Willehad (DNB00)

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WILLEHAD or WILHEAD (d. 789), bishop of Bremen and English missionary in Germany, was a Northumbrian, probably educated at York, and a friend of Alcuin [q. v.], as the letters of the latter prove (Pertz, Monumenta Germaniæ Historica, Script. ii. p. 379). He laboured for some time at Dokkum in Friesland, where St. Boniface was martyred (Vita S. Willehadi Episcopi Bremensis ad an. 789, auct. Anschario Bremensi Archiepiscopo, ap. Pertz, loc. cit. p. 380), but had to flee for his life. Summoned to the court of Charles the Great, he was by that monarch despatched to a district on the borders of Friesland and Saxony, about Bremen, called Wigmodia. Here he was very successful, and in his second year persuaded the Saxons to receive Christianity (ib. p. 381). During the revolt of Widukind, however, a large part of Saxony fell away from Christianity, and Willehad was again compelled to flee from a persecution in which many of his followers perished (ib. pp. 381–2). He visited Rome, and spent some years in reading and writing at Epternach and elsewhere, but ultimately returned to his work in Wigmodia. After the submission of Widukind Saxony again received Christianity, and Willehad was consecrated bishop of the diocese (ib. p. 383), apparently in 787. He made Bremen the seat of the bishopric, and built there St. Peter's church, which was dedicated on 1 Nov. 789 (ib. see note). About a week later, while visiting his diocese, Willehad fell ill at a little place below Vegesack, near Bremen, and died there (ib. p. 384, see note). Willehad is thought to have written some treatises, including a commentary on the epistles of St. Paul, which are believed to be extant, the latter in print (Wright, Biogr. Brit. Lit. i. 349).

[The best edition of Willehad's life by Anschar, bishop of Bremen, is that of Pertz above quoted; for other editions see Hardy's Descript. Cat. I. ii. 493.]

A. M. C.-e.