Saints and Blesseds
Sacred Norbertine ancestors cross many ages and nationalities — from the early members of the original community at Prémontré in France to the martyrs of the order in the Holy Land, and from the challenges of the reformation to the crises of the modern era.
Throughout and beyond the centuries-old existence of their order, outstanding Norbertine men and women of heroic virtue remain sources of edification, inspiration and models for daily life.
Many disciples of Norbert attained sanctity and were drawn to his way of life, helping to further his ideals and values. Some followers left their high status as nobility and humbled themselves to found new houses of the order. Others used their talents as administrators, scholars, preachers and teachers, and still others simply served with generosity and humility.
Evermode was born in the Belgian province of Henegouwen around 1100. After hearing a sermon preached by Norbert of Xanten, he was so struck by the personality and words of this apostolic man that he left everything to join him in 1120. He became one of the most loyal disciples of Norbert. He probably accompanied him to Antwerp, and later to Magdeburg. He was probably ordained a priest by Norbert himself and was certainly present when Norbert transformed the collegiate chapter of Our Lady in Magdeburg into a community of the order.
Evermode remained Norbert’s companion until the latter’s death on June 6, 1134. Evermode stood by his master on his deathbed and later took care to see that Norbert was buried in the church of the Norbertine monastery of Our Lady in Magdeburg.
When Emelric, the provost of Gottesgnaden, undertook a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, Evermode was named vice-provost and provisor of the community. Evermode was provost at Gottesgnaden from 1134 until 1138. He adhered to what Norbert considered the stricter rule of St. Augustine, the ordo monasterii, and followed in Norbert’s footsteps in the areas of clerical reform and the conversion of the pagan Wends.
After its first provost, Wigger, became bishop of Brandenburg, Evermode was elected provost of Our Lady at Magdeburg, a post he held from 1138 to 1154. In this function, he founded the Norbertine monasteries of Havelberg, Jericho, Quedlinburg and Pöhlde. When the diocese of Ratzeburg was reestablished in 1154 (it had been totally destroyed by the Wends in 1066), Evermode became its first bishop and converted the newly installed cathedral chapter into a Norbertine chapter.
It was not easy for Evermode to be caught between the mighty Welf Prince Henry the Lion, prince of Bavaria and Saxony at the time, upon whom he was dependent both politically and financially, and Henry’s adversary, Archbishop Hartwig of Hamburg-Bremen, who claimed the rights of Metropolitan over Ratzeburg and was opposed in principle to bishops who were members of religious orders. Consequently, Evermode had himself consecrated bishop by Archbishop Arnolf of Mainz (probably on July 13, 1153). Prince Henry gave Evermode an island and castle for building the cathedral and monastery.
Driven by the apostolic ideal, Evermode traveled throughout his diocese preaching the Word and became for his people a light of truth. The conversion of the pagan Wends, who were a majority in his diocese, was his first concern and he preached missions to them himself in Noorwegen and Holstein. Future generations, even among the Protestants, gave Evermode the titles “Light of the Saxons” and “Apostle of the Wends.” His diocese was well organized and the members of the cathedral chapter were confreres of the order with the bishop as their provost.
Old and weakened by his many labors, Evermode died as bishop of Ratzeburg on February 17, 1178, after an episcopate of 24 years. He was buried in the presbytery of the Romanesque cathedral of Ratzeburg. Pope Benedict XIII confirmed his cult on March 20/April 12, 1728. Because Ratzeburg is in the diocese of Hamburg, founded in 1995, the three holy bishops, Evermode, Isfrid and Ludolph, were transferred from the calendar of the diocese of Osnabrück to that of the archdiocese of Hamburg.