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Ulrich of Zell

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Ulrich of Zell

Ulrich of Zell
Born c. 1029
Regensburg, Bavaria, Germany
Died 10 July 1093
St. Ulrich im Schwarzwald, in Bollschweil, Germany
Venerated in Roman Catholic Church
Beatified 14 July 1139 (first celebration of feast day)
Feast 14 July
See also: Ulrich Zell, the first printer in Cologne.

Saint Ulrich of Zell, also known as Wulderic, sometimes of Cluny or of Regensburg (1029 – 1093), was a Cluniac reformer of Germany, abbot, founder and saint.


Ulrich was born at Regensburg in Bavaria (formerly also known as Ratisbon) in early 1029. His parents, pious and rich, were Bernhold and Bucca, niece of Bishop Gebhard II of Regensburg. Ulrich was probably educated at the school of St. Emmeram's Abbey, along with William of Hirsau, with whom he remained friends throughout his life, but in 1043 he was called to the court of his godfather, Henry III, King of the Germans where he acted as page to Queen Agnes, who was of the ducal house of Aquitaine, patrons of the reforming Abbey of Cluny. Ordained deacon by his uncle Nidger, Bishop of Freising, he was made archdeacon of the cathedral there, but was deeply moved by the spirit of reform that was sweeping from Cluny through the 11th century church. On his return from a journey to Rome he distributed his possessions to the poor, made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, and, after another short visit to Rome, returned to Regensburg, where he founded a religious community, and then entered the Abbey of Cluny in 1061, during the abbacy of Saint Hugh.

Here he was ordained priest and appointed confessor to the convent at Mareigny in the diocese of Autun, and prior of the community of men in the same place. He also lost an eye and was obliged to return to Cluny.

Later life

He was then named prior at Peterlingen (now Payerne) in the Diocese of Lausanne, but on account of troubles caused by Bishop Burchard von Oltingen, a partisan of Henry IV, Ulrich returned again to Cluny, where he acted as adviser to the abbot. His influence drew the Benedictine community of Rüeggisberg to become a Cluniac priory in 1072, the first reformed priory in German-speaking lands . A nobleman had donated to Cluny some property at Grüningen near Breisach, and Ulrich was sent to inspect the place and eventually to lay the foundation of a monastery. Not finding the locality suitable, he and his monks moved in 1087 to Zell (Sell, Sella, Villmarszelle) in the Black Forest, where his high reputation soon brought him many disciples. He enjoyed the good opinion of Blessed Gebhard III, Bishop of Basle, who frequently visited him. In 1090 he established Bollschweil Priory, a Cluniac nunnery at Bolesweiler (now Bollschweil), about a mile from Zell. For the last two years of his life he was blind.

He died at Zell, later known as St. Ulrich im Schwarzwald, probably on 10 July 1093. He was buried in the cloister, but three years later his body was brought into the church.

His feast was celebrated for the first time on 14 July 1139, and 14 July remains his feast day.


His work "Consuetudines cluniacenses" ("Uses of Cluny") was composed at the request of William of Hirsau, in three books. The first two, written between 1079 and 1082, treat of liturgy and the education of novices; the third, written not later than 1087, speaks of the administration of monasteries.

His life of Hermann of Zähringen, Margrave of Baden, later a monk of Cluny, is lost.


Two biographies of him exist: the first was written anonymously around 1109 by a monk of Zell at the request of Adalbert, a recluse near Regensburg; the other (the Vita posterior), also anonymous, was written between 1109 and 1130. Particulars of his life are also contained in his writings.


  • Michael Buhlmann: Benediktinisches Mönchtum im mittelalterlichen Schwarzwald. Ein Lexikon. Vortrag beim Schwarzwaldverein St. Georgen e.V., St. Georgen im Schwarzwald, 10. November 2004, Teil 2: N–Z (= Vertex Alemanniae, H. 10/2), S. 102.
  • Dieter Heck: Ulrich von Zell. Der Reform verpflichtet (Hagiographie/Ikonographie/Volkskunde; Nr. 105). Schnell + Steiner, München und Zürich 1992.
  • Johannes Madey: Ulrich von Zell. In: Biographisch-Bibliographisches Kirchenlexikon (BBKL). Band 19, Bautz, Nordhausen 2001, ISBN 3-88309-089-1, Sp. 1453–1455.
  • Florian Lamke: Cluniazenser am Oberrhein. Konfliktlösungen und adlige Gruppenbildung in der Zeit des Investiturstreits (= Forschungen zur oberrheinischen Landesgeschichte, Bd. 54), Freiburg / München 2009, bes. S. 136-152.
  • Wolfgang Müller: St. Ulrich. In: Die Benediktinerklöster in Baden-Württemberg. (= Germania Benedictina, Bd. 5), Ottobeuren 1976, S. 615
  • E. Tremp: Ulrich von Zell. In: Lexikon des Mittelalters (LexMA). Band 8, LexMA-Verlag, München 1997, ISBN 3-89659-908-9, Sp. 1205–1026.


  1. ^
  2. ^ Consuetudines Cluniacenses in: Patrologia Latina 149, pp. 635–778.
  3. ^ Vita Udalrici prioris Cellensis, ed. R. Willmans, in: MGSS XII, 249-269 (with selected passages from the "Vita posterior")


  • Lexikon des Mittelalters, vol. 8, ed. E. Tremp, Stuttgart, 1997. "Ulrich von Zell"
  •  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain

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