St. Bernward was the grandson of Athelbero, Count Palatine of Saxony. When his parents died, Bernward went to live with his uncle Volkmar, the bishop of Utrecht. From his uncle and Thangmar, the director of the cathedral school at Heidelberg, he received education in Christian piety, science, mathematics, painting, architecture, and the making of ecclesiastical vessels and ornaments. 

When Bernward had completed his studies, he was ordained a priest. He chose to live close to his grandfather, who was getting older, and worked in the diocese near him. When Athelbero died in 987, Bernward was made chaplain in the imperial court. The Empress-Regent Theophano appointed him as the tutor of her six-year-old son, Otto II. Bernward remained at the court for six years, until he was made the bishop of Hildesheim. Before his death in 1022, he was vested in the Benedictine habit. 

Bernward was known for his extraordinary piety and his intense devotion to prayer and mortification. He was canonized in 1193 by Pope Celestine III.