Saint of the Day – 20 June – St Adalbert of Magdeburg (910-981) “Apostle of the Slavs” – Bishop, Monk, Missionary – born in 910 at Lorraine region and died on 20 June 981 at Merseburg, Germany of natural causes. St Adalbert was the first Archbishop of Magdeburg (from 968) and a successful missionary to the Polabian Slavs to the east of what is contemporarily Germany.
Adalbert was a monk at the Benedictine Monastery of St Maximinus in Trier, Germany. He was consecrated a Roman Catholic bishop and in 961 was sent to Kievan Rus – (was a loose federation of East Slavic tribes in Europe from the late 9th to the mid-13th century, under the reign of the Rurik dynasty. The modern peoples of Belarus, Russia and Ukraine all claim Kievan Rus’ as their cultural ancestors, with Belarus and Russia deriving their names from it.).
Princess Olga of Kiev had asked Emperor Otto I (the Great) to provide her a missionary from the Roman Catholic Church. Her son, Svyatoslav opposed her and stole her crown as soon as Adalbert arrived in Kievan Rus. Adalbert’s missionary companions were slain and Adalbert barely escaped. Kievan Rus subsequently was converted by missionaries from Constantinople and became part of Byzantine Christianity.
Upon escaping Kievan Rus, Adalbert traveled to Mainz, Germany, where he became the Abbot of Wissembourg in Alsace. There he worked to improve the education of the monks. He later became the first Archbishop of Magdeburg, Saxony-Anhalt, in contemporary Germany.
The Archepiscopacies of Hamburg and Bremen had been established with the intention that they would serve as bases for missions in northern and eastern Europe. The Archdiocese of Magdeburg was designated to provide missionaries to the eastern European Slavs. Adalbert also established dioceses for Naumburg, Meissen, Merseburg, Brandenburg; Havelberg and Poznań, Poland. He died on 20 June 981 in Zscherben (contemporarily in (former) Geusa, in Merseburg, Saxony-Anhalt, Germany).
A student of Adalbert for some years named Wojciech Sławnikowic, who at his Confirmation took the very name of his tutor, went on from Adalbert’s tutelage to successfully evangelise many Slavic peoples, receive the crown of martyrdom in Prussia and was canonisded as St Adalbert of Prague (c 956 – 23 April 997). Evidently St Adalbert of Magdeburg transmitted something of his wisdom, zeal and own mission to his student, the younger St Adalbert (of Prague)