Relic of St. Willibrord, Carlow Cathedral

By admin • August 21st, 2018

Pilgrims from the Waxweiler and Prum regions of Germany lead the 2017 UNESCO World Heritage Status Hopping Procession through the streets of Echternach, Luxembourg. Photograph: Carlow County Museum.

Inside the cathedral you will find a bronze statue of St. Willibrord, Patron Saint of Luxembourg. It contains a relic of the saint and stands on a stone from the abbey of Echternach in Luxembourg which was founded by him. This relic was gifted to Carlow in 2017 in recognition of Willibrord’s strong connection with the county.

The Irish/Carlow stained glass window in the Basilica of St. Willibrord, Echternach made by Belgian artist, Théodore Hanssen and depicts Willibrord’s training, ordination and first Mass in Co. Carlow.

Originally from Northumbria in England, Willibrord came to Ireland c. 678 to study in the monastery of Rath Melsigi. This monastery, located near Milford in Co. Carlow, was a centre of Anglo-Saxon influence in Ireland and gained an enviable reputation for sanctity and scholarship.

It was from here in 690 that Willibrord led a mission of 12 monks to bring Christianity to Frisia (modern-day Netherlands). This mission was remarkably successful and Willibrord was consecrated Bishop of Utrecht by Pope Sergius 1. He later founded the important abbey of Echternach, Luxembourg, whose scriptorium produced many bibles, psalm-books and prayer-books. Following his death in 739, he was made a saint, and his burial place in Echternach became the focus of devotion to the man known as the ‘First Apostle of the Netherlands’.

The relic of St. Willibrord is a piece of his bone and is contained within the rose window of the scale model of the Basilica at Echternach which the saint is holding in his right hand. Credit: Thomas Sunderland.

The 1,300-year-old connection between Carlow and Luxembourg was recently rekindled by an ecumenical diocesan pilgrimage from Carlow to Echternach and
the gift of the relic as a ‘thank you’ to the people of county Carlow for training and ordaining Willibrord in the 7th century.


Monday – Friday 7.15am – 7.00pm, Saturday 9.00am – 7.30pm, Sunday 7.45am – 8.00pm




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