Saint of the Day – 5 February – St Adelaide of Guelders (c 970–1015) – Abbess, Apostle of Charity, Miracle-worker, Reformer, Counsellor to the Archbishop of Cologne. She is also known as Adelaide of Vilich, Adelaide of Bellich, Alice, Adelheid, Adalheide. Born in c970 in Geldern, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany and died on 5 February 1015 at Our Lady of the Capitol convent at Cologne, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany of natural causes.
When Adelaide was still very young, she entered the convent of St Ursula, Our Lady of the Capitol, founded by her parents in Cologne, where the Rule of St Jerome was followed. About 980, her parents founded the convent of Villich. Adelaide was “redeemed” from the Ursulione convent by exchange with a parcel of land and became abbess of this new convent, initially established as an unusually late example of a community of canonesses. Canons were attached to the convent in order that Mass might be said. Here, Adelaide introduced the stricter Benedictine rule. She insisted that the nuns under her care learn to read Latin, that they might understand the Mass.
According to the Catholic Encyclopedia “the fame of her sanctity and of her gift of working miracles soon attracted the attention of Saint Heribert, Archbishop of Cologne”, who could scarcely have ignored an abbess of her high connections. He appointed her abbess of the convent of St Maria im Kapitol, Cologne, to succeed her sister Bertha, who died about 1000. Emperor Otto III reaffirmed Vilich’s immunities from ecclesiastical interference and the right to appoint its own abbess, a title that remained only briefly in the founding family. She died at her convent in Cologne in the year 1015 but was buried at Vilich, where her feast was solemnly celebrated on 5 February and rapidly attracted pilgrims.
A hagiography, Vita Adelheidis, provides some information regarding her family.