Feast Day : November 26
Patronage: hernia sufferers
Also known as: Conrad of Constance
Conrad was born into the famous Guelph family and was the son of Count Henry of Altdorf. He was educated at the cathedral school of Constance, Switzerland, and was ordained. In 934 he was made provost of the cathedral and was elected bishop of Constance, a post he held for 42 years. He avoided all secular matters. Conrad gave all of his wealth to the Church and to the poor, built three grand churches and renovated many more in his see. In 862 he accompanied Emperor Otto I to Italy. He also is said to have taken three pilgrimages to Jerusalem. According to lore, Conrad was saying mass one Easter when a large spider dropped into the chalice. It was commonly believed at the time that most spiders were poisonous, but the plucky saint swallowed the spider, anyway, and suffered no harm. Conrad is best known for his grand vision, experienced in 948 when he was asked to dedicate the Chapel of Our Lady of the Hermits at Einsiedeln, Switzerland, the spot where the murdered St. Meinrad once had his hermit’s hut and chapel. Conrad arrived in the Dark Wood on September 13 with a party of knights, princes and the bishop of Augsburg. Near midnight, he and several others went into the chapel to pray. Conrad prayed to Mary to accept the shrine and help it to become a place of pilgrimage. At midnight, Conrad and the others heard a beautiful chanting. The chapel was filled with dazzling light, and the altar was illuminated. A procession of angels came down from heaven, led by Michael the Archangel. Some of the angels sang and others swung censers. Then came St. Peter with a crozier, and the apostles SS. Mark, Luke, Matthew and John, followed by three of the greatest Doctors of the Church, SS. Ambrose, Augustine and Gregory the Great. Then came the martyred SS. Lawrence and Stephen, and finally Jesus Christ, clothed magnificently as high priest. Mary, attended by angels, installed herself over the altar. Jesus conducted Mass in minute detail and dedicated the chapel to his mother. The vision lasted for more than an hour. Conrad remained in ecstatic meditation for hours. The next day, Conrad proclaimed to the crowd gathered that God had already dedicated the chapel, but he was pressed to continue with the service by others who did not believe his story. As he began, a booming voice heard by everyone said three times, “Stop! Stop, Brother. The chapel has been divinely consecrated.” In 964, Pope Leo VIII (r. 963–964) issued a bull confirming the miraculous dedication. The Chapel of Our Lady of the Hermits is one of the most popular pilgrimage sites in Europe, attracting up to 200,000 people a year; many miracles are reported there. A basilica and monastery were built in the first part of the 18th century. In art Conrad usually is represented with a chalice and a spider.