Fridolin of Säckingen

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Saint Fridolin of Säckingen
Saint Fridolin depicted on the banner of Glarus, according to tradition the banner used in the Battle of Näfels (1388)
Apostle of the Upper Rhine
Died Säckingen, Germany
Venerated in Roman Catholic Church
Canonized Pre-Congregation
Feast 6 March
Patronage Alsace, France
for good weather
Glarus (city and canton), Switzerland
Säckingen, Germany
Strasbourg, France

Saint Fridolin, otherwise Fridolin of Säckingen is a legendary Irish missionary, apostle of the Alamanni and founder of Säckingen Abbey on the Upper Rhine. He is also the patron saint of the Swiss canton of Glarus.

His oldest Vita is dated to the 10th or 11th century. Later tradition places the beginning of his mission during the reign of Clovis I (r. 509 – 511), and his death during the reign of Theudebert I (r. 533–548). The date of his death is traditionally given as 6 March in either 538 or 540. Modern historiography has tended to place the founder of Säckingen Abbey in the 7th rather than 6th century, tentatively assuming the existence of a historical Saint Fridolin under Clovis II (r. 639–657) rather than Clovis I.[1]


A Vita of Fridolin (or Fridold) was written by one Balther (Baltherus), a monk of Säckingen, ostensibly dated to the 10th century but possibly a forgery of the mid-11th century.[2] This is the earliest extant reference to the saint.[dubious ] Consequently, very little can be said about the historical individual. He appears to have been a missionary among the Alamanni along the Upper Rhine, who at the time were under Merovingian rule, and he went on to found Säckingen Abbey.

According to the Vita, Fridolin belonged to a noble family in Ireland, and at first was a missionary there. Afterwards crossing to France, he came to Poitiers, where in answer to a vision, he sought out the relics of Saint Hilarius, and built a church for them. Saint Hilarius subsequently appeared to him in a dream, and commanded him to proceed to an island in the Rhine, in the territories of the Alamanni. In obedience to this summons, Fridolin approached "emperor" Clovis, who granted him possession of the still unknown island, and thence proceeded through "Helion",[note 1] Strasbourg and Coire, founding churches in every district in honour of Saint Hilarius.

At last reaching the island of Säckingen in the Rhine, Fridolin recognized in it the island indicated in the dream, and prepared to build a church there. The inhabitants of the banks of the Rhine, however, who used the island as pasture for their cattle, mistook Fridolin for a cattle-robber and expelled him. On his production of Clovis's deed of gift, he was allowed to return, and to found a church and monastery on the island. He then resumed his missionary labours. He founded the "Scottish monastery" ("Schottenstift") in Konstanz, and extended his mission to Augsburg. He died on 6 March, and was buried at Säckingen.

Balther claims to have derived his information from a biography which he discovered in the monastery of "Helera"[note 2] on the Moselle -"Helera, juxta Musellae cuiusdam Fluvii litus situm"-, also founded by Fridolin, and which, as he was unable to copy it for lack of parchment and ink, he had learned by heart.[3] The monastery became a Coenobium, a community of priests, including a library. The historical evidence is found in records of a priest Hatto, towards the end of the 9th century. He made an inventory of the abandoned monastery from fear of the Normans. His list includes a Codex edged with silver and ivory, containing the Vitae of St. Fridolin, St. Hilarius, and St. Arnulphus. [4] No earlier author mentions Fridolin; Balther's life does not provide historical or chronological context, and includes a great number miracles and visions. It has therefore mostly been dismissed as unhistorical. Meyer von Knonau (1878) classifies the "so-called Baltherus" and his explanation of how he had to memorize the text for lack of writing materials to replace a version lost in a raid by heathens, as entirely untrustworthy. He instead considers the Vita a forgery of the mid-11th century, i.e. with the mention of a beati Fredelini vita by Petrus Damiani in Poitiers on the occasion of the translation of Saint Hilarius.[5]

Fridolin's connection to Glarus is based on a later legend, a 13th-century addition to Balther's Vita under the title de miraculis s. Fridolini. In this legend, he converted a landowner named Ursus (or Urso). On his death Ursus left his lands in the Linth valley (the later canton of Glarus), to Fridolin, who founded numerous churches dedicated to Saint Hilarius (claimed as the origin of the name "Glarus"[by whom?][year needed][6]). Ursus's brother Landolf refused to accept the legitimacy of the gift and brought Fridolin before a court at Rankweil to prove his title. Fridolin did so by summoning Ursus from the dead to confirm the gift in person, so terrifying Landolf that he gave his lands to Fridolin as well.[7]


The existence of monasteries dedicated to Hilarius of Poitiers in Ediger-Eller, Dillersmünster, Strasbourg and Chur as well as Säckingen points to a trend of veneration of Hilarius in the 7th century, when the Alamanni were effectively Christianised. Fridolin would have been a representative of this movement. Fridolin's own relics are venerated in Säckingen. His cult is attested from the late 9th century, although his name is missing from the list of saints by Notker Balbulus (d. 912). Petrus Damiani (c. 1060) refers to the saint as Fredelinus. Fridolin's iconography is strongly influenced by the later Ursus legend, recorded in the 13th century, his attribute being the skeleton of Ursus. The veneration of Fridolin in Glarus can be traced to the valley having been owned by Säckingen Abbey, presumably since the 9th century.[5]


  1. ^ Unidentified but possibly the same as Helera mentioned below.
  2. ^ Identified with some certainty as Eller on the Moselle. The church of Eller district in the present town Ediger-Eller has always been dedicated to Saint Hilarius.


  1. ^ J. Sauer, Die Anfänge des Christentums und der Kirche in Baden (1911), p. 36; Th. Zotz, "Fridolin" in LexMA 4 (1989), col. 917; P. Schiffer, "Fridolin" in LThK 4 (1995), col. 136.
  2. ^ ed. Mon. Germ. Hist.: Script. rer. Merov., III, 350–69, also in AA.SS. 7 (1865).
  3. ^ AA.SS. 7 (1865), p. 437.
  4. ^ British Library Harley HS 2826 fol. 150v.
  5. ^ a b Gerold Meyer von Knonau, "St. Fridolin" in: Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie 7 (1878), 385–387.
  6. ^ The toponym is recorded as Clarona since the 11th century. The name has numerous parallels in the Alpine region and has nothing to do with Hilarius; it is possibly derived from a term for gravel or sandbank. J.J. Heer, "Keltische Spuren in den Orts-, Berg- und Flussnamen des Cant. Glarus", Jahrbuch des Historischen Vereins des Kantons Glarus 9 (1873), p. 72.
  7. ^ Leo, Hermann (1886). Der heilige Fridolin. Herder. pp. 163–167.

External links[edit]

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainHerbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "St. Fridolin". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton.