Saint Peter Orseolo, Monk

January 10

Today is the feast day of Saint Peter Orseolo.  Ora pro nobis.

Saint Peter Orseolo, born in 928, had an exciting life. Son of a noble and wealthy family of Venice, at age 20 he commanded the Venetian fleet in a successful effort to conquer the pirates that infested the Adriatic Sea.  In 946 he married a noble Venetian lady, Felicitas; a son of this marriage, who bore the same name as his father, also became Doge of Venice (991-1009).  

He probably played a role in a revolution that led to the murder of Doge Peter Candiano IV in 976. On 11 Aug., 976, the Doge Candiano fell a victim to a conspiracy, whose members, in their anxiety to obtain possession of him, set fire to his palace, thereby destroying not only this building, but also the churches of San Marco, San Teodoro, and Santa Maria di Zobenigo, as well as about three hundred houses. On the following day Peter Orseolo was chosen doge in San Pietro di Castello, but it was only out of regard for his obligations towards his native land that he allowed himself to be prevailed upon to accept the office.

The tradition recorded by Peter Damian (Vita s. Romualdi, V, in P. L., CXLIV, 960), that Peter had taken part in the conspiracy and that his later retirement from the world was due to his desire to expiate therefor, is without foundation. As one might expect from his personal piety, the new doge showed himself a zealous patron of churches and monasteries as well as an able ruler. He had the doge’s palace and the church of San Marco rebuilt at his own expense, procuring in Constantinople for the latter the first golden altar-covering (Pala d’oro), and bequeathed one thousand pounds to persons injured by the fire and a similar sum to the poor.

He had a passionate and complex personality. On September 1, 978, he left Venice secretly and traveled to Roussillon at the foot of the Pyrenees on the borders of France and Spain, and asked to enter the Abbey of Cuxa as a monk. Even his wife did not know where he was going. As a monk in the abbey of Cuxa, he presented to his spiritual brothers a model of humility, zeal for prayer, and charity. For a period he was under the spiritual guidance of St. Romuald.

Under the direction of the Abbot Guarinus, he lived a holy life and dedicated himself to prayer and penance until he died in 987. Many miracles were worked at his tomb.  His only son became one of the greatest and most celebrated Doges of Venice.

In 1731 Clement XII ratified this cult.

Image: Portrait of the Saint Peter Orseolo as Doge (3)

Research by REGINA Staff


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