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Widukind: Wikis


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Widukind is also a Dutch fraternity located in Nijmegen which was founded in 1945.
Blessed Widukind
Born unknown
Died possibly Enger, near Herford, North Rhine-Westphalia
Venerated in Roman Catholic Church
Feast January 6
Attributes Saxon Leader

Widukind (8th/9th centuries; modernized name Wittekind) was a Saxon leader and the chief opponent of Charlemagne during the Saxon Wars. In later times, he became a symbol of Saxon independence and a figure of legend, and was stylized as a prototypical Germanic hero.



Very little is known about Widukind's life. All sources about him stem from his enemies, the Franks, who painted a negative picture of Widukind, calling him an "insurgent" and a "traitor". He was mentioned first in 777, when he was the only one of the Saxon nobles not to appear at Charlemagne's court in Paderborn. Instead, he stayed with the Danish king Siegfried (possibly Sigurd Ring).

In 778, Widukind led battles against the Franks, while Charlemagne was busy in Spain. From 782 through 784, annual battles between Saxons and Franks occurred. While Widukind was considered the leader of the Saxon resistance by the Franks, his exact role in the military campaigns is unknown. Even though Widukind allied himself with the Frisians, Charlemagne's winter attacks of 784/785 were successful, and Widukind and his allies were pushed back beyond the River Elbe.

Charlemagne (742-814) receiving the submission of Witikind at Paderborn in 785, by Ary Scheffer (1795-1858). Versailles.

In the Bardengau in 785, Widukind agreed to surrender in return for a guarantee that no bodily harm would be done to him. Widukind and his allies were then baptized in Attigny in 785, with Charlemagne as his godfather.

There are no sources about Widukind's life or death after his baptism. It is assumed that he was imprisoned at a monastery — a fate that happened to other rulers deposed by Charlemagne. Reichenau Abbey has been identified as a likely location where Widukind may have spent the rest of his life. Alternatively, Widukind may have received a position in the administration of occupied Saxony.

Later perception

Since the 9th century, Widukind had been idolized as a mythical hero; he started to be erroneously called a duke or king of Saxony. Around 1100, a tomb for him was made in Enger; recent excavations have found that the contents of the tomb are indeed early medieval, but it is impossible to decide whether the body is Widukind's. When in the 10th century Saxon kings (of the Ottonian dynasty) replaced the Frankish kings in East Francia (the later Holy Roman Empire), these kings proudly claimed descent from Widukind: Matilda, the wife of King Henry I, was apparently a great-great-great-granddaughter of Widukind. The House of Billung, which several Dukes of Saxony belonged to, had Matilda's sister among its ancestors and thus also claimed descent from Widukind.

In the following centuries, Widukind continued to be seen as a Saxon hero. This perception reached an extreme during the Nazi regime (1933-1945), when Widukind was seen as a Germanic hero, while his Frankish opponents, who in reality were also Germanic, were identified with modern France.


Numerous legends developed around Widukind's life; he eventually appeared as a saintly figure (becoming "Blessed Widukind") and the builder of many churches. He was later assumed to have died in 808; his feast day is commemorated on January 6.

According to legend, Widukind experienced a vision that led to his conversion. Disguised as a beggar, he was spying on Charlemagne's troop camp during Easter. He witnessed a priest performing a Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and the priest was holding a beautiful child during the consecration. To his astonishment, people would receive communion and the priest would give the same child to each person. Widukind was dumbfounded by this scenario and went to beg outside, following the end of the mass. One of the emperor's servants recognized Widukind behind his disguise, due to an odd formation of his finger, and Widukind was captured. He was interrogated and confessed to spying on Charlemagne's camp for the purpose of becoming better acquainted with the Christian faith. He later confessed the divine vision he had seen. The emperor concluded that God had given Widukind the grace of witnessing the divine child, Jesus, behind the Sacred Host of the Mass. He then renounced his worship of false idols. [1]

According to myth, Widukind rode a black horse before his baptism and a white horse afterwards. A white or black horse can be found on many flags and coats of arms in England (such as the Herford coat of arms), Germany (state flags North Rhine-Westphalia and Lower Saxony), and the Netherlands (flag of Twente).

A source from the late 16th century describes Widukind's physique as follows: "A long straight nose, nice eyes although one is blue and the other one black. He has no beard but wears his blackish hair long. The middle finger of his right hand was crooked, and protruded above the index finger[2]."


  1. ^ Martin Von Cochem, Cochem's Explanation of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass (1896)
  2. ^ Chronica Von dem Großmächtigsten ersten Keyser Carolo Magno. Hamburg 1593

External links

Preceded by
Theoderic, Duke of Saxony
Rulers of Saxony
Succeeded by

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

There is more than one meaning of Widukind discussed in the 1911 Encyclopedia. We are planning to let all links go to the correct meaning directly, but for now you will have to search it out from the list below by yourself. If you want to change the link that led you here yourself, it would be appreciated.


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