Saint Willibrord was born in Northumbria in 658 of parents who had converted to Christianity. His father Wilgils sent the young child as an oblate to the monastery of Ripon and withdrew from the world as a hermit. Willibrord grew up under the influence of St. Wilfrid, bishop of York, who had successfully imposed respect for Roman traditions in the face of insular particularism. At the age of 20, Willibrord went to Rathmelsigi in Ireland, “the Island of Saints” where he adopted a life of strict ascetisim before being ordained as a priest in 688.
Given a taste of the “peregrinatio”, the spiritual pilgrimage which involves renouncing terrestrial ties to go preach the Gospel to the pagan population, Willibrord left for the continent in 690 with 11 companions to evangelise the Frieslanders. He approached his activities with very great pragmatism in seeking at first the protection of the King of the Franks, Pepin II. Moreover, he intended to act in close contact with the Papal authorities. Twice he made the arduous trip to Rome where, in 695, he was made archbishop of Utrecht by Pope Serge I.
As encouragement, the nobility heaped rich donations on him which allowed him to found churches and monasteries. In 698, Irmine, abbess of a convent in Oeren/Trèves, mother-in-law of Pepin II, gifted to Willibrord half of a property in Echternach, a donation completed by receipt of the other half belonging to Pepin II, which allowed Willibrord to found an abbey there. It was from there that he left to spread the gospel in Friesland, in Denmark and in Thuringia. He suffered many setbacks until the moment when Charles Martel crushed Radbod, the savage adversary of Christianity.
He died on 7 November 739, at the exceptional age for the era of 81 years, at the abbey of Echternach where he was interred according to his wishes. His tomb was frequently visited by numerous pilgrims, so the small Merovingian church had to be replaced around the year 800 by a church with three naves.
|Price of the stamp||0,70 €|
|Layout||Drawing of Olmic (L) after an original made by Anton Wendling (†)|
|Printing||Multicolored high-resolution offset by CARTOR SECURITY PRINT S.A., La Loupe (F)|
|Dimensions||40 x 30 mm, 10 stamps per sheet.|