been utterly abandoned. But there was one thing that presented the greatest impediment to this man's pious labors.

[9] Southeast of Göttingen.


7. Duke Otto and his son Conrad[10] had within the city a fortification which was very strong in its towers and various buildings. In this house (domus) robbers, thieves, and all who committed crimes against the bishop had the most secure of refuges. Indeed, if anyone committed any crime against the bishop or his loyal followers in word or deed, he immediately betook himself to this area. As a consequence, many limbs were hacked off and many murders occurred on both sides. The man of God tolerated this dishonor and these harsh calamities, yet he always resisted their outrageous acts with a brave heart, as if undaunted. Consequently it came to pass that the man of God considered this sort of man odious for all the days of his life and despised them all as invaders of the Church, with the sole exception of one youth whom his parents and the rest of his relatives rejected, since they considered him unworthy because he was peaceful and loved life's innocence.[11] The man of God summoned the boy and taught him the fear as well as the love of God and raised him as if he were an adopted son. And because he perceived in him a stability of spirit, he loved him more than the rest. It was he that God later elevated through His clemency to the throne of the kingdom. When the bishop despaired of resisting the forces of the powerful in any other way, he quickly surrounded his city with a wall on the model of a castle; on the inside, he built a very strong fortification and swiftly raised towers and structures suitable for fighting. Once the castle had been built and strengthened, he bravely resisted the outrageous deeds of the foe and increased hope among his own people; an intrepid man in word and deed, he often terrified even his enemies themselves.

[10] Duke Otto of Carinthia (978-85; 995- 1004) and his son Conrad, duke of Carinthia (1004- 1011). The future King Conrad II's father was Duke Otto's son Henry; by the time Burchard assumed the bishopric of Worms, Henry was dead and so was probably being raised in his grandfather's or uncle's household.
[11] This boy would grow up to become Emperor Conrad II. On Conrad II’s childhold and Burchard’s role in his upbringing, see now T. Schmidt, "Kaiser Konrads Jugend und Familie," in Geschichtsschreibung und geistiges Leben im Mittelalter. Festschrift für H. Löwe, ed. K. Hauck & H. Mordek, Köln/Wien, 1978, pp.312ff.


8. Later on, after their conflicts had been settled and peace had just been confirmed between them, Bishop Burchard and a great retinue, knights from Mainz, the abbot of Fulda, and the bishop of Würzburg with no small multitude all journeyed to Italy at the emperor's command. But just after they had passed through Tuscany with the greatest effort, it was announced to them that the emperor was dead. Truly saddened by this, as was fitting, they returned by the way they had come. The citizens of Lucca and the surrounding villages, however, assembled a large multitude of knights and foot soldiers, closed the roads in every direction, and awaited the arrival of our forces, armed and as though prepared for war. Catching sight of so great a multitude, our forces were troubled and hesitated to pass through their territory if they were unwilling. Finally, after taking counsel, the bishops sent envoys, and these men asked on bended knee that they allow our forces to pass through their borders in peace. They were barely granted their request, but on that day they did enjoy peace. When night had passed, however, the local inhabitants reassembled at first light and began to harass our front lines with a great clamor and light skirmishes; when a few on both sides had been either wounded or killed, a clamor was heard from still others. And so, rising swiftly, our men took up arms and all gathered together. Among them there was a certain Thietmar, a knight of the bishop of Worms and a man of energy and outstanding in all goodness, who was considered to be the best informed person in military matters of the entire army. The bishop summoned him and asked him to help this situation to be resolved without bloodshed, if possible. After promising to carry out his orders, he departed and, assembling some other men, quietly revealed to them what he had in mind. With his men, he swiftly ascended a mountain which was most dangerous to climb with the utmost sweat and labor and secretly went behind the enemy force. When they saw our men, the enemy was terrified by their miraculous arrival, were devastated in spirit, and gave themselves over completely to flight. Our men followed, destroying and cutting down in this flight as many as they were able to catch. Greatly troubled by this slaughter, the bishop poured forth tears and rebuked Thietmar severely for this affair. In the end, he sent back not a few denarii to the citizens as if for compensation. Thus, by God's grace, they returned to the fatherland.

9. Meanwhile, Henry of Bavaria came to Worms with forces assembled from all over and labored not a little to acquire the scepter of the kingship.[12] He entered into counsel regarding these matters with the bishops of Mainz and Worms. He explained the reason for his coming and promised to do everything they wished, if they would consent to his wishes. Indeed, he promised that he would acquire the fortified house of Otto and deliver it into the power of the bishop of Worms; and by thus giving and promising many things, he led these men to incline towards his own opinion. Then he came with them to Mainz and there he received the scepter of the kingship while all who were present joined in praise. Once Henry had been raised to the throne of kingship, Bishop Burchard, mindful of Henry's promise, admonished the king incessantly day and night for the sake of his city's liberty. Finally, the king summoned Duke Otto; they had a discussion about these matters and the king made known to Otto the zeal of his will. Since he was a prudent man, Otto responded prudently in this way: Father, even if you spoke of some great matter to me, I would certainly have done it. I want you to know for certain that I firmly hope that, together with you, I shall have an eternal reward in the eternal kingdom of God in exchange for these properties. With these phrases and the like, the affair was brought to a close, and a certain village which is called Bruchsal with all its revenues (utilitates) and appendages was handed over to the duke in exchange for this house. And so Worms, so long subject to iniquitous servitude, was liberated through the bishop's pious labors. Hence, on the very day when the duke left this fortification, the bishop and the assembled crowd fell upon the house as the duke looked on and destroyed it right down to the foundations with their eager hands. But then, with the same material and same stones, they built a monastery and cloister in honor of St Paul, marking it with this title: a church for the sake of the city's liberty. In these ways, the man of God transformed a house of war into a church of Christ, and what had been a house of contention, became a house of reconciliation in which praise and thanksgiving were paid out day and night.

[12] Henry was a distant kinsmen of the Ottonian line, since he was the grandson of Otto I's brother D uke Henry of Bavaria ( 955). He ruled Germany as King Henry II from his royal consecration in Mainz on June 7, 1002 until his death on July 13, 1024. He became emperor on February 14, 1014.


10. There is a pine forest two miles away from Worms which abounds in silver fir, and a muddy swamp winds around it on one side. In the middle of the swamp stands a beautiful hill to which the man of God commanded that he be transferred; and because he wanted to avoid the tumults of the world, he levelled the hilltop once the trees and bushes had been cut down. There he first built an oratory; then, once other buildings were completed, he constructed a magnificent cell. To this cell he withdrew after royal councils and conversations with the king, synodal cares, and the diverse rumblings of the world. There, putting all secular business behind him, he worked zealously with all his might in the service of God. Indeed, it was at this time that he labored not a little in this cell on his collection of canons.[13] For he gathered together the canons into a single corpus with the help of Bishop Walter of Speyer and at the suggestion and with the encouragement of Brunicho the provost; but he did this not out of arrogance, but because, as he himself said, the rights of the canons and the judgments of penances had been utterly neglected and destroyed in his bishopric. He divided up this corpus or collection and distributed the canons over twenty books.

[13] This collection, known as the Decretum, assumed its final form around 1015 and became one of the most influential collections of the eleventh and early twelfth centuries; for a brief discussion of Burchard's sources and methods, see B. Brasington & R. Somerville, Prefaces to Canon Law Books in Latin Christianity. Selected Translations, 500-1245, New Haven, 1998, 72-75 with earlier bibliography, and R. Somerville's translation of the preface, 99-104. Brunicho's role in stimulating Burchard's canonistic efforts is suggested by the latter's dedication of the Decretum to him.

11. Never ceasing from pious labors, the man of God also knocked down the church of St Peter ad sedem because it was too small, and after laying the foundation, commissioned a monastery of tremendous size. In just a few years he brought the project almost to completion; it was done with such great swiftness, in fact, that it did not seem to have been built through construction but rather to have appeared sudddenly there because Burchard wished it so.

12. In these days, he summoned his sister Mathilda, a woman most honorable and worthy of all fame, and nourished her with brotherly love. Using her great talent, this mistress took the utmost care over the women's work and had women who were learned in a diversity of textile arts; she herself surpassed many women in the making of precious vestments. Meanwhile, it happened that the abbess in a monastery of nuns serving God there closed her final day. After her death, all the sisters begged the bishop as if with one voice, praying that he might give the abbacy to his own sister and commit the care of protecting them to her. Consenting to their petitions, the venerable man summoned his sister and exhorted her with various circumlocutions, but finally spoke thus. My dearest sister, he said, you see how fragile and fleeting worldly things are and how they are full of every iniquity. For gold, silver, and stones which seem precious to us, are reckoned as nothing but filth in the eyes of God. We are doing nothing else amongst them but deceiving wretched souls with our lust for temporal goods. For wherever we go, the shadow of death pursues us; and the one who today lives securely amidst delights, tomorrow succumbs unfortunately to death. But blessed is the man who follows the right road of the just journey and despises the glory of this world and accepts the things which are God's within the household of a pure heart. Therefore, my dearest sister, I want you to remove the bracelets, the earrings, and the delightful clothes and accept the holy veil and thus join yourself to the eternal king. When she heard this, she was greatly afraid and, amazed beyond words, she said: O holy lord, do you not know that I have spent all the days of my life involved in wordly affairs and therefore am utterly ignorant of this office? Indeed, I am completely ignorant of books except the psalter; I do not know how to behave in this office; and therefore how can I live in this life, my lord, without scandal? In response, the man of God said: Do not say another word and do not be slow to fulfill my exhortation with the greatest speed. What blocks you? What stands in your way? It is a most happy trade to leave behind transitory goods and to acquire happily eternal riches and perpetual life. With these and other exhortations, he so won over his sister that she finally swore to do whatever he wanted. When the servant of God heard this, he was exultant, offering thanks to God with all his heart. He immediately ordered her to learn the canonical rule, the computus, the lives of the fathers and the dialogue and other books appropriate to this life. And all the things which he commanded, she strove constantly to learn and to perfect out of obedience. After the man of God had perceived so great a will and such pious zeal in this handmaid of God, with the imposition of the veil he consecrated her to the service of God. When the sisters were assembled, he commended the abbacy and their care to her. Once she received the veil, she shone forth brilliantly in every virtue and in her honorable behavior, and she offered divine examples to all as if she had been raised all her life according to the rule. For she did not want to be served but to serve, nor did she raise herself up over others in the manner of teachers but loved and taught all like a mother. It is a wondrous thing, that a woman of the world was not burdened in this business even for a moment but rather delighted in it. In addition, all of the land which she had acquired, she transferred into the ownership (in proprium) of the church over which she ruled with her brother's help. Moreover, upon her brother's exhortation and with his help, she not only renovated the cloister and the monastery (which was almost deserted) but also rebuilt and had it dedicated. A woman of the most stable heart and spirit, she remained in divine service day and night with the sisters committed to her and with her brother's help ordered their way of life according to reason, just as the canonical rule demands. 

13. Because of her examples and testimonies, one of the sisters vowed to God named Charity sought the strictness of a higher and superior way of life from the bishop. And although he affirmed that the will of God could be well fulfilled in her current life through just deeds, the virgin of God nevertheless asked in constant petitions to remove herself from secular matters and be enclosed, because she wanted to do greater things. Finally consenting to her petition, the man of God ordered that she be enclosed, decreed a certain day, and came to the nuns' monastery with all the brethren to examine the will of the God's maidservant. After they arrived and the brothers were called together, he placed the virgin in their midst and said: My beloved brothers, you see before you this virgin, aflame with the love and fear of God alike, who is rejecting the slippery delights of this world and wants to please God. Rather than receiving the word of the Gospel with a deaf ear, she has rejected her father and mother, her relatives and friends, houses and fields and decided to join herself to God alone. You should be ashamed of yourselves, old and young alike, since you are doing nothing like this! Why are you silent? Why do you struggle with the blush of shame? Behold, this slip of a girl boldly marches ahead of you with her banner flying high and does not fear to fight against spiritual iniquities. Behold how, dressed in the mail of the faith and the helmet of salvation, she is prepared to struggle against the enemy with unflinching spirit. Therefore if you can neither march ahead nor run with her, at least you should strive to follow her with similar examples of piety. After these and other divine words and when the offices of the Mass had been completed, he enclosed her in a small cell; and that virgin, who had died to the world by divine compunction, he commended to God in the order of the dead. There she lived the angelic life for three years serving God and, although tempted by diverse torments, in the end she rendered her soul fully purged to her Creator that God, who is always marvelous in his saints, might be honored in every way.

14. Now then, at this same time the emperor Henry decided to enter Burgundy[14] with his army and on this journey he came to Worms. When he saw that that outstanding monastery was almost completed, he asked with constant requests that it be consecrated while he was there. Although the man of God long refused, in the end he consented to the emperor's will as if coerced. Therefore, after all the filth had been cast out and all the soot washed away, on the following day, in the emperor's presence and at his command, this house was dedicated to God in the presence of many bishops with great praises and with the great jubilation of clergy and people.

[14] Possibly the campaign against Odo-William of Burgundy in 1016.

15. After two years, a wretched thing happened in this monastery. One night, the western part of the building collapsed completely with a sudden crash. But the amazing thing was that under so great a weight not one bell was broken, except for a small one. Deeply troubled over this occurrence, as was fitting, the servant of God wore a certain expression, almost of sadness, upon his face. His disciples, no small crowd of whom constantly followed him around, came to him and consoled him with these words: We are rightly amazed, Lord, that you are so upset by the misfortune of this event, since you ask in every day's offering that things be allowed to happen as it pleases God. Now, God has heard your prayers, He has publicly fulfilled your will. For what pleases God, is often tested, as it is written: God corrects whom He loves.[Prov. 3:12] What displeased God, He rejected, just as you asked. Therefore, put aside your sighs and receive the strength of patience. This is praiseworthy and acceptable to God. For amidst the other sentences of His teaching, as you well know, God also offerred sayings of consolation like this: In your patience you shall possess your souls.[Lk. 21:19] Attend to these things, Father, attend to these things, and put aside the burden of cares and forget your sadness, because according to the Lord's promise, your sadness shall be turned to joy. The man of God, as if aroused from his sadness, responded with his face full of joy: I owe you great gratitude and many thanks for such great consolation and such admonition. Indeed, just as it pleased the Lord, so did He do. Truly I rejoice that what did not please him, He wished to change for the better, just as we asked. But now listen, I ask, and I shall tell you how I learned this lesson. One day, after entering the larger of my gardens with just two boys, I saw in the very entrance the devil in human form and dress. He was standing towards the north, killing the herbs and fruitful trees, and so with much murmuring, he closed the pathway with the pile he had thus made. When I angrily asked him (since he walked in the likeness and image of the gardener) why he had closed off the path, he asked: "Would that I could close off the path of eternal life to you, I who can gather up so much trouble for you in this short time!" Wondering at his audacity, since I thought he was the caretaker of the garden, I said: "In the name of the Lord, you shall not harm me in what you threaten, and unless you cease from your iniquity, you shall gather for yourself eternal ruin." When I'd said these things, I went to a chair which is in the garden, but as I looked around, I did not see him. Greatly surprised at what had disappeared completely so suddenly, I asked the boys if they had seen him. Both of them said that they had seen no one but me, but they did confirm that they heard someone arguing with me. Then I said: "I know, my sons, I know who it is. But I shall not fear his threats, nor shall I place my hopes in his words, for there is no truth in them, as the Lord says.[Jn. 8:44] Departing from there immediately, I conceived this verse in my mind: "Because I am prepared for the lash, my suffering, too, is always in my sight. And on the following night at the hour of matins, this wretched collapse of the temple occurred. When I heard it, my mind was filled with consternation and I confess that I repeated that complaint of David not without tears: I have been beaten the whole night, and my chastisement is in the morning.[Ps. 72:14] Therefore, my brothers, because the Lord has deigned to chastize me through chastisement, I shall rejoice and I shall be patience according to your exhortation, and I shall do penance as a convert for my deeds and words, and I shall praise you, my God, that you may be honored in all things; for You who grows angry, shall show Your favor and forgive all the sins of men in tribulation. After this, he ordered the wooden beams and stones to be carried outside the temple, and once the foundation was laid, he built it firmly and brought it to its original state in just about two years. Then he gilded the column capitols as well as the squared stones placed around on the monastery's course of walls, and he adorned the entire temple on all sides with various ornaments.

16. The food allowance of the brothers serving God at the see, which had already given out due to its great antiquity and had been almost completely neglected, he revoked for good reason and changed it to a better custom. Then, when all had been canonically ordained, he ordered all the brothers to eat their daily meals together in the refectory according to the rule. He likewise mercifully renewed the food allowance of St Cyriacus that had almost been destroyed by the negligence of usurpers and ordered them to eat together. With marvelous ingenuity, he renewed all the places belonging to him that were almost completely destroyed and abandoned due to their age, and he then adorned them outstandingly with walls and various buildings. The monastery and cloister of St Andrew which was located outside the city and had been abandoned through neglect, he rebuilt within the city. And when all the canonical matters had been venerably decided to the brothers' benefit, he instituted the regular life to the praise and glory of our God.


17. In those days, when Brunicho, the venerable provost of this see about whom we spoke above,[15] saw the constancy of the blessed man — how he had rejected the pomp of the world, how he had been fervent in God's service, and how he had fled human praise through avoidance — he went within himself and approached the monastic life; and through the examples of God's servant, he deceived the devil and with a contrite heart and spirit strove to please God alone. Other illustrious men, also leaving behind the world because of the constant testimony of God's servant, fled the city and subjected themselves to the life of monks. Finally, the bishop feared that the monasteries (monasteria)[16] would be abandoned, and so he summoned the brothers from all the monasteries and spoke to them in these words: I do not wish you to forget, brothers, that everyone who fears God and does justice, is acceptable to Him — not only monk, but also canon and layman. It is not good for all who labor in one boat, to persist in one task, either that all be captains and no one a navigator, or all navigators and no one a captain. It is more advisable that, when the captain has been appointed, each get on with his own work — some navigate, some test the depth of the water, others, if it is necessary, look out for evil, still others bail out the bilge-water, and thus all guide the ship in peace. We should likewise understand, brothers, that we all cannot be all things. For if all are monks and canons, where are the laity? Who then shall minister to the monks or who shall serve the canons? If all are laymen, where then are the praises and service of God? Various indeed is the family in God's Church, not only monks, but also canons and faithful laymen. And all of these need God's grace. Therefore, whoever is a canon, let him not depart from his monastery for the monastic life without permission, but rather work in common with his brothers; and if he desires to lead a stricter life, let him devote himself to works pleasing to God and keep himself from evil within his own monastery, and thus he shall not cease to offer God a fatted holocaust upon the hidden altar of the heart. With this opinion, he quieted the spirits of the young men and encouraged them to remain in the service of God with a more stable mind.

[15] See above §10.

[16] Monasterium here seems to be a generic term used to describe a community living together; in this case, it appears that these "monasteries" were communities of regular canons.

18. In addition, he firmly ordered them all to present him each day with learned sayings or writings according to the capacity of each man's intellect. Then, because they perceived that the servant of God was given to study, erudite in the pages of sacred Scripture, and filled with the knowledge of God, they were not afraid to present sermons, letters, and various little questions. Consequently, one of them, among the other opinions which he often uttered, composed the words of a question about the fast of Moses and Elias, and with a humble hand offered it to Burchard while we were there, as if giving him an opportunity to lecture (occasio dictandi). Thus he had written:

If I did not fear the arid understanding of my mind and wit, I would not on any account have proferred to the lordship of your clemency certain passages of sacred Scripture which constrain the smallness of my mind and force it to fall into a tangle of doubt, in order that I, once instructed by the most learned witness of your probity, might learn the truth of the matter. But whoever falls into the danger of wavering because of certain passages of sacred Scripture, becomes guilty of a grave sin unless, once emended, he be cleansed by the satisfaction of confession and come to know the truth itself. Therefore, since I truly regretted the wound in my conscience and feared to conceal it further, I faithfully reveal it to your most worthy sanctity, in order that what lies hidden within may become manifest without. Indeed, as God is my witness, I offer the composition of this letter to your sanctity, not because I am girded with the boldness of any sagacity but because I have been truly compelled by the meagerness of my thirsty wit. For thus you may correct me and make me more certain about this inquiry of mine this investigation. I know that you bear the time and hold the place of those to whom it is said in the Lord's word: To you it has been given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God."[Mk. 4:11] After making a true confession of my conscience, I shall come, with your prudence guiding me to the knowledge of the truth and I hope and firmly believe that I shall be cleansed of all the filth of my sin and shall share in your innocence and sanctity. Because, if this were not true, the Psalmist would not have said: You shall be made holy with the holy, and you shall be innocent with the innocent.[Ps. 17: 26] But because the constant pain of my ulcer forces me to approach your clemency, I do not cease from expressing to your prudence (whom I do not doubt shall help me) to the best of my ability and with all doubt set aside,this little question, on which I have composed this little heap of words.

In the volumes of sacred Scripture we read that Moses and Elias fasted for forty days, but many of us are in doubt as to whether they abstained from all food. I know and truly believe that our lord Christ fasted over the course of forty days and bore a three-fold temptation; but I doubt whether any human being has done this. Because even if Moses and Elias or any of the prophets had abstained from food for forty days, I would say that he would not have escaped the temptations of diabolic testing. For, if I may speak thus, it would have been easier to test a passible human being than to tempt the Lord of all creation. I shall now leave this to you to discuss, because I fear to speak further about such things. For it is written: Every idle word which men have spoke, they shall render an account for it on the day of judgment.[Mt. 12:36] I have already posed the question to many wise men, but because I have not been taught, the aforementioned disease grows a hundred-fold. May your holy wisdom therefore teach me the truth, so that I shall not fall into the pit of sin but rather gain the fruit of penance or true confession, which the wisdom of the Apostle promised when he said: Confession becomes salvation.[Rom. 10:10]

19. When the servant of God saw these things, on the third day he wrote back to this youth these words of correction:

I do not want you to be in doubt any long, dear son, regarding what you asked me, as if in doubt, about the forty day fast of Moses and Elias. And because, with God's assistance, this explanation is most clear, I want to instruct you in it. For as you yourself confessed, if someone is in doubt about the statements of the holy Scriptures, he incurs the fault of a grave crime, unless he should recover his senses in satisfaction. And if he falls into the danger of wavering either through the aridity of his wit, the temerity of his age, the darkness of his ignorance, or the trampling of neglect, someone should correct him. He should know that whoever converts the sinner from the error of his way, shall save his soul from death, as the apostle James said. [cf. James 5:19-20] Therefore, we shall save your soul from death, if you store up with a pure mind the sayings which we shall set forth after examining each of them carefully. Now then, you wrote: In sacred Scripture we read that Moses and Elias fasted for forty days, but many of us doubt whether they abstained from all food. You seek a knot on the scrip; truly he loses his labor who seeks a knot on the scrip. For to seek the knot on a scrip is to tie a knot of doubt out of the plainest and truest reasoning and to draw together the thickness of the densest cloud from the most serene light. I mean by "the most serene light" sacred Scripture in which each of the faithful is corrected in their words and deeds, and for this reason, it is rightly called the mirror of life. Indeed, sacred Scripture is the declaration of both laws and of the Old and New Testament. If someone crazy in the head is not corrected by its most lucid judgments, he has been deluded in the mockery of vanity. Anyone is deceived by the mockery of vanity who is captured by the most vain vice of stupidity and neither seeks virtue nor flees vice. Therefore we should flee every vice, and certainly we should flee stupidity, for certainly it is a human vice. In contrast, we should seek every virtue, we should seek wisdom, for it is the virtue of God. Whoever wishes to know the strong virtue of God shall seek wisdom with the utmost zeal and greatest diligence. For what is stronger than the virtue of God, what is brighter than what is illuminated by the ray of God, the true sun, and what more truthful than what the hand of the Truth itself has written? Indeed, Scripture says: Moses came down from the mountain bearing two stone tablets in his hands, both inscribed by the finger of God. Also on these tablets it was added: Moses, the servant of God, fasted forty days and nights that he might merit to receive the law of the Lord. Why is it so amazing if Moses fasted, when the God ordered it, in Whose kingdom no one ever goes hungry and under whose persona the prophet proclaimed words of correction to correct the people of Israel: If I am hungry, shall I not say to you that the world is mine.[Ps. 49:12-13] And again: Shall I not eat the flesh of bulls, or shall I not drink the blood of goats? Truly He who created everything from nothing has never hungered in his kingdom, never thirsted, nor ever slept, as Scripture says: Behold the man who guards Israel does not nor shall sleep.[Ps. 120:4] Therefore, my child, understand what I say by way of example. If one of us had been at the council of a king or some very powerful emperor as he was inspecting the various riches of his kingdom, the sweetness of which food or drink would have captured him? For he would haveseen ministers dressed in clothes of different kinds., a noble house distinguished by various ornaments, the purest gold adorned with signs and precious stones, and the king himself, shining in his crown and royal diadem, handling the wealth of his kingdom with care, and explaining in detail the mystical reasons of his own counsel. And if the slippery and transitory glory of this world so delights a man that an excellent nature does not consider what is natural, how much more did the heavenly and eternal glory of the Most High make Moses, who feared God and followed his precepts, forget worldly things. For he was present in the holy counsel of the eternal king; he had also seen the glory of the Lord, that is the tabernacle not made by hand, i.e. not of this creation. Indeed, he had heard the voice of the Lord saying to him: I love you more than the rest and I know you by name.[Ex. 33:12] deed for forty years, not forty days, God led His people through the desert with the hand of Moses and, as Scripture says, He spoke with Moses face to face, just as a man usually speaks to his friend.[Ex. 33:1] He transformed days into years, fed His people with celestial sustenance, and man ate the bread of angels. What is this heavenly food, or what is the food of angels? What do you answer, my son? If you were seeking the knot, behold you have found it. Now untie the knot, and come to know this method. Do you suppose that the citizens of heaven seek their bread by sweating in labor over the rake and plow, as do those of earth? Absolutely not. Rather, God, the son of God, the creator and lord of angels is the inexhaustible bread of the just, and about Him it is written: In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.[Jn.1:1] Behold the bread of angels! And the Word became flesh and lived among us.[Jn. 1:14] Indeed, He himself says: I am the living bread which came down from heaven,[Jn. 6:51] and through this bread the world exists, and through it the Lord's people lived for forty years; from it Moses had already tasted, when he answered the burning bush: I beseech you, O Lord, send whom you are going to send.[Ex. 4:13] Elsewhere he tasted of it, too, when, among the many words of his teaching, he says to the children of Israel: God shall summon up a prophet for you from among your brethren, and you shall listen to him.[Deut. 18:15] From this bread Moses ate when he fasted forty days; because man does not live by corporeal bread alone , but upon every word of God.[Lk. 4:4] Through this Word all things were created, and all things came into existence as if from nothing, because God Himself is the Word. Clearly in this we understand that God the Father is Himself the Son, and the Son, that is the Word, is the bread of heaven, and the bread of heaven, that is the Word, became Flesh, when He Himself confessed and said: The bread which I shall give is my flesh, given for the life of the world.[Jn. 6:52] Truly He Himself is the life and food of angels and men, who makes the two one; Christ Himself also sated Moses spiritually, when Moses fasted corporeally for forty days. But when the devil proposed that three-fold temptation to Christ, the devil did not recognize His exalted power, great mercy, and ancient counsel. For the devil was from the very beginning an accuser of the brethren, an arbiter of iniquity, an inventor of lies, and the shrewdest teacher of Egyptian trifles. He was indeed hiding in the heart of Pharaoh, attacking Moses through the tests of various questions. He therefore recognized Moses as a man, but he did not understand that the divinity of Christ was veiled by the flesh and therefore he doubted that God was perfect man. Indeed, even though he vexed the wife of Pilate for the sake of her redemption, that poisonous being doubted that God was man. For he doubted that there was such mercy with God that He would have wished to put on our humanity and renew and redeem his servants in a wondrous trade. For if he was not in doubt and did not envy the just man, he would not have aroused the unfortunate Jews to disobedience and perfidity against God nor would he have shouted through their mouths: Crucify him!. But because he doubted, he did not know. Therefore, because he was from the very outset false and doubting, amidst the suspension of doubt, he fell into the hazard of desperation, and through ruinous desperation, he suffered the eternal damnation; he was cast out into the outer darkness and rightly suffered eternal torments.

Now learn what you asked about the fast of Elias in this opinion. You have read, I assume, and have understood how after the curse (imprecatio) which he called down upon the inhabitants of Galaath, Elias hid from King Achab in the torrent of Carinth and, at God's command, was restored and fed by ravens. After three years, he showed himself to Achab upon God's command, when he, zealous for the zeal of the Lord, ordered him to kill four hundred and fifty priests of Baal.[I Kings 17-18] And on that day he beseeched rain from God and received it. Then, fearing the threats of the raging queen Jezebel, he fled into the desert and rested in the shadow of a juniper because of the weariness of his soul. He was awakened by an angel, instructed concerning the course of his long journey, fed with bread baken in ash and water, and on the strength of that food, he walked forty days and forty nights. Whence do you suppose this bread came, or from what spring was this water drawn? Of course, as we read, Elias was seized by God into heaven in a whirlwind while he still was alive in the body. But with what bread was he fed or from what spring do you suppose he drank? I am telling you the truth when I say that the very one who is the bread of the just undoubtedly gave Elias the food of satiety. The water he drank poured forth from spring of that one who said: He who drinks of the water I shall give, shall never be thirsty; and again, Whoever drinks of the water I give, there shall arise in him a spring of water that shall well up forever.[Jn. 4:13-14] Elias was indeed a just man, and therefore he was fed with the food of justice; he lives and lived, as it is written: The just man lives on faith.[Gal. 3:11] Let these few words of correction be enough for you, my son. Indeed, from these very little things you shall learn to understand greater things perfectly and easily untie the knot of a similar question, because whatever has been written, has been written for our teaching in order that, through patience and the consolation of Scripture, we may have hope in our Lord Jesus Christ Who lives and reigns as God forever and ever. Amen.

At a time suitable for discussion, the aforementioned youth, as he himself confessed, called a few of his friends together and doled out these words to them with a generous hand, lest he conceal such delightful delicacies of the soul by chewing on them alone. They devoured them head, feet, innards and all, as it is written,[Ex. 12:9] and what was left over, they shared with the other brothers, and thus it came to our attention. But because I have strayed too far from the rectitude of our path, I shall try to return as quickly as possible to the journey that I had begun.

20. Now then, because God chose our pious pastor for His service, with His customary mercy He took care to beat him, as we read: God corrects whom He loves, and pleases himself upon his son, like a father.[Prov. 3:12] For touched by the disease of paralysis, Bishop Burchard was oppressed by the gravest illness. Yet he was never conquered by this discomfort or dissolute in spirt but always kept the same demeanor and high spirits with the utmost patience. Recovering from this castigation of God, he conceived this salubrious thought, namely that worldly goods are an abomination in the eyes of God and that they pertain not just to the soul's detriment but even to its eternal ruin. Whence he ordered diligent inquiry to be made throughout the family of St Peter, if he had unjustly taken anything from anyone and if he had done anyone injury. And if anyone said that an injury had been done to him, he ordered that the seized goods be restored to him twofold. His words were so tempered by discretion that the firmness of his heart was easily comprehended by those listening. For whatever he said, he seasoned with the sweetest examples from sacred Scripture. Justice, judgments of the laws, or assiduous sacred reading were never absent from his mouth. It is unnecessary to praise the prudence in him, because an incredible number of people not only from the palace but also from various regions gathered to know his advice. He was so intent on the frequency of his fasts, almsgiving, vigils and prayers, that few men of our age could rival him. Indeed, if his illness or the greatest necessity did not force him to do otherwise, he ate only bread, vegetables, and fruit. Although everyone always supposed that he drank wine, he in fact refreshed himself with water. Very often after the third or fourth vigil of the night, he went silently through all the squares of the city and examined all the corners and ditches with a very close friend of his (whom he forbid absolutely to say anything, lest anyone learn of this from him), and wherever he found the poor or the sick, he gave them the solace of alms with a generous hand. Each day before dawn, he closed himself within the oratory and remained there until the first hour of the day, and what he did there is known not to us but to God alone. In the daily offices of the Mass he, with a tireless spirit, did not put off offering sacrifices for the living and the dead. The poor considered him to be like a father and they often came to him from far-off places, and he allowed not one of them to leave without consolation. Whenever an attack of sudden death or a terror in the sky or the savagery of enemies or the danger of some adversity threatened, after swiftly assembling the brethren, he vanquished it with the constancy of prayers and fasts. Behold, I am writing the truth before God and His angels. Therefore when we, gathered together, constantly praise his various virtues, I confess that we have already divined what is true, namely that, now that he is dead, there shall never be anyone like him in leading so outstanding a life in this place. For although he was held back by illness, he nevertheless remained unvanquished in the service of God. In fact, he planned a monastery in honor of St. Martin. But, after the wall was only partially completed, he was, alas, unable to finish it, because he was impeded by the constancy of royal service and especially by his constant ill-health and various adversities. And so that monastery has remained half-built to this very day.

21. After this the emperor Henry died and his body was brought to Bamberg where it was buried with the greatest honor.[17] After his death, Conrad, the youth whom we said above was raised and educated by the bishop in the fear of God, became master of affairs through the favor of the highest grace of God.[18] Two years after the king was raised to the throne of the kingship, the weakness of the servant of God's powers began to increase more than usual. And when he was afflicted by a great languor, he kept himself within the city, awaiting the day and hour of his redemption. And when he was detained for a time by a great illness, the king's legates came to him and announced that the king was going to come in the following week. Troubled by this legation, the servant of God lamented his infirmity, because he would be unable either to receive the king fittingly or offer service worthy of himself on account of his infirmity. Having turned, amidst these words, to his customary consolation, he entered the oratory, closed the door after him, and remained the whole day in prayer. When evening fell, in his usual way he ordered his disciples to be called, and when the praises of Vespers were finished, he returned with happiness and appeared strong to all of us by the grace of God. Thus, for the entire time the king was with us, Bishop Burchard was strong, as if he had achieved an armistice with his illness. When the king departed, Burchard went with him to Tribur and remained there three days. Then, when he received permission to leave, he predicted as he was leaving, as if in jest, that he would not see the king again, and many people heard him. When he arrived in Worms, he was oppressed beyond measure by the disease of dysentery.

[17] Henry II died on July 13, 1024. Henry had been instrumental in establishing the see of Bamberg in November of 1007.
[18] Conrad was elected king in September of 1024. For an account of his election, see Wipo, The Deeds of Conrad II, trans. K. Morrison in T. Mommsen & K. Morrison (trans. & eds.), Imperial Lives and Letters of the Eleventh Century, Columbia, 1962, 57-68. On the election, see M. Lintzel, "Zur Wahl Konrads II," in Festschrift für E.E. Stengel, 1952, pp.289-300.

22. One day, when he realized that his body was drawing near its fall, he summoned his disciples and entered his oratory. He then forgave his debtors the sins which they had committed against him and absolved with clemency all those whom he had placed under the bann or anathematized, and he sent the text of their absolution to them all individually. He washed himself completely with pure water, ordered that his throat, beard, and the crown of his head to be shaved, and, after putting on pure vestments, ordered that his knights, clients, and the others who were there to come in. As all gasped with their great weeping, the man of God, who was barely able to request silence with his hand, said: Venerable fathers, loveable brethren, most beloved sons — now I need your help with God. For I greatly lament that until now I have been leading you negligently and that I pridefully exalted myself over you beyond measure, and that I neither honored nor loved you as was just. But that pride — what does it profit me now? Or the arrogance — what help does it offer me? Now it hinders me and bears many offenses for me. For yesterday I was one of the richest men, but now I expect that I shall become like filth and ash. Truly such is our glory, such is our worldly dominion! Of course, I emerged naked from the womb of my mother, and I shall return there naked, bringing back nothing but sins, unless I have done something good at the exhortation of God's mercy, and someday I hope that I shall find this with God. Behold, now I am clean; behold, as I set off on the longest of journeys, I stand ready, awaiting the hardest embassy. From these wretched bones, you who envy the glories of worldly affairs can recognize how fragile and unstable they are, how full of evil, how blind to the future. These glories I now recognize through a glass darkly, although I am still somewhat subject to them. Therefore, I commit myself and all my goods without hesitation to my God, the eternal king, whom I have served since the beginning, that He may defend me and take me with him to where my soul shall not fear terrible attacks. With such words, he admonished and taught us, sounding forth God's word not man's. Finally, he proclaimed openly the dissolution of his body. When he had finished speaking, we went out with the greatest sadness and all cried together, lamenting the end of so great a pastor. Then the princes who were there went in and carefully examined the treasury, the room where they though the money was stashed, and all the corners. At length, they overturned cabinets full of volumes of books in hope of money but they were deluded by the empty labor of fortune. For besides the treasury of the church, they found no gold or silver there except for three denarii, which the holy man had left in his wallet, when he distributed the others to the poor. Then his sister, the venerable abbess about whom we spoke above, stayed there in prayers and vigils, never leaving his side.

23. For a few days he was sick with the greatest illness, but one night, just before he died, the servant of God sat bolt upright in bed with his eyes and hands raised to heaven and prayed for a long time. Those who were with him saw his lips moving but they could not understand at all what he was praying, even though they listened intently. Laying back down, he touched the right hand of his sister and said: Look! now I see what I have desired. Then he said: May the Lord be with you. When he said this the third time, he rendered his immaculate spirit to our Redeemer whom he served, whom he loved, whom he sought, and whom he always desired.

The servant of God had a certain cabinet which none of us ever saw open. He entrusted the key to it to his sister so that whatever she found inside, she would keep in love and memory of his life. Immediately after the death of her brother, she summoned several of us and after telling us his words, she opened the cabinet. We found in it the roughest possible hair-shirt and an iron chain worn down on one part from use. When we first saw this, we all lamented beating our chests that we had so often acted negligently against the servant of God. But then we were fittingly amazed that his deeds, which were pleasing in the eyes of God, had been so covered and concealed, and we gave thanks to our God (although not without tears) for his life. Present at his funeral were his knights — venerable and illustrious men — who bore his body through all the monasteries until they finally brought it to his principal see. There, the body was received by all the brothers and looked after with the customary offices. On a later day, he was buried with honor in this same church in the western choir, namely before the altar of St Lawrence.[19]

[19] A hemispherical stone closed off the end of the sepulcher with this epitaph: Here lies Burchard, formerly bishop of this place.

24. But now, where are those pestilential persons who carped at the life and deeds of the man of God with poisonous tongues and told many lies against him and his faithful in the course of various insults, lies that it is not permitted even to mention? O wretched and profane men, devoid of all honor! O men ignorant of all virtue, stripped of all piety, and fattened by the gluttony of the stomach alone! O men sterile in all goodness, who do nothing like Burchard but place their salvation beneath the grave, who tear apart the deeds of the servant of God with their lies but are incapable of doing such things themselves, men whose God is the stomach and whose glory lies in confusion, men who know only earthly things and are utterly ignorant of the things which are God's. After he was converted to God with all his mind and all his strength, this priest of Christ diligently hid whatever good he did as something which should be known to Christ alone; and he passed over with a deaf ear the empty favors and criticisms of men alike, considering them of little account. Instead he strived to please God alone. We therefore hope and firmly believe that he has achieved the eternal fruit with God for such things and received the eternal reward for his secular actions and that, as he remains with Christ, he may hold the eternal priesthood under the leadership of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and glory forever and ever. Amen.


Translated by W.L. North from the edition of G. Waitz in MGH SS 4, (Hannover, 1841), 830-46

©  William North, 1998. The text may be used for non-commercial educational purposes, including use course packets.  Further publication in other forms (including by university presses) requires permission. Do not reproduce this text on other websites.

This text is part of the Internet Medieval Sourcebook. The Sourcebook is a collection of public domain and copy-permitted texts related to medieval and Byzantine history.

Unless otherwise indicated the specific electronic form of the document is copyright. Permission is granted for electronic copying, distribution in print form for educational purposes and personal use. If you do reduplicate the document, indicate the source. No permission is granted for commercial use.

© Paul Halsall, October 1998

The Internet History Sourcebooks Project is located at the History Department of  Fordham University, New York. The Internet Medieval Sourcebook, and other medieval components of the project, are located at the Fordham University Center for Medieval Studies.The IHSP recognizes the contribution of Fordham University, the Fordham University History Department, and the Fordham Center for Medieval Studies in providing web space and server support for the project. The IHSP is a project independent of Fordham University.  Although the IHSP seeks to follow all applicable copyright law, Fordham University is not the institutional owner, and is not liable as the result of any legal action.

© Site Concept and Design: Paul Halsall created 26 Jan 1996: latest revision 6 October 2023 [CV]