Burchard of Worms

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Bishop and canonist; b. Wesse, c. 965; d. Aug. 20, 1025. Burchard was a member of the noble family of Hesse. He studied at several schools, the most important of which was the Benedictine school at Lobbes in the Diocese of Cambrai. He entered the service of Archbishop Willigis of Mainz, who ordained Burchard to the diaconate. Burchard held the positions of first chamberlain and primate (judge) of the city of Mainz. His discretion and impartiality in fulfilling these offices brought him to the attention of Emperor Otto III, and the result was Burchard's being appointed by Otto III as bishop of Worms in the year 1000. Burchard was then ordained to the priesthood and consecrated bishop by Archbishop Willigis at Seligenstadt.

As bishop of Worms, Burchard first had to establish his authority. The rival power of an important family, supported by the Saxon dynasty, had been in complete control and were hostile to the interests of the Church. Burchard labored tirelessly for the temporal and spiritual welfare of his diocese. He erected several monasteries and churches and undertook the reconstruction of the Cathedral of Worms in 1016. He also paid special attention to the education and formation of his clerics in his cathedral school. In the interest of diocesan ecclesiastical reform, he conducted several diocesan visitations and synods.

Burchard was a leading figure in the general ecclesiastical reform taking hold in Germany at the beginning of the 11th century. He attended several provincial councils: at Thionville (100203), over which Henry II presided; at Frankfurt (1007); and at Seligenstadt (1023). This last council was particularly noteworthy for its reform decrees.

Burchard is also the author of one of the most important canonical collections of the Middle Ages, namely, his Decretum collectarium (known later as the Brocardus ). He compiled this collection between the years 1007 and 1014 with the aid of Oldbert of Gembloux. Between the years 1023 and 1025 he promulgated a celebrated body of laws known as the Leges et statuta familiae S. Petri Wormatiensis. These laws were concerned principally with the impartial administration of justice, and they are a useful source for customs and conditions of the feudal society of that period (they may be found in Monumenta Germaniae Historica I Constitutiones 639644).

Shortly after Burchard's death, one of his clerics wrote his biography, providing valuable historical details of his life and of the period (cf. Vita Burchardi; Patrologia latina 140:507). Apparently Burchard was highly esteemed by his people, but there does not appear to have been any public cult given to him after his death.

Bibliography: g. allemang, Dictionnaire d'histoire et de géographie ecclésiastiques (Paris 1912) 10:124547. j. pÉtraugay, Dictionnaire de droit canonique (Paris 193565) 2:114157. k. weinzierl, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche (Freiburg 195765) 2:783784. p. fournier and g. lebras, Histoire des collections canoniques en occident depuis les fausses décrétales jusqu'au Décret de Gratien (Paris 193132) 1:364421.

[j. m. buckley]

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Burchard of Worms

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