Bishop of Poitiers, missionary to Bavaria, b. first half of seventh century; martyred at end of same century
Emmeram, Saint, Bishop of Poitiers and missionary to Bavaria, b. at Poitiers in the first half of the seventh century; martyred at Ascheim (Bavaria) towards the end of the same century. Of a noble family of Aquitaine, he received a good education and was ordained priest. According to some authors Emmeram occupied the See of Poitiers, but this cannot be verified, for his name does not appear among the Bishops of Poitiers. He probably held the see for a short time, from the death of Dido (date unknown) to the episcopate of Ansoaldus (674). Having heard that the inhabitants of Bavaria were still idolaters, he determined to carry the light of the Faith to them. Ascending the Loire, crossing the Black Forest, and going down the Danube, he reached Ratisbon in a region then governed by the Duke Theodo. For three years he labored in Bavaria, preaching and converting the people, acquiring also a renown for holiness. He then turned his steps towards Rome, to visit the tombs of Sts. Peter and Paul, but after a five days’ journey, at a place now called Kleinhelfendorf, south of Munich, he was set upon by envoys of the Duke of Bavaria who tortured him cruelly. He died shortly afterwards at Ascheim, about fifteen miles distant. The cause of this attack and the circumstances attending his death are not known. According to the legend related by Aribo, Bishop of Freising, the first to write a life of St. Emmeram, Ota, daughter of the Duke of Bavaria, who had been seduced by Sigipaldus, an important personage of her father’s court, fearing her father’s wrath, confessed her fault to the bishop. Moved with compassion, he advised her to name himself, whom every one respected, as her seducer, and it was in consequence of this accusation that Theodo ordered him to be followed and put to death. The improbability of the tale, the details of the saint’s martyrdom, which are certainly untrue, and the fantastic account of the prodigies attending his death show that the writer, infected by the pious mania of his time, simply added to the facts imaginary details supposed to redound to the glory of the martyr.
All that is known as to the date of the saint’s death is that it took place on September 22, some time before St. Rupert’s arrival in Bavaria (696). At Kleinhelfendorf, where he was tortured, there stands today a chapel of St. Emmeram, and at Ascheim, where he died, is also a martyr’s chapel built in his honor. His remains were removed to Ratisbon and interred in the church of St. George, from which they were transferred about the middle of the eighth century by Bishop Gawibaldus to a church dedicated to the saint. This church having been destroyed by fire in 1642, the saint’s body was found under the altar in 1645 and was encased in a magnificent reliquary. The relics, which were canonically recognized by Bishop Ignaz de Senestrez in 1833, are exposed for the veneration of the faithful every year on September 22. It is impossible to prove that Emmeram occupied the See of Ratisbon, for the official episcopal list begins with the above-mentioned Gawibaldus, who was consecrated by St. Boniface in 739 and died in 764.