February 25

Saint of the day:
Saint Walburga

Patron saint of people with the fear of water and protection against a storm

The Story of Saint Walburga

Walburga belonged to an extraordinary English family, five of whom are saints. She herself also became a missionary in Germany and even to the present day has a curious place in German folklore. Patrick Duffy tells her story.

She was born in Wessex, England, about 710, the daughter of Richard, one of the under-kings of the West Saxons. When he was starting with his two sons on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, he entrusted Walburga, then eleven years old, to the abbess Tatta of Wimborne. Richard died at Lucca, Italy, en route to the Holy Land on pilgrimage.

Her education
Walburga advanced in learning and holiness. Scarcely a year after her arrival, Walburga received news of her father’s death at Lucca. Her mother, Winna, was the sister of St Boniface who went as a missionary to Germany. She had two brothers, Willibald and Winnibald, who later joined their uncle Boniface as missionaries in Germany.


Her uncle a missionary in Germany
During this period her uncle, St. Boniface, had begun preaching the gospel in Germany. He saw that scattered efforts at preaching would exert only a passing influence. So he decided to bring the whole country under an organised system. As he moved along preaching the gospel, he established monasteries which, like fortresses, would hold the conquered regions, and from these watch-towers the light of faith and learning would radiate far and near.


Women help in evangelisation
Boniface was the first missionary to call women to his aid. In 748, in response to his appeal, Abbess Tetta of Wimbourne sent over Lioba and some other nuns help. Later, Walburga joined them at a convent at Tauberbischofsheim, on the River Tauber, 30 kms south-west of Würzburg. Here she spent two years and became skilled in medicine.


Willibald bishop of Eichstätt
One of Wallburga’s brothers, Willibald, had travelled to Jerusalem and in the Middle East, and then spent the ten years from 730 to 740 as a monk at Monte Cassino. Pope St Gregory II subsequently sent him to Germany to help his uncle St Boniface, who ordained him a priest, and appointed him bishop of Eichstätt.


With her brother Winnibald
Walburga’s other brother, Winnibald, had met up with his uncle Boniface in Rome. Boniface brought him to Germany, ordained him and gave him charge of churches near Erfurt. When Willibald became bishop of Eichstätt, he asked Winnibald to set up a double monastery (like Wimborne) at Heidenheim (70 kilometers east of Stuttgart). Winnibald, in turn, asked Walburga to come and be in charge of the nuns, while he was in charge of the monks. When Winnibald died, Willibald appointed Walburga to be in charge of both nuns and monks.


Her death and influence
When Walburga died in 779, she was first buried at Heidenheim, but some time later her body was transferred to Eichstätt beside the body of her brother. From the rock around her tomb, an oil which had medicinal qualities, called “Walburga’s oil”, began to flow. A community was later founded to care for St Walburga’s grave and has continued down to today.


May 1 was the day her relics were translated to Eichstätt in 870. Because she was invoked as a protectress of crops and harvests, that day (the night of April 30 – May 1) became associated with the pagan feast of the approach of summer (much as St Brigid’s Day (1 February) is associated with the approach of spring in Ireland). It is was called Walpurgisnacht [Walburga’s Night]. Witches are said to run riot over the earth that night and bonfires are lit. It is still celebrated in Germany, Sweden and Finland.









Saint Walburga reliquary Peterskirche Munich (right pic)



What to eat....Devonshire Apple Dappy, with some clotted cream & fresh berries!

Devonshire Apple Dappy

Serves 16 to 20

  • 3ounces seedless sultanas

  • 100milliliters dark rum

  • 2ounces unsalted butter

  • 5ounces castor sugar

  • 2ounces light muscovado sugar

  • 7ounces peeled, cored and diced apple (1 medium Bramley apple)

  • 1tablespoon grated orange zest

  • 1teaspoon vanilla extract

  • 6ounces eggs, weighed without shells (3 medium eggs)

  • 5ounces plain (all purpose) flour

  • 1/4teaspoon baking powder

  • 1/2teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)

  • 1/2teaspoon salt

  • 1/2teaspoon ground cinnamon


  1. Put the sultanas in a small bowl and cover with the rum. Leave to soak for at least 30 minutes.

  2. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C / 350 degrees F / gas mark 4 with a rack set in the centre of the oven.

  3. Grease and base-line a 20 cm (8 inch) round cake pan.

  4. Melt the butter and sugars together in a small saucepan (or in the microwave, stirring frequently) until smooth and runny.

  5. Place the melted butter and sugars together with the apple, grated orange zest and vanilla in a large bowl. Beat to combine.

  6. Add the eggs gradually, beating after each addition to incorporate. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

  7. Place the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon in a separate bowl and whisk to combine thoroughly. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir until well incorporated.

  8. Drain the sultanas well and reserve the rum (set aside). Add the sultanas to the apple mixture and stir to combine.

  9. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan. Bake in the centre of the preheated oven for 45 to 50 minutes. A tester inserted into the centre of the cake should have few crumbs attached when removed (it is a moist cake, so the tester will not be completely clean). Remove from the oven.

  10. Let the cake stand in the pan for 10 minutes before removing from the pan and placing on a wire rack.

  11. Brush the top of the cake with a small amount of the reserved rum. Cool on the wire rack before slicing and serving.

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