Saint of the Day – 19 February – St Barbatus of Benevento (c 610-682) “Apostle of the South” Bishop of Benevento, Preacher, Reformer, Confessor – Patronages – Benevento, Cicciano, Castelvenere, Casalattico and Valle dell’Angelo. St Barbatus was the bishop of Benevento from 663 to 682. He succeeded Hildebrand in this capacity. He assisted in a church council called by Pope Agatho in Rome in 680 and in 681 attended the Third Council of Constantinople against the Monothelites.
St Barbatus was born in 610, in the village of Vandano, near Cerreto Sannita. St Barbatus received a Christian education and spent most of his time studying Sacred Scriptures. He had a desire from an early child to become a Priest and was ordained as soon as his age would allow. The local Bishop immediately assigned him to preaching, which he had a great talent for. Soon after that, he was made the Curate of St Basil’s Church in nearby Morcone. He caused discomfort with the parishioners there, as he continued preaching on their falling short of living the ideal Christian life. They soon persecuted him, in order to get him to allow them to continue in their sinful lifestyles. He didn’t let up and this caused the parishioners to slander his character. It wasn’t long until he was to cease his charitable works because of these slanders.
Eventually he returned to Benevento, where he was welcomed back by those that remembered him from his earlier position there. These people were living a Christian life and loved his spiritual direction and preaching. Eventually they turned to indulging in many idolatrous behaviours, including veneration of a golden viper and a specific local tree. The local Lombard Prince Romuald I, son of Grimoald I, was himself seriously involved in these activities. St Barbatus regularly preached against these pagan rituals, only to be ignored.
He started to tell the people of the city of great trials they would soon suffer at the hands of the East Roman Emperor Constans II, and his army. Shortly after, the army landed in the area and laid siege to Benevento. The people, in their fear, renounced the practices that St Barbatus had been criticising. He then cut down the tree they worshipped, and melted the viper into a Chalice for use in the Church. As St Barbatus had foretold, the siege ended with the defeat of Emperor Constans.
The presiding Bishop of Benevento, Bishop Hildebrand, had died during the siege. After the withdrawal of the invaders, St Barbatus was made Bishop on10 March 633. He took advantage of his new position and quickly destroyed the remaining superstitious artifacts hidden by the Prince and the locals. In 680, St Barbatus assisted in a council held by Pope Agatho and took part in the sixth General Council held in Constantinople in 681 regarding the Monothelites. Shortly after that Council, on 19 February 682, St Barbatus died at the age of seventy. His relics rest partly in the Cathedral of Benevento and partly in Montevergine.