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Ewald, Saints

Two English priests and martyrs of the same name in Old Saxony about 695

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Ewald (or HEWALD), SAINTS, 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 color 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 labors was the country of the ancient Saxons, now part of Westphalia, and covered by the dioceses of Munster, Osnabruck, and Paderborn. At first the Ewalds took up their abode in the house of the steward of a certain Saxon earl or ealdorman (satrapa). 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 celebrated Mass, for 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 October 3 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 he 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 honors 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 Münster, by Archbishop Anno of Cologne, at the opening of the shrine in 1074. These relics were probably destroyed by the Anabaptists in 1534. When St. Norbert visited Cologne, in 1121, he obtained two small vessels containing the relics of several saints, and among them were bones of the sainted Ewalds. These were deposited either at Premontre, or at Florennes, a Premonstratensian monastery in the province of Namur. The two Ewalds are honored as patrons in Westphalia, and are mentioned in the Roman Martyrology on October 3. Their feast is celebrated in the dioceses of Cologne and Münster.



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