St. Leoba's statue in Schornsheim
|Died||28 September 782
|Venerated in||Roman Catholic Church; Eastern Orthodox Church|
She was born Leofgyth in Wessex to a noble family. Her mother was related to Boniface (they were distant cousins), and Boniface was a friend of her father's. Though her birth date is unknown, her actual birth is regarded as a miracle. Leoba was conceived to old parents who were barren. Her mother had a dream in which she would conceive "the chosen/ beloved" child of Christ. This dream also told her mother that her offspring was to lead a spiritual life, and to serve the church. Leofgyth was trained first by abbess Eadburg at Minster.
She entered Wimborne Minster as an oblate and corresponded with Boniface. Archbishop Boniface later sought out Leoba, who was widely acclaimed for being virtuous, to help him with his mission of spreading Christianity throughout Germany. Archbishop Boniface repeatedly requested for Leoba to accompany him because he thought that many would benefit from her holiness and example. Leoba agreed to accompany him because of a dream that she had. This dream signified "that by her teaching and good example she will confer benefits on many people. ... and carry out in her actions whatever she expressed in her words.". She arrived in Germany in 748.
Leoba once experienced a dream in which a purple thread was coming from her mouth. She pulled the thread repeatedly until she rolled it into a ball. The labor of this caused her extreme fatigue and resulted in her waking up from her dream. Out of curiosity, she employed a fellow nun to seek out a nun who was known to reveal prophecies. This nun listened to the explanation of the dream and said that this dream represented the life of leadership that Leoba was to live and that she was destined to be a wise teacher and a great counselor.
Life as a missionary
Boniface established a convent in the Franconian town Tauberbischofsheim, where she became the abbess. Boniface, whose relationship to her could be as near as that of uncle, entrusted Leoba with a great deal of authority, and Rudolf of Fulda indicates that she was not merely in charge of her own house, but all of the nuns who worked for Boniface. In 754, when Boniface was preparing a missionary trip to Frisia, he gave his monastic cowl to Leoba to indicate that, when he was away, she was his delegate.
She was a learned woman, and in the following years she was involved in the foundation of nunneries in Kitzingen and Ochsenfurt. She had a leading role in evangelizing her area, and, during her life, she was credited with quelling a storm with her command. Additionally, bishops in Fulda consulted her, and she was the only woman allowed to enter into monasteries in Fulda to consult the ecclesiastical leaders on issues of monastic rule. She was also favoured in the court of Pippin III, and Hildegard, wife of Charlemagne, was her friend.
In her later years, she retired with a few other Anglo-Saxon nuns to an estate near Mainz in Schornsheim. The estate was given by Charlemagne for her exclusive use. She died on 28 September 782. Boniface's will had originally designated that Leoba was to be buried in his own tomb. However, when Leoba died, she was, instead, placed near him, but not in the same grave. Several miracles were attributed to her gravesite, and she was canonized. Her relics were translated twice and are now behind an altar in a church dedicated to Mary and the virgins of Christ in Petersburg in Fulda. Rudolf of Fulda was commissioned to write the acta of her life (Vita Leobae) in connection with this second translation of relics.
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Several miracles have been attributed to Leoba both during her life and death. During her lifetime, Leoba was responsible for many miracles: saving a village from fire; saving a town from a terrible storm, protecting the reputation of the nuns in her convent; and saving the life of a fellow nun who was gravely ill. All of these miracles were completed through prayer. According to Rudolf of Fulda, Leoba's grave was the site of many miracles. These miracles include: freeing a man of tightly bound iron rings around his arms; and curing a man from Spain of his twitching disorder. Due to these miracles, which were witnessed by Rudolf, Leoba's relics were translated twice to ensure their safety.
- Butler, Alban. The Lives of the Saints, Vol. IX, 1866
- "Leoba, abbess of Tauberbischofsheim", Epistolae: Medieval Women's Latin Letters, Columbia Center for New Media Teaching and Learning, Columbia University
- Halsall, Paul (1997). "Medieval Source book: Rudolf of Fulda: Life of Leoba c. 836". Fordham University.
- Farmer, David (2011). "Lioba". The Oxford Dictionary of Saints (5th revised ed.). Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-959660-7.
- Thomas F.X. Noble. Soldiers of Christ: Saints and Saints’ Lives from Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages. Penn State University Press, 1995
- Yorke, Barbara (2004). "Leoba [St Leoba, Lioba, Leofgyth] (d. 782), abbess of Tauberbischofsheim". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/39268. (subscription or UK public library membership required)
- Yorke, Barbara (8 April 2013). "The Essay, Anglo-Saxon Portraits: Leoba". BBC Radio 3.