St. Lioba of Bischoffsheim, Abbess Virgin
Born at Wimborne, Dorsetshire, England; died at Schornsheim (near
Mainz), Germany, c. 779.
Saint Lioba's mother, descended of an illustrious family and closely
(f.d. June 5),
had been barren
for a long time before the saint was born. Nevertheless, Ebba
immediately offered her to God and raised her in piety. She
received her first education at Minster-in-Thanet. While Lioba was
still young, she was placed in the care of the king's sister
at the Benedictine convent in Wimborne (Winburn or
"fountain of wine"). Lioba matured spiritually and emotionally under
Tetta's tutelage, and eventually took the religious veil.
Tetta also ensured that she had a good education. Letters to Boniface
reveal that Lioba understood and wrote verse in Latin. She limited her
reading, however, to books that would stir her spirit to love of God.
She knew by heart the divine precepts of the Old and New Testaments, the
principal canons of the Church, the holy maxims of the Fathers, and the
rules of the monastic life.
Boniface kept in touch with his young relative through frequent
correspondence. Recognising her virtue and abilities, in 748, he
requested of her bishop and abbess that she be sent to him with about 30
pious companions to undertake charitable work with women in Germany.
Although Tetta regretted the loss of her protege, she could not refuse.
Upon their arrival in Germany, Boniface settled the women religious at
Tauberbischofsheim ("bishop's home," possibly his own previous
residence). Lioba's zeal attracted so many vocations that her convent
was populating many other foundations throughout the country. Lioba's
convents were one of the most powerful factors in the conversion of
The saint organised her convents in the true monastic tradition with a
combination of manual labour (in scriptorium, kitchen,
bakery, brewery, and garden), intellectual study (all had to learn
Latin), community devotions, and leisure. No extreme austerities were
permitted to interfere with the corporate life established by the Rule.
Her love of God was so appealing. She was always ready to set her hand
to any task she might ask of others and did it with cheer and modesty.
It is said that she was beautiful, that her countenance was angelic, and
that her nuns loved her. Perhaps this is so because Lioba took to heart
Saint Paul advice: "Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory;
rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves"
(Philippians 2:3) and "anticipate one another in showing honour" (Romans
12:9b). Thus, Lioba often washed the feet of her sisters in emulation
of her Lord. The corporal acts of mercy were her delight, especially
extending hospitality to strangers and caring for the poor. She was
always patient, kind, and accessible to all who needed her.
Nevertheless, kings and princes honoured and respected her, especially
Pepin the Short,
(f.d. August 17)
Charlemagne often called her to court at Aix-la-Chapelle (Aachen) to
seek her advice. His wife,
(f.d. April 30),
deeply and always heeded her advice, as did some of the bishops.
Before his martyrdom, Saint Boniface commended Lioba and her community
to the care of
(f.d. October 16)
and his monks at Fulda,
and requested that her bones be buried next to his at their deaths that
they might be raised at the resurrection and spend eternity together. It
is said that the tender affection uniting Boniface and Lioba forms one
of the most charming episodes in church history. Following Boniface's
death in 754, Lioba frequently visited Fulda. By special dispensation,
she would be allowed with two elder sisters to join in the choir.
Upon the advice of Lullus, Lioba resigned her offices in her old age and
retired to the convent at Schornsheim, where she redoubled her prayer
and penance. Occasionally she would answer Empress Hildegard's plea to
visit her, but return to her cell as quickly as she could. On her last
visit, she embraced the queen, kissed her on her garment, forehead, and
mouth, then said: "Farewell, precious part of my soul; may Christ, our
Creator and Redeemer, grant that we may see each other without confusion
in the day of judgement."
After her death, Lioba was interred at Fulda, on the north side of the
high altar, near the tomb of Saint Boniface. Her tomb was honoured with
miracles; her biographer, Rudolph of Fulda, assures us he was himself an
eyewitness to several. Her relics were translated in 819 and again in
838 to the church of Mount Saint Peter. Her name was first inserted
into a martyrology by Hrabanus Maurus c. 836
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