Saint Wiborada of Saint Gallen was the first woman formally canonized by the Holy See, by Pope Clement II in 1047. She was an anchoress, Benedictine nun and a martyr. She died in 926 and her feast day is 2 May. In Switzerland, Wiborada is considered the patron saint of libraries and librarians. In art, she is commonly represented holding a book to signify the library she saved, and an ax, which signifies the manner of her martyrdom.
Her name Wiborada (also Weibrath) is from the german word «weiberrat» which means something similar like: Ask a woman for advice.
She had a brother called Hatto who became a priest. A pilgrimage to Rome influenced Hatto to decide to become a monk at the Abbey of Saint Gallen. After the death of their parents, which she cared for a long time, Hatto and Wiborada went to Saint Gallen. In Saint Gallen, they lived together with two other womans, they called Kebini and Pertherad (Berthrada). Hatto taught his sister Wiborada Latin so that she could chant the Liturgy of the Hours. There, she occupied herself by making Hatto’s clothes and helping to bind many of the books in the Abbey library.
One day, she had the Idea to became an anchoress. At this time, bishop Salomon of Constance arranged for her to stay in a cell next to the church of Saint George, where she stayed four years before she went to the church of St.Mangen. In St.Mangen, she was walled up in a really small hermitage. There was only a small altar in the room, a small wooden table, a mat, and a wooden tub in which she bathed only three times a year. Only a very small window had Wiborada to «the outside world» and with this she could pass on their advice to others. The small window on the wall can still be seen today in the St.Mangen Church!
In 925, she predicted a Hungarian invasion of her region. Her warning allowed the priests and religious of St.Gallen to hide the books. The most precious manuscripts were transferred to the monastery at Reichenau Island in safety!
Wiborada refused to leave her cell. In 926 the Magyar marauders reached Saint Gallen. They burned down the St.Mangen Church and broke into the roof of Wiborada’s cell. Upon finding her kneeling in prayer, they clove her skull with a fokos (shepherd’s axe). Wiborada’s refusal to leave her cell and the part she played in saving the lives of the priests and religious of her convent have merited her the title of martyr.