Ansgar, St.

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Abbot, archbishop, "Apostle of the North;" b. near Corbie, Picardy, France, c. 801; d. Bremen, Germany, Feb. 3, 865. Ansgar (Anskar, Anschaire, Anschar, Scharies) entered the benedictines (814?) at Corbie, where he had been educated. After 823, he was a teacher and preacher at Corvey. After the conversion of the Danish King Harold at the court of Louis the Pious, Ansgar went to Denmark as a missionary; but three years later (829) he returned without having achieved any remarkable success. When a Swedish embassy asked for Christian missionaries, he immediately set out for that country with Witmar, another monk from Corvey. The ship on which they sailed fell into the hands of pirates, and only after great hardships did the two priests arrive at Björkö, where King Björn received them well. Among Ansgar's converts was Heriger, governor and councilor to the King. Emperor Louis recalled Ansgar 18 months later and designated him abbot of Corvey and bishop of Hamburg, a new diocese planned earlier by Charlemagne and decreed by the Reichstag at Thionville (Nov. 10, 831). Consecrated in 832 by drogo of metz, Ansgar proceeded to Rome, where Pope gregory iv made him archbishop and the papal legate for the Scandinavian and remaining Slavic missions. In 834 Louis assigned Turholt monastery as Ansgar's training center and source of financial support for the Nordic mission, but Louis's death (840) and the Treaty of Verdun (843), which divided the empire, deprived Ansgar of this source of income. After 13 years of work in Hamburg, Ansgar suffered his gravest setback when Northmen (845) burned Hamburg to the ground. Sweden and Denmark returned to paganism. In 847, Emperor Louis the German appointed Ansgar to the vacant See of Bremen, which was to be united with Hamburg, although the pope and the archbishop of Cologne actually refused to recognize this amalgamation. From his see in Bremen, Ansgar directed new missionary activities in the North. His associates, Gautbert, Bishop of Sweden, and Nithard, who had been working in Denmark and Sweden since 832, were caught in the pagan rebellion, and so it was Ansgar who traveled to Denmark, converted King Haarik, and, having obtained Louis the German's authorization and a letter of introduction from Haarik, set out for Sweden (852853). There King Olaf cast lots to determine whether Christian missionaries should be allowed to return or not. The verdict was favorable, and the king himself was eventually won over to the Christian faith. Nithard had been killed during the persecutions, and Bishop Gautbert, a close friend, refused to return to his see. He was replaced by rembert, Ansgar's successor at Bremen-Hamburg. Contrary to his wish, Ansgar was not to become a martyr; he died peacefully in Bremen and was buried in the cathedral. He was an extraordinary preacher, a modest, self-effacing priest and ascetic, a benefactor of the poor and sick, and a brilliant administrator, whom his biographer, Bishop Rembert, named a saint. Pope Nicholas I confirmed the canonization. St. Ansgar is usually depicted with a fur collar on his episcopal robes and with a model church held in his hand.

Feast: Feb 3.

Bibliography: Monumenta Germaniae Historica: Scriptores 2:683725. Monumenta Germaniae Historica: Scriptores rerum Germanicarum v.51. rembert, Anskar, tr. c. h. robinson (London 1921); tr. g. waitz (Hannover 1977); Das Leben des heiligen Ansgar von seinem Nachfolger Rimbert, ed. w. schamoni (Düsseldorf 1965). w. lÜdtke, "Die Verehrung des hl. Anschar," Schriften des Vereins für Schleswigholsteinische Kirchengeschichte 8.2 (1926) 123162. É. de moreau, Saint Anschaire (Louvain 1930). h. dÖrries, Ansgar; seine Bedeutung für die Mission (Hamburg 1965). h. gamillscheg, Ich kenne keine Angst: Ansgar, Missionar bei den Wikingern (Mödling 1979). a. m. zimmermann, Kalendarium Benedictinum (Metten 193338) 1:159165. a. hauck, Kirchengeschichte Deutschlands (Berlin-Leipzig 1958) 2:693707. j. l. baudot and l. chaussin, Vies des saints et des bienhereux selon l'ordre du calendrier avec l'historique des fêtes (Paris 193556) 2:7378. a. butler, The Lives of the Saints, ed. h. thurston and d. attwater (New York 1956) 1:242243. s. hilpisch, Lexicon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner (Freiburg 195765) 1:597598. adam of bremen, History of the Archbishops of Hamburg-Bremen, tr. f. j. tschan (New York 1959).

[s. a. schulz]