St. Ewald the Fair and St. Ewald the Dark (+695) of Northumbria, Missionary Priests and Martyrs in Germany.

3 October

Previous Saint This month Next Saint
[Previous day's last saint] [back to Calendar] [Next day's first saint]

Martyrs in Old Saxony about 695. They were two priests and natives of Northumbria, England. Both bore the same name, but were distinguished as Ewald the Black and Ewald the Fair, from the difference in the colour of their hair and complexions.

According to the example of many at that time, they spent several years as students in the schools of Ireland. Ewald the Black was the more learned of the two, but both were equally renowned for holiness of life. They were apparently acquainted with St. Willibrord, the Apostle of Friesland, and were animated with his zeal for the conversion of the Germans. Indeed, by some they have been actually numbered among the eleven companions of that saint, but it is more probable they did not set out from England till after St. Willibrord's departure. They entered upon their mission about 690. The scene of their labours was the country of the ancient Saxons, now part of Westphalia.

At first the Ewalds took up their abode in the house of the steward of a certain Saxon earl or ealdormen (satrapa). The Venerable Bede remarks that "the old Saxons have no king, but they are governed by several ealdormen [satrapas] who during war cast lots for leadership, but who in time of peace are equal in power" (Hist. Eccl., V, 10). The steward entertained his two guests for several days, and promised to conduct them to the chieftain, as they affirmed they had a message of considerable importance to deliver to him.

Meanwhile, the Ewalds omitted nothing of their religious exercises. They prayed often, recited the canonical hours, and they carried with them all that was necessary for the Holy Sacrifice. The pagan Saxons, understanding from these things that they had Christian priests and missionaries in their midst, began to suspect that their aim was to convert their over-lord, and thus destroy their temples and their religion. Inflamed with jealousy and anger, they resolved that the Ewalds should die. Ewald the Fair they quickly despatched with the sword, but Ewald the Black they subjected to torture, because he was the spokesman and showed greater boldness. He was torn limb from limb, after which the two bodies were cast into the Rhine. This is understood to have happened on 3 October at a place called Aplerbeck, where a chapel still stands.

When the ealdorman heard of what had been done he was exceedingly angry, and took vengeance by ordering the murderers to be put to death and their village to be destroyed by fire. Meanwhile the martyred bodies were miraculously carried against the stream up the Rhine, for the space of forty miles, to the place in which the companions of the Ewalds were residing. As they floated along, a heavenly light, like a column of fire, was seen to shine above them. Even the murderers are said to have witnessed the miraculous brightness. Moreover, one of the martyrs appeared in vision to the monk Tilmon (a companion of the Ewalds), and told him where the bodies would be found: "that the spot would be there where he should see a pillar of light reaching from earth to heaven". Tilmon arose and found the bodies, and interred them with the honours due to martyrs. From that time onwards, the memory of the Ewalds was annually celebrated in those parts. A spring of water is said to have gushed forth in the place of the martyrdom.

Pepin, Duke of Austrasia, having heard of the wonders that had occurred, caused the bodies to be translated to Cologne, where they were solemnly enshrined in the collegiate church of St. Cunibert. The heads of the martyrs were bestowed on Frederick, Bishop of Munster, by Archbishop Anno of Cologne, at the opening of the shrine in 1074. These relics were probably destroyed by the impious Anabaptists in 1534.

The two Ewalds are honoured as patron saints of Westphalia.

Previous Saint This month Next Saint
[Previous day's last saint] [back to Calendar] [Next day's first saint]

Lives kindly supplied by:
For All the Saints:

These Lives are archived at:

content © 2008, Ambrose Mooney
layout © 2008, Kathleen Hanrahan and Mo! Langdon
Page last updated: 8 October 2008
Please send us comments, corrections, etc. - Kathleen or Mo!.
This page's URL: <>