St. Ulrich of Augsburg
German, Circa 1520
Wood with polychromy and gilding, Height: 38 in. (96.5 cm.)
Seattle Art Museum, Margaret E. Fuller Purchase Fund, 70.20
St. Ulrich was bishop of Augsburg from 923 to 973. In addition to vigorous work in that post he provided counseling and diplomatic service to the Emperor, particularly in the latter's struggles with the Duke of Bavaria.
Most of the miracles for which he was canonized were cures of persons who were blind, halt, deaf, etc. But the one miracle that explains the fish as his attribute is described in a 17th century text by the abbot of the Monastery of SS. Ulrich and Afra. Ulrich was in deep conversation with the bishop of Constance. They kept on talking through the night until it was Thursday, the beginning of the six "ferial days" of fasting in preparation for the feast of St. Afra, Augsburg's patron:
"Then it happened that a certain porter of the Duke of Bavaria, upon leaving after completion of the business for which he had come, gave them a piece of meat, failing to observe the six ferial days. This servant, to please his master, was maliciously trying to defame the bishops by putting it out that they had not abstained from meat during the six ferial days. In the event, when he offered the piece of meat to the holy man, he did take it – and, wondrous to relate, the meat changed into a fish. This proved the servant to be guilty of detraction and the saint to be innocent. For this reason it is customary to include a fish in images of the glorious bishop, in perpetual memory of this miracle."1
St. Ulrich of Augsburg's feast day is July 4. Latin texts render his name in a variety of ways: Udalricus, Oldericus, Walricus, etc. He is sometimes confused with another St. Ulrich, monk of Zell in Baden (Acta Sanctorum, July vol. 3, 149-170) whose feast is on July 14.
Photographed at the museum by Albert A. Thibault, Jr., shared under Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license.
1 Bernard Hertfelder (Abbot of St. Afra, 1632-64). Basilica SS. Udalrici & Afrae Augusta Vindelicorum. II, 95. Quoted (my translation) in Acta Sanctorum, July vol. 2, 87.