St. Benno of Meissen
Memorial: June 16
Today we remember the august German bishop, St. Benno. Like St. Thomas More and many other figures throughout Church history, he is a great example of a Catholic defending the Church’s prerogatives against their usurpation by the State.
Benno (c. 1010 – June 16, 1106, made bishop of Meissen, Germany, ca. 1066) was a nobleman who was faithful to the Church at a time that Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV (1050-1106) was trying to make her subservient to the State. Henry had gone so far as to storm Rome in 1083 and take possession of the Basilica of San Pietro in Vaticano (St. Peter’s).
Like St. John Cardinal Fisher with Henry VIII of England, Benno refused to go along with the imperial plan to bring the Church to heel. Indeed, he had long opposed Henry on any number of occasions. For instance he supported the Saxon nobility in their 1073-75 revolt against Henry. (See more here.)
Subsequently, when another German, Pope St. Gregory VII excommunicated the emperor, Henry rode to Benno’s cathedral at Meissen and demanded entrance, where he expected to receive the Eucharist.
Benno knew his only hope at thwarting His Majesty’s plans was to lock up the place and throw the keys into the River Elbe. The emperor was furious, but realizing he was foiled, rode off.
The question now for Benno was how would he get back inside? After praying long and hard, he told a fisherman to cast out his net to the spot where he had thrown the key. A fish was caught and the key found inside its belly.
St. Benno of Meissen, pray for us!