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Saint Witta von Büraburg

c. 700 - 760 A.D.

( Witta, Wittan of Buraburg, Wizo, Albinus, Albuin )


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W

n viewing the life of Saint Witta von Büraburg, a great deal can be learned about a possible Anglo-Saxon origin of the name Witzel. Although very little is known about Witta himself, clues regarding his name are somewhat plentiful. A studying of these names brings about a history that would otherwise go unnoticed

Witta was likely of Saxon origin and born in the southwest of England in Wessex. He was sometimes referred to as Witta of Iona, suggesting that he studied at the influential religious center in Iona », founded by Saint Columba around 563 on an island located off the northwestern shore of Scotland as part of the Irish mission » to convert Scotland to Christianity.

Following his education, Witta joined the missionary efforts of Saint Boniface, who set out, at the direction of Pope, to restore the Christian presence in Hesse and Thuringia in central Germany:

Numbers of men and women went to Germany at different times to be his helpers. Among them were Lullus, Denehard, Burchard, Wigbert, Sola, Witta (called also Wizo and Albinus), Wunibald, Willibald and the pious women Lioba, Chunihild, Chunitrude, Berthgit, Walburga, and Thecla. With these, and others recruited in Thuringia and elsewhere in Germany, he continued his labors. »

In 741, Boniface began founding religious centers at Wurzburg, Büraburg and Erfurt, and Fulda in 744. Following the death of Witta in 747, no successor was appointed and the bishopric of Büraburg was incorporated into the archdiocese of Mainz by his friend Lullus. He lived in Büraburg until his death in 760..

Boniface selected Witta to serve as Bishop of the see of Büraburg, a town not far from Fritzlar. Witta remained Bishop of Büraburg until 746. He lived in Büraburg until his death in 760.

We must also inform you, Holy Father, that owing to the conversion of the German people we have consecrated three bishops and divided the province into three dioceses. We humbly desire you to confirm and establish as bishoprics, both by your authority and in writing, the three towns or cities in which they were consecrated. We have established one episcopal see in Wurzburg, another in Buraburg and a third in Erfurt, formerly a city of barbarous heathens. These three places we urgently beg you to uphold and confirm by a charter embodying the authority of the Holy See, so that, God willing, there may be in Germany three episcopal sees founded and established by St. Peter's word and the Apostolic See's command, which neither present nor future generations will presume to change in defiance of the authority of the Apostolic See.

The many names associated with Saint Witta von Büraburg suggest a number of things. We know that he was also referred to as Wizo. This the Old High German form of his Anglo-Saxon name. Yet, in Germany, he was also called Wittan ». Certainly, the Saxon people would have been likely to refer to him in their native language. The names Witta and Wittan seem to be purely Saxon in origin and held significance among them.

Another interesting name associated with Saint Witta is Albuin. It is said that Albuin is a form of Albwin, which translates as 'friend of the nature spirit' ». There is no indication that this relates at all to the name Witta. It perhaps tells us more about how the Saxons viewed the role of a priest. In pagan times, priest where thought to be able to call upon the spirits of nature to cure the sick and wounded. It is likely that this is simply a local title by which he was known among the native German people.

His name in Latin becomes Albinus, which means 'white'. He is sometimes also called Hwita » in Old Saxon, which also means 'white'. It can not be said why this occurs, except for the similarity of the Old Saxon words wita and hwita. And, of course, the Germanic word Albuin is quite similar to the Latin word Albinus.

The word wita translates into Old High German as wizo, meaning 'wise one'. The Proto-Indo-European word for 'wise' is weid or ueid. The Proto-Indo-European word for 'white' is kweid. It can not be clearly known if there were other reasons for the close relationship between the words for 'wise' and 'white'. Some might say that the old, der Weiße, (the white-haired) were also der Weise (the Wise).

In Anglo-Saxon England, a wita was a member of the Wittan » » » or 'The Council of Wise Men'. Often, chieftains were also the high-priest, or priest-kings. Thus, some of this ancient understanding is likely to have carried into the Saxon practices as late as Christian times. Thus, priests were held in high esteem and once held higher positions in Saxon society than even the eldermen and warrior-class.

It is from this information that we might conclude that the name Witta meant 'wise one' (English wit, meaning 'clever'). In the case of Saint Witta, it seems that this was his birth name. So, there is no indication that the name was an acquired title, but the records are so scant for this time period that little more can be known.

But, in the interest of our story, the Old High German translation of Witta to Wizo is of the greatest importance. The Historic Research Society traces the name Witzel to the name Wizo. » This relationship seems to hold the most true.


Haupt, Richard. Nachrichten über Wizelin, den Apostel der Wagern und seine Kirchenbauten im Lehrgedicht eines unbenannten Zeitgenossen Versus de vita Vicelini und in einem Briefe Sidos, Propstes von Neumünster. Tübingen: Laupp. 1913.

'Namensverzeichnis/Vornamen und ihre Bedeutung/Heilige/Namenstag'. Die coole Mitmachsite. Retrived on August 29, 2006: http://www.hanne-krueger.de/jahresuhr/jahreszeiten/Vornamen.htm. »

'St. Vicelin'. Saints . Retrived on August 29, 2006: http://www.augustiniancanons.org/About/saints.htm#St.%20Vicelinus. »

Stork, Dr. Hans-Walter. 'Die Klosterbibliothek des Augustinerchorherrenstifts Neumünster - Bordesholm'. Begleitkatalog zu der Ausstellung. Retrived on August 29, 2006: http://www.uni-kiel.de/ub/images/pdf/bordesholmkatalog.pdf#search=%22Wizelin%20Paderborn%22. »

'Town History'. Rattenfängerstade Hameln. Retrived on August 29, 2006: http://www.hameln.com/info/history.htm. »

'Vicelin'. Patron Saints Index. Retrived on August 29, 2006: http://www.catholic-forum.com/saints/saintv0e.htm. »


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