Willigis of Mainz, St.
WILLIGIS OF MAINZ, ST.
Archbishop, influential supporter of the imperial Saxon dynasty; b. Schoningen, Germany; d. Mainz, Germany, Feb. 23, 1011. Of Saxon birth, and possibly of unfree status, Willigis was educated by Prince Otto's tutor, Volkold, who introduced him to the court of otto i, where Willigis became chancellor in 971. In 975 otto ii appointed him archbishop of Mainz as well as archchancellor. Although always politically active, Willigis reached the peak of his influence during otto iii's minority when he saved the throne for Otto and served as principal adviser to the regents, Theophano and Adelaide. Willigis's decisive action helped henry ii succeed to the German crown after Otto's early death, 1002. As archbishop, Willigis allowed extensive freedom to his 12 suffragans, who were predominantly his personal choices because of his intimacy with the royal court. They included men such as burchard of worms. Twice, however, in 992 and 996, Willigis exerted his authority to induce Bp. adalbert of prague to return to Bohemia from Rome. He engaged in a bitter controversy with Bp. bernward of hildesheim over the convent of gandersheim, which was on the boundary of their sees. In 987 Willigis first asserted jurisdiction over this convent. Thirteen years later the dispute became acute when a Roman synod (1001) denied Willigis's claims and he defied its decision and the emperor's wishes. The papal legate of sylvester ii declared him deposed from his see, but could not enforce the sentence. Finally, in 1006, Henry II persuaded Willigis to abandon his claims. He then cooperated with Henry in restoring the Diocese of Merseburg and in founding the See of Bamberg, both dependent on Mainz.
Willigis encouraged the contemporary monastic reform movement, founded monasteries and parishes, and gained renown for his artistic patronage. His cathedral, after 30 years of construction, burned to the ground on its dedication day, Aug. 30, 1009, but Willigis promptly began to rebuild. Though interested in education, he was more a man of action than of scholarship. Little information survives about his personal or spiritual life.
Feast: Feb. 23.
Bibliography: j. f. bÖhmer and c. will, eds., Regesta archiepiscoporum Moguntinensium, 2 v. (Innsbruck 1877–86) v.1. h. bÖhmer, Willigis von Mainz (Leipzig 1895). e. n. johnson, The Secular Activities of the German Episcopate, 919–1024 (Lincoln, NE 1932). a. hauck, Kirchengeschichte Deutschlands (Berlin-Leipzig) 3:268–270, 414–418. w. klenke, "Die Gebeine … Willigis," Mainzer Zeitschrift 56–57 (1961–62) 137–145. Willigis und sein Dom, ed. a. ph. brÜck (Mainz 1975). 1000 Jahre St. Stephan in Mainz: Festschrift, ed. h. hinkel (Mainz 1990).
[r. h. schmandt]