Patron saints of the diocese

Amongst the ranks of bishops of Hildesheim three were canonized: Altfrid, Bernward and Godehard.

Bishop Altfrid

Bishop Altfrid was related to the significant family tree of the Liudolfinger and therefore he was related to the most important families of Saxony. He was bishop of Hildesheim from 851 to 874. He made notable marks on the diocese Hildesheim. Among other things the foundation of the “Kanonissenstifte” (women living in a convent like a nun) in Brunshausen-Gandersheim and Lamspringe as well as a construction of a new Hildesheim cathedral are dated on the bishop. But the cathedral on its part was compensated after the big fire by the so called Hezilo-cathedral.

To add to bishop Altfrid special church-state policies and pastoral activities, he compilated an anthology of texts of the church fathers and synodalconstitutions for the clericals of the diocese as well as he had the sincere sorrow about the “Vita communis” of the canons at the Hildesheim cathedral. Despite he has been an absolutely religious man, bishop Altfrid travelled around in duty of the regimen and participated in the re-creation of the kingdom.

He had proficient connections to Essen, where he founded a monastery with his own financial means in 870. The bishop was buried in the church of this monastery.

Quite early Altfrid was worshiped as a saint. Godeshard’s biographer Wolfher wrote in the middle of the 11th century about the “sanctus Altfridus”, whereas his worship was focused in Essen. The official acceptance Altfrid’s by the Roman-Cathelic church followed in 1965, his commemoration day is 16 August.

Bishop Bernward

There is no other bishop from north-Germany where we know as much about out of written origins as about Bernward. He was born aristocratic in 960, he got a profound education at the highly respected cathedral-school, which qualified him for pedagogic, diplomatic and clerical duties. Bernward was not only the educator of the posterior King Otto III., else he was “aulicus scriba doctus” member of the minor circle of the royal notaries, which were important at the administration and development of the German Reich.

Bernward became bishop of Hildesheim in 993: a duty which he held until his death on 22 November 1022. Bishop Bernward, who had diverse duties on the regimen, was quite benedictive for Hildesheim. Quite sincere he worked on the transliteration of the Hildesheim “Bistumssprengels” (Ganderheimer quarrel), else he tried really hard to save the boardes of the diocese against outer influences. By means of diocesesynods Bernward took influence on the liturgic and pastoral routine of the congregationals in the diocese Hildesheim.

The bisphop achieved a lasting presence by his constructional and artistical activities. Excellent was the building of the St. Michaeliskirche and the appendant cloister, which was built as a centre of intellectual and spiritual innovation in 1010, as well as it was his sepulchre.

Evidence of the Bernward-art are the Bernward-doors and the christcolumn: masterpieces of high quality – and at the same time medias of medieval theology and medieval faith transmission.

Bishop Bernward was buried in the crypt of St. Michaeliskirche, it soon became a destination for religious prilgrims. The official acceptance by church followed 200 years later in August 1194. His worship was focused in Hildesheim through the centuries. Commemoration day of hl. Bernward is on 20 November.


Godehard became direct follower of bishop Bernward, we know quite good about his life and acting by different literary origins. Godehard was born – like Bernward – about 960 and was educated in the Bavarian Benedictine monastery Niederaltaich by the archbishop of Salzburg. Godehard became abbot of the monastery in 996 and reformed it in the sense of the principles of the hl. Benedikt, the same way he reformed the monasteries of Tegernsee and Hersfeld. He was consecrated bishop of Hildesheim in the Groner Pfalzkapelle (near Göttingen) on 2 December 1022.

About bishop Godehard’s moral conduct you can read in “Vita Godehardi prior”: “He upraised himself for a prayer every night and woke the rest of the night til the begin of the morning prayer while being in his psalm prayer. Afterwards he attended the holy Mass, he often sang along the Mass, then went to the uncountable workers, who he employed in the different branches of the bustles; he often sat with them to encourage them and to control their diligence. With devotion he ensured the education of the clericals in reading, reciting, singing, writing and drawing… Enough and to spare he did almsgiving; he provided public funds to maintain the innumerable crowd of paupers. Wherever a celebration of the saints in the diocese was or a commemoration day of church consecration, Godehard went there with open-hearted delight, to behove his favourite activitiy, in particular to benefit the peoples’ souls through the annunciation of the word of God. His preaches always were about the love of God and the brethren, about preservation the faith and about christian change,…”.

Bishop Godehard died in St. Mauritiusstift (near Hildesheim), which he founded on 5 May 1038 and is buried in the Hildesheim cathedral. Worshipping on him began early, his official acceptance by church is dated on 29 October 1131. As distinguished from hl. Bernward hl. Godehard was and is worshipped in whole Europe: more than 400 churches, chapels and other institutions share his name. Commemoration day of hl. Godehard ist 5 May.