Bruno of Querfurt

Saint Bruno of Querfurt

A medieval fresco depicting St Bruno's death
Bishop and Martyr; Second Apostle of the Prussians
Born c. 974
Querfurt, Saxony-Anhalt
Died February 14, 1009
Venerated in Eastern Orthodox Church
Roman Catholic Church
Feast October 15

Saint Bruno of Querfurt (c. 974 – February 14, 1009 AD), also known as Brun and Boniface,[1] is a sainted missionary bishop and martyr, who was beheaded near the border of Kievan Rus and Lithuania while trying to spread Christianity in Eastern Europe. He is also called the second "Apostle of the Prussians".


Early life

Bruno was from a noble family of Querfurt (now in Saxony-Anhalt). He is rumored to have been a relative of the Holy Roman Emperor Otto III. At the age of six, he was sent to be educated in Magdeburg, seat of Adalbert of Magdeburg, the teacher and namesake of Saint Adalbert. While still a youth, he was made a canon of the Cathedral of Magdeburg. The fifteen-year-old Otto III made Bruno a part of his royal court. While in Rome for Otto's imperial coronation, Bruno met Saint Adalbert of Prague, the first "Apostle of the Prussians", killed a year later, which inspired Bruno to write a biography of St. Adalbert when he reached the recently Christianized and consolidated Kingdom of Hungary himself. Bruno spent much time at the monastery where Adalbert had become a monk and where abbot John Canaparius may have written a life of Saint Adalbert. Later, Bruno entered a monastery near Ravenna that Otto had founded, and underwent strict ascetic training under the guidance of Saint Romuald.

Missionary life

The lands given St. Bruno in 1003 were in the region shown on left bank of the Oder, Hither Pomerania along the coast, or the future Margraviate of Brandenburg to its south.

Otto III hoped to open a monastery between the Elbe and the Oder (somewhere in the pagan lands that became Brandenburg or Western Pomerania) to help convert the local population into Christianity. In 1003 Pope Sylvester II appointed Bruno, at the age of 33, to head a mission amongst the pagan peoples of Eastern Europe. Owing to a regional conflict between the Holy Roman Emperor Henry II and Duke Boleslaus I of Poland he delayed the plans for the monastery, and so Bruno set out for Hungary. There he went to the places that Saint Adalbert of Prague had attended. Bruno tried to get Ahtum, the Duke of Banat, who was under jurisdiction of Patriarchate of Constantinople to get under jurisdiction of the Bishop of Rome, but this precipitated a large controversy leading to organized opposition from local monks. Bruno elected to gracefully exit the region after he first finished his book, the famous "Life of St. Adalbert," a literary memorial of much worth giving a history of the (relatively recent) conversion of the Hungarians.

After this diplomatic failure, Bruno went to Kiev, where Grand Duke Vladimir I authorized him to make Christian converts among the Pechenegs, semi-nomadic Turkic peoples living between the Danube and the Don rivers. Bruno spent five months there and baptized some thirty adults. He helped to bring about a peace treaty between them and the ruler of Kiev.

Before leaving for Poland, Bruno consecrated a bishop for the Pechenegs. While in Poland he consecrated the first Bishop of Sweden and is said to have sent emissaries to baptize the king of Sweden,[2] whose mother had come from Poland. Bruno found out that his friend Benedict and four companions had been killed by robbers in 1003. Bruno took eyewitness accounts and wrote down a touching history of the so-called Five Martyred Brothers.

Mission to Prussia and death

In the autumn or at the end of 1008 Bruno and eighteen companions set out to found a mission among the Old Prussians; they succeeded in converting Netimer and then traveled to the east, heading very likely towards Yotvingia. Yotvingia was a Prussian region, then subordinate to Kievan Rus (since 983), that intersected the borders of what was then Prussia, Kievan Rus and the Duchy of Lithuania.[3]

Saint Bruno was beheaded on February 14, 1009, whereas most of his companions were hanged the same day by Zebeden, brother of Netimer. Duke Boleslaus the Brave brought the bodies to Poland (it was supposed that they were laid to rest in Przemyśl, where some historians place Bruno's diocese; such localization of the Bruno's burial place is hardly probable because Przemyśl then belonged to Orthodox Kievan Rus through 1018). The "Annals of Magdeburg," "Thietmar of Merseburg's Chronicle," various works of Magdeburg Bishops, the "Annals of Quedlinburg" and many other written sources of 11th-15th centuries record this story.

Soon after his death, Bruno and his companions were venerated as martyrs and Bruno was soon after canonized. It was said that Braunsberg was named after St Bruno.

See also


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Wikisource has the text of the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article Bruno of Querfurt, Saint.
  1. Obstat, Nihil (November 1, 1908). "St. Bruno of Querfurt". The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume III. Published 1908. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved 2008-05-08.
  2. Bruno of Querfurt, baptism of king of Sweden
  3. According to the "Annals of Magdeburg" (c. 1170) and some other sources.
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