Saint of the Day – 2 May – Saint Wiborada of Saint Gallen OSB (Died 926) Virgin, Martyr Anchorite,ascetic, gifted with the charism of prophecy and miracles – also known as Guiborat, Weibrath or Viborata – born in the 9th century in Klingna, Aargau, Switzerland and died by being axed to death in 926. Her biography was written in c 1075 by Herimannus, a Monk of the Abbey of Saint Gallen. Saint Wiborada was the first woman formally Canonised by the Holy See, by Pope Clement II in 1047. Patronages – libraries, librarians.
Wiborada was born to a wealthy noble family in Swabia. When they invited the sick and poor into their home, Wiborada proved a capable nurse. Her brother, Hatto, became a Priest. A pilgrimage to Rome influenced Hatto to decide to become a Priest and Monk at the Abbey of Saint Gallen, a decision which Wiborada supported. After the death of their parents, Wiborada joined Hatto and became a Benedictine at the same Abbey. Wiborada became settled at the Monastery and Hatto taught her Latin, so that she could chant the Liturgy of the Hours. There, she occupied herself by making Hatto’s clothes and helping to bind many of the books in the Monastery library.
At this time, it appears that Wiborada was charged with some type of serious infraction or wrongdoing and was subjected to the medieval practice of ordeal by fire to prove her innocence. Although she was exonerated, the embarrassment probably influenced her next decision – withdrawing from the world and becoming an ascetic.
When she petitioned to become an Anchoress, Bishop Salomon of Konstanz arranged for her to stay in a cell next to the church of Saint George near the Monastery, where she remained for four years before relocating to a cell adjoining the church of Magnus of Füssen in 891.
She became renowned for her austerity and was said to have a gift of prophecy, both of which drew admirers and hopeful students. One of these, a woman named Rachildis, whom Wiborada had cured of a disease, joined her as an Anchoress. A young student at St Gallen, Ulrich, is said to have visited Wiborada often. She prophesied his elevation to the episcopate of Augsburg.
In 925, she predicted a Hungarian invasion of her region. Her warning allowed the Priests and Religious of St Galen and of St Magnus to hide the books and wine and escape into caves in nearby hills. The most precious manuscripts were transferred to the Monastery at Reichenau Island. Her abbot, Engilbert, urged Wiborada to escape to safety but she refused to leave her cell.
In 926 the Magyar marauders reached St Gallen. They burned down St Magnus Monastery and broke into the roof of Wiborada’s cell. Upon finding her kneeling in prayer, they clove her skull with a shepherd’s axe. Her companion Rachildis was not killed and lived another 21 years, during which her disease returned. She spent the rest of her life learning patience through suffering.
Wiborada’s refusal to leave her cell and the part she played in saving the lives of the Priests and Religious of her Convent have merited her the title of Martyr.