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Thecla, Saint

Benedictine Abbess of Kitzingen and Ochsenfurt; d. about 790 or later

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* Published by Encyclopedia Press, 1913.


Thecla (TECLA), Saint, Benedictine Abbess of Kitzingen and Ochsenfurt; date of birth unknown; d. at Kitzingen about 790 or later. St. Boniface, Apostle of Germany, kept up a constant intimate correspondence with the community of Wimborne, Dorset, and from the abbess, Tetta, in 748-49, he obtained monastic colonies for Germany. Among these nuns one of the most illustrious for sanctity and learning was Thecla, a relative of St. Lioba, whom she accompanied from Wimborne and under whose rule she lived for some time at Tauberbischofsheim, until St. Boniface appointed her abbess of the newly founded abbey at Ochsenfurt. Later, on the death of St. Adelheid, or Hadelonga, the foundress and first Abbess of Kitzingen on the Main, she was called to rule that abbey while still retaining the government of Ochsenfurt. The Roman as well as the English and Benedictine Martyrology commemorate her on October 15; others on 27 or September 28. The name Thecla does not appear on the list of the abbesses of Kitzingen, but it is generally thought that she is designated as Heilga, or "the saint"; unless we admit this, the list must be considered interpolated. Among Boniface's letters is one addressed to Lioba, Thecla, and Cynehilde, as the heads of separate religious communities. Its tone reveals how far the nuns had entered as intelligent fellow-laborers into his apostolate. St. Boniface seems to have had a threefold purpose in summoning these Anglo-Saxon nuns as his auxiliaries: to propagate the full observance of the Benedictine Rule by new foundations; to introduce it into already founded monasteries, and to restore its observance in others; and finally to bring their gentle influence to bear on the fierce Teuton women, both by example and by the education imparted to their children. The ruined Chapel of St. Thecla, on an islet in the Severn, may have been dedicated to her, as Walstod, a Saxon bishop, was set over that part at this time. Some have tried to prove St. Thecla one of the nuns of Barking to whom St. Aldhelm dedicated his "Treatise on Virginity", but as this treatise was written before 705, and as St. Lioba went to Germany about 748-49, it is evident that her disciple who survived her was not this nun of Barking.

Ochsenfurt gradually declined, most probably owing to its proximity to Kitzingen. There is no record of its having any other abbess after St. Thecla. Kitzingen was used for secular purposes by the mar-graves of Brandenburg, to whom it had been mortgaged from 1440 to 1629, when it was redeemed by Philip Adolphus, Bishop of Wurzburg, and restored by John Godfrey of Guttenberg as a school for the Ursulines. In 1803 the institute of the Ursulines was secularized, and today the abbey church is in the hands of Protestants and serves as their parish church. The tombs of St. Thecla and St. Adelheid in this church were profaned in the Peasants' War, 1525; a fanatic of Kitzingen used the heads to play at skittles; when the church was rebuilt (1695), the venerable bodies were covered with rubbish. The monastery contains a Catholic and a Protestant school for girls, a Protestant school for boys, apartments for some teachers, and the district court. The abbess's castle is private property.

GERTRUDE CASANOVA


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