Saint of the Day – 8 July – St Killian Bishop, Martyr, Missionary, “Apostle of Franconia”(nowadays the northern part of Bavaria) – (c.640 in Mullagh, County Cavan, Ireland – Martyred on 8 July 689). Patronages – against rheumatism, against gout, whitewashers, Bavaria, Germany, archdiocese of Paderborn, Germany, diocese of Würzburg, Germany, Tuosist, County Kerry, Ireland (staging point for his mission to mainland Europe). Attributes – bishop being murdered with two priests, bishop holding a crozier and sword, bishop holding a large sword and standing between two priests, with Saint Colman and and Saint Totnan.
St Killian was born to the Irish nobility. He became a Monk at the monastery of Hy and is thought to have become the abbot. He was appointed as Bishop and travelled throughout Ireland. With eleven companions, he became a missionary through Gaul to Würzburg, Germany whose people he found to be pagan and whom he resolved to convert. On a pilgraimage to Rome, Italy in 686 he received papal authority for his mission; Pope Conon ordained him as a missionary bishop. Kilian then returned to Würzburg in 687 with Saint Colman and Saint Totnan. With them, he evangelised East Franconia and East Thuringia, areas in modern Bavaria, Germany, converted Duke Gozbert and a large part of Gozbert’s subjects.
After Duke Gozbert converted, Killian explained that the duke’s marriage with Geilana, his brother’s widow, was unlawful. He secured the duke’s promise to leave her, which made an enemy of pagan Geilana. She plotted against the saint and caused the murder of him, Colman and Totnan, and the burial of their corpses, sacred vessels, vestments and holy writings at the crime scene. When the duke returned to her, Geilana denied knowing the location of the missionaries. The actual murderer went mad, confessed his crime and died miserably. Geilana herself eventually died insane.
Kilian’s good work did not long survive him. When Saint Boniface arrived in Thuringia, he found evidence of his predecessor’s influence. The relics of the martyrs, after cures had brought fame to their burial place, were transferred to the Church of Our Lady in 743 by Saint Burchard, first Bishop of Würzburg. After Burchard obtained Pope Zachary’s permission for their public veneration, they were solemnly transferred, probably on 8 July 752, to the newly finished Cathedral of the Saviour. Later they were buried in Saint Kilian’s vault in the new cathedral erected on the spot where tradition says they were martyred. His skull is still preserved, is bejewelled and is processed on his feast day. Killian’s copy of the New Testament was preserved in Würzburg Cathedral until 1803, and since then has been in the university library.