Burchard (DNB00)

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BURCHARD, Saint (d. 754), the first bishop of Würzburg, is said to have been of a noble English family, but beyond this fact there is nothing authentic known respecting his origin. He was one of the most active associates of his countryman, St. Boniface, archbishop of Mayence, in the evangelisation of the partly German, partly Slavonic peoples who then inhabited the neighbourhood of the Main. In the autumn of 741 he was consecrated bishop of Würzburg by Boniface, who at the same time established two other bishoprics, Buraburg and Eichstädt, to which he appointed his friends Witta and Willibald. Boniface made known these appointments to Pope Zacharias, whose letter of ratification addressed to Burchard is still extant. The fact that papal confirmation was sought for these appointments is regarded as an important step in the development of the papal authority over the German church. Burchard's name is also associated with another great incident in this movement towards ecclesiastical unity, the Germanic council of 747, at which the German bishops formally acknowledged their subordination to the holy see. Burchard was the messenger who conveyed the decisions of this council to the pope. It is alleged that he was charged by the German princes with the mission of procuring papal sanction to the deposition of Childeric III and the elevation of Pepin to the Frankish throne. Although this statement rests on no contemporary authority, it is not intrinsically improbable. Burchard built the church of St. Martin at Würzburg, and translated thither the remains of St. Kilian, the first apostle of Franconia. In 751 he resigned his see in favour of Megingaud, and retired with six monks to the monastery of Hohenburg (Homburg), where he died, probably on 2 Feb. 754, although his biographer, Egilward (twelfth century), states that he lived until 791. He was canonised by Benedict VII in 984. A number of sermons, which are ascribed to Burchard on apparently good grounds, are extant in manuscript in the cathedral library at Würzburg, and specimens of them are printed by Eckart, Comm. de Rebus Franc. Or. i. 837. His festival in the Roman calendar is 14 Oct.

[Vita S. Burchardi in Canisius, Ant. Lect. ed. Basnage, vol. iii.; Vita S. Burchardi (ascribed to Egilward) in Surius, Vitæ Sanctorum, 14 Oct.; Eckart, Comm. de Rebus Franciæ Orientalis, vol. i. 389 ff. 837; Hahn, Jahrbücher der fränkischen Geschichte, 25 ff.; S. Bonifacii Epp., ed. Wurdtwein.]

H. B.