The Lord says:
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine."
Ansgar, called "Apostle of the North", died in Bremen on February 3, 865. Many Churches in Northern Germany and Scandinavia bear his name. Yet who was Ansgar?
What is known about him, we know above all from the life story written by his successor Rimbert. However, this "Vita Anskarii" aims at highlighting the saints and Ansgar’s status as Christian role model rather than tracing his life historically.
As a young child, Ansgar was raised at the Benedictine monastery of Corbie in the Northof France. There, he became a monk and teacher. From 823 onwards, he succeeded as headmaster at the Carolingian imperial monastery Corvey upon Weser.
The Emperor and the Pope entrusted him with the Nordic mission. Thus in 826, Ansgar and the Danish King Harald Klak, who had been baptized in Mainz, went North.
In 830, Ansgar traveled to Sweden. He continued to establish a mission in Birka, the trading center in the Lake Mälaren not far from Stockholm.
Ansgar was consecrated (missionary) bishop, and after the destruction of Hamburg by the Vikings in 845, Bremen became his episcopal seat. Ansgar's second northern bound voyage took place in 852.
As one of the most important junctions of the early medieval trade networks between northern and western Europe, Haithabu proved to be the ideal starting point for Ansgar’s later travels. (Together with the Danewerk border fortification, Haithabu received UNESCO World Heritage status in 2018.) In 854, Ansgar reopened the church in Haithabu, which had been closed for some time. With the permission of King Horik, the church received a bell.
In 1978, the most ancient, completely preserved ringing bell in Northern Europe was discovered in Haithabu – while it is out of the question that it is the one from Ansgar's church, it could very well be a successor bell from around 950, when Haithabu became an Episcopal see.
Ansgar’s vision was the peaceful mission of Denmark and Sweden and himself being witness to the redemption of the people through Jesus Christ, as his biographer Rimbert states in the "Vita Anskarii": a simple Benedictine monk, teacher of the people, pastor and strong bishop.