Saint of the Day – 17 March – Blessed Conrad of Bavaria O. Cist (c 1105-1126 or 1154) Cistercian Monk, Hermit, pilgrim, miracle-worker, Canon and Civil Lawyer. Born in c 1105 Veitsburg, Baden-Württemberg (in modern Germany) and died in either 1126 or 1154 at the Santa Maria ad Cryptam, a Benedictine Monastery in Molfetta, near Modugno, Italy of natural causes. Patronage – City and Diocese of Molfetta. Blessed Conrad has 3 Feast days – the liturgical feast falls on 9 February, the day of the translation. The day of his birth into Heaven is commemorated on 17 March. The transfer of the relics to the new Cathedral, is celebrated on the second Sunday of July. He is also known as Conrad di Baviera, Conrad of Clairvaux, Conrad of Molfetta, Conrad the Confessor, Corrado, Konrad.
There are different versions of the life of Conrad. The common elements are these below:
Conrad was born in Ravensburg, in Swabia, around 1105, son of the noble Henry IX of Welf known as the Black and Wulfilde of Saxony. Henry became Duke of Bavaria in 1120, succeeding his brother Guelph V. He was succeeded in 1126 by his first-born Henry X the Superb, while the second-born Guelph VI became Duke of Spoleto. The daughters Giuditta, Matilde and Wulfilde entered into important marriages and from Giuditta, Corrado’s elder sister, the Emperor Federico Barbarossa was born. Among the ancestors of Conrad we must include St Conrad of Constance (c 900-975).
Conrad, being the youngest son, he was educated in literary studies and was initiated by his parents to an Ecclesiastical career near Cologne with the intention of making him succeed Archbishop Federico, his paternal cousin. During this period, the young man adorned himself with such virtues as to be considered worthy of the highest honour, arousing admiration among the clergy and the people. He educated himself in higher studies and in ecclesiastical discipline, in Canon and Civil law in Cologne. But his soul was fervently listening to the preaching of Arnoldo, Cistercian Abbot of Morimond. He understood that his vocation was monastic and, in breach of the expectations of the family, he abandoned the honours of his own rank to embrace, while still a teenager, the severe rule of the Cistercian Order at Morimond.
Shortly after Arnoldo started an expedition to the Holy Land for the foundation of a Monastery, involving the Monks of Morimond and arousing the disapproval of St Bernard of Clairvaux, Master of the Order, who was convinced, that in that period, soldiers rather than Monks were needed in Palestine . In two epistles, one sent to the Canon Brunone of the counts of Berg and Altena and the other, sent to Pope Callixtus II, he sought support to prevent the expedition, since among the Monks involved, there was Conrad, the noble young man dragged away. from Cologne a few years ago with great scandal.
According to sources which favour a death in 1126, at the beginning of 1125, Arnoldo died suddenly and the enterprise failed. But Conrad continued the pilgrimage alone, attracted by the mystical charm of the land of Jesus. He crossed the Alps and, having reached Puglia, visited the Sanctuaries of St Michael Michele the Archangel and St Nicholas of Bari, obligatory stops for pilgrims heading to Palestine.
However, exhausted by the journey undertaken with makeshift means, he fell ill before embarking, and found refuge in the Benedictine community of St Maria in the countryside of Modugno, in the Diocese of Bari.
Conrad lived the last months of his short life in a cave adjacent to the Chapel, as a Hermit, praying, fasting and sleeping on the bare rock. He aroused great admiration in the locals, who immediately began to resort to his intercession.
He probably died in the winter between 1125 and 1126, just over twenty years old. Tradition fixes the day of death as 17 March. His body was interred in the Chapel of St Maria and the tomb became a pilgrimage destination.
Those in favour of a death in 1154, add extra years spent either as a Monk at Clairvaux or as a Hermit either in the Holy Land or IN the grotto at Modugno. According to some, Conrad accompanied King Conrad to the Holy Land in 1147 on the Second Crusade, returning in the same year but after some time in Clairvaux travelled back to the Holy Land in 1151 with Bernard’s permission to live as a Hermit; his return to Europe, is dated to 1153, caused by the news that Bernard had fallen ill.
His local cultus was confirmed on 7 April 1832 by his Beatification by Pope Gregory XVI .Nevertheless, he is commonly referred to as aSsaint. In the Cistercian Order his Feast is celebrated on 9 February. The Feast of Conrad is celebrated annually in Molfetta by a procession that carries the skull of the saint in a silver reliquary round the town.
Several times Blessed Conrad has manifested his powerful intercession. For example, in periods of drought, carrying the relic of his skull in procession often resulted in rain.
Famous is an episode of 1529 when, as the City was attacked by surprise at night, by the French troops of Count Caracciolo, the citizens felt called in their sleep by a warrior who was warning them of the imminent danger. They, having reached the walls, saw, surrounded by light, the Madonna of the Martyrs, Blessed Corrado, in whom they recognised the mysterious warrior and St Nicholas. The French army, terrified, fled.
Molfetta was immune through his intercession from many epidemics, including the plague of 1657 and out of gratitude, silver was collected to have a bust sculpted in which to keep his skull. Blessed Conrad has also been credited with the power to calm storms, floods and earthquakes.
With the displacement of the episcopal seat, on 10 July 1785 the relics were transferred to the new Cathedral and the Old Cathedral, previously dedicated to the Assumption, was re-dedicated to him. In 1834 his own Mass was approved in Molefetta.
Since 1893 the body is kept in a silver and crystal Reliquary, moved in 1981 to the Chapel of Sts Peter and Paul of the Cathedral. In a safe there is the silver bust containing the skull and the reliquary of the third cervical vertebra, once brought to the bedside of the dying. Fragments of the bones are kept in the various Churches of the city. In Modugno tthe right thumb are preserved in the Cathedral and a bone fragment at the Sanctuary of St Maria ad Cryptam.
For centuries it was believed that Conrad died at an old age and, as such, he was represented with a white beard, cape and staff as a pilgrim. The sackcloth and skull often appear, symbols of self-mortification, and crown and sceptre abandoned on the ground, a sign of noble origins.