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St. Willibrord of Utrecht, Apostle to the Frisians

VII/VIII Centuries
The apostle to the Frisians was born in Northumbria c. 658 and was educated under Wilfred at Ripon. When Egfrid exiled his teacher, Willibrord went to Rathnelsigi (Mellifont) in Ireland, where he became a disciple of St. Egbert. In 690, Egbert sent Willibrord and 11 (or 12) companions to evangelize Friesland, which Pepin II the Young had recently conquered. The missionaries were successful in West Friesland but less successful in northern territories, like Denmark. Sergius III consecrated Willibrord archbishop of the Frisians in 695, and Pepin gave him land near Utrecht, which became the seat of the see. Three years later, Willibrord established a monastery at Echternacht, which became a second base of missionary activity. When Radbod, Duke of the Frisians, regained control of Friesland (715), he banished Willibrord and persecuted Christians. On the death of Radbod in 719, Willibrord was restored to see see, into which he introduced the chorespicopi, or suffragan bishops, an office he adopted from Celtic ecclesiology. Willibrord brought the practice of Christian dating to the documents of the Frankish kingdom. Boniface of Crediton assisted Willibrord in his missionary activities and continued preaching to the Frisians after Willibrord's death in 739.

Karen Rae Keck


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