Undecorated With Limbs

09 22 EmmeramToday is the feast day of Saint Emmeram of Regensburg. It seems a while since I came across a crazy martyrdom story. So here is what Arbeo of Freising says about what happened to Emmeram. The saint was a bishop of Poitiers who travelled to Regensburg in Bavaria because it was full of pagans worshipping idols and he wanted to convert them to Christianity. It seems that Emmeram saw this work as a kind of battle for which his ultimate reward would be martyrdom.

Theodo I, Duke of Bavaria welcomed Emmeram to his court and things went pretty well for about three years. Then he asked for permission to go on a pilgrimage to Rome. Before he was able to leave, he was visited by the Duke’s unmarried daughter, Ota. She was pregnant with the child of a man in her father’s employment. If the truth was discovered, both she and the baby’s father would face the death penalty. Ota begged for the bishop’s help. Emmeram advised her to name himself as the father and then abruptly left on his journey to Rome. But after three days he stopped at a place called Helfendorf and waited.

Meanwhile the Duke and his son, Lantpert, had found out about Ota’s pregnancy and been told that Emmeram was responsible. Lantpert was furious. He gathered together a group of friends and set off to avenge his sister’s honour. He found the bishop waiting for him at Helfendorf. Emmeram denied his accusations and asked to be allowed to proceed to Rome and seek judgement from the Pope on the matter. Lantpert and his posse tied the bishop to a ladder and proceeded to torture him. They began to cut off his limbs and extremities piece by piece. First his fingers then his hands, followed by feet, legs, arms, nose, ears, tongue and finally his genitals. Then they left him for dead. But Emmeram was found still living by his companions, Vitalis and Wolflete. Somehow, even though his tongue had been cut out he managed to ask for water and Vitalis answered: “Why do you seek relief, when nothing of you remains but your stubby trunk, undecorated with limbs? I would think you should wish for your death rather than live with such shame.” Emmeram replied that he didn’t want to die quickly. It seems the longer he could drag it out, the more likely God was to notice him.

The story tells us that his body was shining with a wondrous light, I don’t know whether his skin shone or whether the light was shining out of his wounds, either way it sounds pretty disturbing. They tried to take his body to a nearby church at Aschheim, but he died on the way. We are told that on the spot where he died, for ever afterwards it was always spring. Against his wishes, he was buried at Aschheim. Afterwards it rained for forty days, an indication of his displeasure. His body was removed to Regensburg. There is now an abbey there that was built in his name. There they keep his leg bones in a silver box, so presumably his friends gathered up all the bits of him that were cut off too.

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