Born to the Saxon nobility; as an adult he was heavily involved in the power politics of his day. Educated in the abbey of Saint Michael, Hildesheim, Germany. Priest. Canon at the imperial chapel at Gozlar, Hanover. Chaplain to Emperor Henry III. Bishop of Meissen in 1066. Participated in the synod of Forcheim, Germany in 1078.
He spent a year in prison for backing the nobility and Pope Saint Gregory VII against Emperor Henry IV over lay investiture and the control of the Church by the State. At one point he was summoned to Rome, Italy; he ordered the canons to lock the cathedral while he was gone in case emperor Henry tried to occupy it. Henry did, and threw the keys of the cathedral into the river as a symbol to show no one could lock the church against him. When Benno returned, he went to the river and found the key; legend says it was protected by a fish.
Even with all the polical involvement and turmoil, Benno never lost sight of his calling as a diocesan bishop. He visited parishes, preached and conducted Mass, enforced discipline among his clergy, and fought simony any place he found it. He was an accomplished musician, supported music and chant in the churches and monasteries, and wrote on the Gospels. In his later years he served a missionary to the Wends.
Benno continued to be an involved and controversial figure in politics even after his death. His biographer, Jerome Emser, worked a lot of Church versus State material into the book. Martin Luther wrote a furious diatriabe against Benno’s canonization.
- 16 June 1106 of natural causes
- buried in the cathedral of Meissen, Germany
- when the cathedral was rebuilt in 1285, his relics were translated to the new structure, with many miraculous cures accompanying the move
- relics translated to the bishop‘s castle at Stolp when Saxony became Protestant
- relics translated to Munich, Germany in 1580
- bishop holding a fish with keys in its mouth
- bishop with a book on which lays a fish and two keys
- Book of Saints, by the Monks of Ramsgate
- Catholic Online
- Katherine Rabenstein
- New Catholic Dictionary
- Our Sunday Visitor’s Encyclopedia of Saints
- The Seraph, January 1998