Saint of the Day – 3 May – Saint Ansfrid of Utrecht (c 940-1010) Bishop, Count of Huy and the sword-bearer and Knight for Otto I, Holy Roman Emperor. He became Bishop of Utrecht in 995. He appears to have been the son or grandson of Lambert, a nobleman of the Maasgau, the area where he later founded the Abbeys of Thorn and Heiligenberg and to have been related to various important contemporaries including the royal family. Born in c 940 in the Brabant region of the Netherlands and died on 3 May 1010 in Amersfoort, Netherlands of natural causes. Patronage – Amersfoort. He is also known as Ansfridus, Ansfried, Ansfrido.
The principal source of information regarding Ansfrid is the De diversitatem temporum by the Benedictine Albert of Metz, written around 1022.
Ansfrid had the same name as a paternal uncle, Ansfrid the elder, a Count who held 15 counties. The young Ansfrid studied secular and clerical subjects under another paternal uncle, Robert, Archbishop of Trier, before attending the Cathedral school at Cologne.
In 961, Otto I took Ansfrid into his personal service and made him his swordbearer. When Otto was in Rome the following year to be crowned Holy Roman Emperor, he directed Ansfrid to keep close at hand ,with the sword as a precaution against any unforeseen eventualities.
Because of his Christian commitment, he was highly respected and an important Knight of the Emperor’s circle, holding rich possessions along the Meuse, in Brabant and Gelderland. Possibly all or some of his counties were inherited from his paternal uncle of the same name. As Count, he had considerable success in suppressing piracy and armed robbery. In 985, Otto III granted Ansfrid the right to mint coins at Medemblik, on the north-south shipping route through the Vlie, as well as, the income from tolls and tax collecting.
He was married to Heresuint or Hilsondis. They had one child, Benedicta. He founded a Romanesque Abbey Church on his wife’s estate at Thorn under the patronage of St Michael. The Abbey itself had a double cloister that housed both man and women religious. Ansfrid planned it as a place of retirement for himself and his family after he left public service. His wife was to be the first Abbess but she died on her way there and Benedicta, their daughter, took her place.
After his wife’s death, Ansfrid desired to retire and become a Monk. However, in 995, Emperor Otto III and Bishop Notker of Liège persuaded the reluctant Ansfrid to assume the then vacant Aee of Utrecht. Ansfrid objected that as he had borne weapons as a Knight, he was unworthy of the office but the Emperor prevailed. The elderly Count laid down his sword on the Altar of St Mary in Aachen and was Ordained Priest and Consecratedas the eighteenth Bishop of Utrecht, in the same ceremony. Bishop Ansfrid never took a commission in the royal army, in contrast to Notger and the Bishop of Cologne.
In 1006 Bishop Ansfrid founded the Abbey of Heiligenberg, also under the patronage of St Michael. Toward the end of his life he became increasingly weakened through fasting and retired there as a Monk, caring for the sick, although almost blind himself.
Upon his death, during the funeral, the faithful of Heiligenberg took possession of his body, while the people of Utrecht were extinguishing a not coincidental fire. The Abbess of Thorn mediated and Ansfrid was buried in the Cathedral of Saint Martin in Utrecht.