Saint Virgil of Salzburg
Scholar and Saint, Scientist and Bishop
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Virgil was an Irishman, born between 700 – 710 in Trim, County Meath. Son of a clan chief and descendant of high kings, Fergil (his Irish name), embodied the best of Ireland’s Golden Age: highly educated, probably at Iona, he was called the most learned man of his age and a master of classical mathematics, as well as a writer, poet and patron of the arts.
After a short period as Abbot of Aghaboe Monastery in County Laois, he joined the Perigrinato pro Christo, the wandering Irish Saints who educated and converted much of Europe. Fergil was adviser to King Pepin, father of Charlemagne, where his name was latinized to Virgilius (Virgil). Pepin sent him to Salzburg, Austria, to be abbot of St. Peter’s Monastery. Virgil took control of the Salzburg diocese and was later made bishop. He built Salzburg’s first cathedral and was responsible for evangelizing southern Austria, Western Hungary and most of the Slavic people. He is still honored as “The Apostle of Carinthia”, southern Austria
Virgil was a strong-willed Irishman. He challenged local authority for ownership of church property, twice had major disputes with Boniface — the preeminent figure in the church in the mid 700’s — and won both times. Virgil taught that there was the possibility of life on the other side of the world — the antipodes. He defended his science to Rome and was made bishop shortly thereafter.
Virgil died on November 27, 784 and was buried in his Dom, the Cathedral he built. But his tomb was moved, buried unmarked, and all records and memory of him erased. When his tomb was accidentaly uncovered, a remarkable series of miracles followed and Virgil was made a saint in 1130.
This is a remarkable man, with a remarkable story. Please stay tuned for more of his story and the controversies and mysteries surrounding this great Saint.