Herman Josef of Steinfeld

Statue Hl. Hermann-Josef

Hermann was born into an impoverished family in Cologne in 1150. At the age of 12 he entered the monastery of Steinfeld of the Premonstratensian Canons. He probably completed his studies in Mariengaarde at Hallum in Friesland. After his return to Steinfeld, he was ordained priest and was at first assigned the service in the refectory (dining hall). The abbot afterwards entrusted him with the office of sacristan at the Abbey Church. He also cared for nun’s convents, especially in the region.

He was particularly known for his "mystical marriage with the Mother of God", which goes back to his deep devotion to Mary and to which he owes his byname Joseph. Even as a child he is reported to had intimately turned to Mary.According to the legend, he presented the Marian statue in the Cologne church “Maria im Kapitol” an apple. Therefore he is also called "Apfelheilger". As at the Madonna in Cologne as fresh apples also are laid on his sarcophagus in the basilica of Steinfeld monastery still today.

Anthony van Dyck created a painting of the mystical marriage of Hermann Joseph with Mary by order of the Brotherhood of unmarried in 1630, which is located in the “Kunsthistorisches Museum” in Vienna today. Following this example, the altarpiece of the Hermann-Josef-altar in the Basilica Steinfeld was created in 1698. Other famous plastic figures are his marble grave sculpture from 1732 on the sarcophagus and the wooden sculpture from the early 16th Century at a rear right pillar in the Basilica Steinfeld.

Hermann Josef died in the Cistercian convent at Hoven Zülpich during a supply work on the Thursday of the Easter week around 1241. He immediately was buried there at a place designated by him shortly before his death.

Only after calling in the Archbishop of Cologne, the Steinfeld confreres succeeded in exhuming Hermann Josef and transferring him to his home monastery in a triumphal procession on Whit Tuesday.

A never interrupted veneration of Hermann Josef began immediately after his death. Pope Benedict XIII consecrated an altar in honor of the Blessed Hermann Joseph in the Roman College of the Norbertines in 1728, and allowed to celebrate Mass at this altar. For the contemporaries, this action was comparable to a formal beatification. Only in 1958, the official cult was confirmed in a decree of the Congregation of Rites that Hermann Josef can be venerated as a saint. This "canonization" was celebrated in a great festive octave at Steinfeld in 1960. The feast of this Saint is the 21st May. The great Hermann-Josef feast is celebrated on the Sunday before Pentecost with the participation of the entire region.