Martyr, Prince of the Wends; d. 1066.
Gottschalk , (GODESCALCUS) Saint, Martyr, Prince of the Wends; d. at Lenten on the Elbe, June 7, 1066. His feast is noted for June 7 in the additions of the Carthusians at Brussels to the martyrology of Usuardus. He was the son of Udo, Prince of the Abrodites, who remained a Christian, though a poor one ("male christianus", says Adam of Bremen, Mon. Germ. SS., VII, 329), after his father Mistiwoi had renounced the faith. He was sent to the monastery of St. Michael at Lenzen for his education. Udo, for some act of cruelty, was slain by a Saxon. At the news Gottschalk cast aside all Christian principles; thinking only of revenge, he escaped from the monastery, crossed the Elbe, and gathered an army from his own and the other Slavic tribes who then lived on the northern and eastern boundaries of Germany. It is said that thousands of Saxons were slaughtered before they were aware of the approach of an army. But his forces were not able to withstand those of Duke Bernard II. Gottschalk was taken prisoner and his lands were given to Ratibor. After some years he was released, and went to Denmark with many of his people. Canute of Denmark employed them in his wars in Norway, and afterwards sent them to England with his nephew Sweyn. In these expeditions Gottschalk was very successful. He had now returned to the practice of his faith, and married Sigrith, a daughter, some say, of Canute, others of King Magnus of Norway. After the death of Ratibor and his sons he returned to his home, and by his courage and prudence regained his princely position. Adam of Bremen calls him a pious and god-fearing man. But he was more; he was an organizer and an apostle. His object in life seems to have been to collect the scattered tribes of the Slavs into one kingdom, and to make that Christian. In the former he succeeded well. To effect the latter purpose he obtained priests from Germany. He would accompany the missionaries from place to place and would inculcate their words by his own explanations and instructions. He established monasteries at Oldenburg, Mecklenburg, Ratzeburg, Lübeck, and Lenzen; the first three he had erected into dioceses. He also contributed most generously to the building of churches and the support of the clergy. In all this he was ably seconded by Adalbert, Archbishop of Hamburg, and numerous conversions were the result of their efforts. But a reaction set in. Some of the tribes refused to adopt Christianity, and rose in rebellion; Gottschalk and many of the clergy and laity fell victims to their hatred of Christianity.