"At first, I just ignored the letters," said Father Karl
Terhorst, at the Roman Catholic church of Saint Walburga in
Ramsdorf, 80 miles east of Cologne. "But after the last
letter threatened the saint with legal action and a €1,000 fine,
I decided it was time to write back."
German TV licence authorities had been sending letters addressed to
Frau Walburga St, demanding a monthly licence payment of 16.50 euros.
Father Terhorst explained to them that Walburga had died in the eighth
century, and that she surely did not own an unlicenced television.
An official for the agency, when asked about the error, replied,
"This was quite embarrassing. But unfortunately mistakes do
Saint Walburga, also sometimes known as Bugga, Gauburge, Vaubourg,
Waltpurde, Walpurgis, was born in Devonshire, England, around 710,
to Saint Richard, a king of the West Saxons. Her mother was the
sister of Saint Boniface. Her two brothers, Willibald and Winebald, would also become
When she was eleven years old, her father left to make a pilgrimage to
the Holy Land. He took Willibald and Winebald, but left Walburga
(whose mother had died) in the care of the abbess at Wimborne, a
Benedictine monastery in Dorset. Walburga became a nun and spent
the next twenty-six years at the monastery, which was famous for its
holiness, discipline, and austerity. Thanks to her
thorough education there, she was later able to write an account of
Winebald's life and of Willibald's travels in Palestine. She is
considered by many to be the first female author in England or
Germany. The monastery is probably also where she learned her
In 748, Walburga's uncle Boniface sent for her to help him establish
new monasteries in Germany. She was accompanied by Saint Lioba and
many other nuns. The journey started well, but soon a fierce storm
rose. Walburga prayed, kneeling on the deck of the ship, and the sea
became calm. The sailors were amazed, and recounted the miracle they
had witnessed to everyone who would listen when they reached Germany.
Walburga became very well-known, and not just for her miraculous
intervention in the face of the storm. She was also noted for her
kindness, patience, and gentleness in nursing the sick.
At Mainz she was welcomed by her uncle and by her brother
Willibald. After living for some time under the rule of Saint Lioba
at Bischofsheim, she was appointed abbess of the double monastery
that her brother Winebald had founded at Heidenheim. Walburga was
held in such high esteem that when Winebald died, she was allowed to
rule over the monks' monastery as well as her own. In 776, she
assisted at the translation of her Winebald's body by
Willibald. Shortly after this, she fell ill. Within a year she was
dead. Willibald laid her to rest beside Winebald, and many miracles were wrought at both tombs.
Almost a hundred years after her death, the Bishop of Eichstadt
ordered the restoration of the church and monastery at Heidenheim, which had fallen into ruin. In the process of restoring the church,
workmen desecrated Walburga's grave. Walburga appeared to the
bishop and threatened him, leading to the translation of her remains
to Eichstadt later that year. The church where they were placed is
now named after her.
In 893, the next Bishop of Eichstadt opened Walburga's shrine to take out a portion
of her relics for the abbess of Monheim. It was then that Walburga
was discovered to be among the Elaephori, or
oil-yielding saints. This discovery led to portions of her relics
being taken to Cologne, Antwerp, and Furnes. The various
translations of her relics have led to Walburga's feast being
celebrated on several different days, including February 25, May
1, September 24, and October 12.
The night of May 1st, the date of the translation of Walburga's relics
to Eichstadt, is known as Walpurgisnacht or Walpurgis Night. It
is also a pagan festival marking the beginning of summer. Although
Walburga had no connection with this festival, her name has become
associated with witchcraft and country superstitions because of the
Walburga is the patroness of Eichstadt, Oudenarde, Furnes, Antwerp,
Gronigen, Weilburg, and Zutphen, and her name is invoked against
coughs, dog bites, famine, plague, rabies, and storms.