This calendar of saints is drawn from several denominations, sects, and traditions. Although it will no longer be updated daily, the index on the right will guide visitors to a saint celebrated on any day they choose. Additional saints will be added as they present themselves to Major.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

January 7 -- Feast of Blessed Widukind

Before discussing this beatus, let me acknowledge the discrepancy on Widukind's feast day.  Wikipedia offers it as January 6, but the wise convocation of scholars that forms the medieval religion list-serve declares that his feast is January 7.  SQPN is the tiebreaker, if in fact there was any tie to be broken: the 7th it is.

Blessed Widukind
Widukind was a polytheistic Saxon king against whom Charlemagne, King of the Franks, waged war.  In AD 777, he might have appeared in the Frankish court as a sign of homage -- apparently other Saxon leaders were there -- but instead he was in Denmark, handing with King Ziggy (okay, King Sigfried).  That puts a black ball in Charley's book, but he has problems in the south to keep him busy in 778, so Widukind takes advantage by attacking.  And attacking again the following year.  And the next few years after that.  Basically, King Chuck's busy with wars from Spain to Denmark through the 770s and 780s.

Widukind put together an alliance with Frisians and Wends, but even then he was soundly defeated in 785.  Historically, we know he surrendered and accepted baptism for himself and his people in exchange for peace.  For this much, he was beatified.  His circumstances before and after his surrender, however, are the subject of legend and speculation.

Prior to his surrender, the legend says, he slipped into Charlemagne's camp, disguised as a beggar.  He got swept up in the crowd that was attending Mass, but instead of seeing the priest consecrate bread, he saw him holding a beautiful child.  As the faithful came forward, the priest gave the same child to every person.  Widukind was so awestruck that he let his guard down and revealed the deformity of his finger to a soldier, who recognized and arrested him.  During interrogation, Widukind described the miraculous vision of the child.  Thus were peace and baptism negotiated.

Following this peace, Widukind drops out of the contemporary annals.  Historians speculate that he was sent to the Reichenau Abbey, one of the monasteries in which Good King Chaz imprisoned deposed enemies.  Of course it is also possible that Widukind was allowed to remain in charge of Saxony, or some part of it, as a vassal of King Chuck.  Later legends that he was a great builder of churches might support that claim.

The big idea here, I guess, is politics.  Charlemagne was forging a Christian empire, and even if Widukind saw the Christ Child in the Eucharist, the rest of the Saxons did not.  And yet, they all received baptism, with King Charlemagne as the godfather for each and every one of them.  Faith?  Probably not in every case.  Pragmatism?  Certainly.  Corruption?  Eh, it's better than perpetual war.  

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