Bishop Kunibert: Priest, City Lord and Regent of the Frankish Empire

With the rise of the bishops also as secular rulers of Cologne, the history of Cologne increasingly becomes synonymous with the history of the diocese of Cologne. In the 7th century, Bishop Kunibert (ca. 600-664) in particular embodies this development. He is the city ruler, prince of the church, priest, head of the court of the King of the Franks, and at times even regent of the empire. More about Kunibert’s remarkable career in this episode.

Disclaimer: Many churches were closed during the pandemic. I’m trying to catch up little by little and take the pictures of it. Unfortunately, the town hall tower has been surrounded by a construction fence for years. So I had to rely on several Creative Commons images for this companion post. So it’s not my laziness 😉

Bishop Kunibert of Cologne

There are no comtemporary paintings of Kunibert. But he is quite visible in today’s Cologne.

Von © Raimond Spekking / CC BY-SA 4.0 (via Wikimedia Commons), CC BY-SA 4.0,

The statue of Kunibert on the tower of the Historic City Hall in Cologne. (right) Just like in the legend, a dove sits on his head to show him the way to the bones of Saint Ursula. At his foot you can see a child rising from a bucket of water. I guess that this is the allusion to another legend that I tell in the next episode about Kunibert.

King Dagobert of the Frankish Empire

Comtemporary portrait of the Merovingian king Dagobert on a gold coin. As you can see, the Franks tried to copy the late antique Roman design.

“Saufang” bell – transl. “pig trapping bell ? 😀

There is really no good translation for this. This bell was probably called like that because it was found by a pig.

The “Saufgang”-Bell in the Kölnisches Stadtmuseum (Cologne City Museum). But nowadays you can find it in the Museum Schnütgen in the former church of St. Cäcilien. This bell was blessed by bishop Kunibert after it would not ring after it was found. Experts, however, are largely certain that the bell does not date back to the 7th century, but to the 9th century. Although this makes the bell 200 years younger, it still makes it the oldest church bell in Germany preserved to this day!!!!! And yes, it does really ring. 😉

St. Cäcilien (St. Cecil)

The church of St. Cäcilien (St. Cecile) where Kunibert, according to legend, found the Saufang Bell. The present church building was built as a successor between 1130 and 1160 as a church for a ladies’ convent.

Not much is left of St. Cäcilien’s former intererior paintings. Only a part of it can be seen here.
Lo and behold my great photo skills. A panorama view of St. Cäcilien. Nowadays a museum for medieval art.

Miracle of Kuniberts

Here, in the church of St. Ursula, Kunibert held a mass when a dove landed on his head. The dove showed the bishop where the bones of the martyr of Ursula laid beneath the church floor.

Von Beckstet – Eigenes Werk, CC BY-SA 3.0,

In Cologne Cathedral there is a Gothic stained glass window that was created between 1330-40, showing this legend.

Interactive City Map

Austrasia (part-kingdom of the Frankish Empire in the east)

The blood column in St. Gereon

It wasn’t too long ago that St. Gereon’s communion children were warned not to enter the church until after a confession. Superstition or not, but when I went to St. Gereon’s church to take photos for this Companion Post, I was naturally queasy. No one, who can say that about themselves, is free from sin. But, since I’m speaking to you here and recording this podcast, you can guess that I survived the encounter with the pillar of blood just fine.

Church of St. Gereon

St. Kunibert (formerly St. Clement)

More about St. Kunibert in the next episode. 🙂

The church and later monastery was founded by St. Kunibert. The church then was named St. Clemens but was renamed in honor of his founder who canonised after his death. This church building is a “new” building from 1200. Which makes it still more than 800 years old. 😉

Family Tree of the Merovingians

5 thoughts on “Bishop Kunibert: Priest, City Lord and Regent of the Frankish Empire

  1. I might say “pig-extracted bell” or “bell extracted by a pig”. Such a great story. I’ll need to see thks.!


    1. Thank you, it is really hard to translate stuff like that sometimes. Because the metaphor totally gets lost in translation. It really does ring but it is said, it sounds more like a cow bell than a cast bell they use nowadays.


  2. Hi
    I like this podcast very much, but is it possible to upload it to real player fm or podbay? It is much easier to download podcasts from such sites…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi, thanks for your comment. I will see what I can do. There are so many platforms right now where you can download podcasts from that you can clearly loose track about all of them.


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