Saint of the Day – 13 March – St Heldrad of Novalese (died c 875) Priest and Benedictine Abbot of the Novalaise in Italy from 816 to 845, according to his first biography in prose written around 1120 by an Italian monk. He is also known as Aldradus, Eldrad, Eldrado, Eldradus, Heldradus, Heltrodus and has an additional memorial on 31 October in the Benedictine Order.
St Heldrad entered the world at Lambec, in Provence, his father was a feudal lord. The saint spent the entirety of his inheritance on building a church, erecting a hospice and helping the poor. Then he became a religious pilgrim and visited holy places in Italy, France and Spain.
During a pilgrimage to Rome, he discovered the hospice installed on Mont-Cenis. He decided to enter this monastic community and, when Father Abbot died, he was called to govern it. He did so with all the administrative qualities that were his. At the same time as he enlarged the buildings, he made grow the spiritual life of his monks and the charity towards the travellers. He also built a hospice there and helped to expand the monastery’s library.
The whole life of Saint Heldrad until his death, is depicted on the frescoes of the chapel which bears his name in the Abbey of Novalese. Heldrad spent part of his childhood in Ambel. On the side of the road at the entrance of Ambel is the Saint Heldrad cross and in the parish church we see his statue and his banner.
He governed the monastery for thirty years, imparting an additional vitality. He led his flock with wisdom and prudence, ‘his monks obeyed with gaiety of heart’. La Laus perennis goes hand in hand with charitable works, in particular those of the monks of Mont-Cenis, who rescue travelers lost in the snow. He also sent monks to found another hospice not far from the Lautaret pass, at a place called Monêtier de Briançon, currently Le Monêtier-les-Bains. (Sanctoral of the diocese of Gap and Embrun, page 22)
The Roman martyrology says: “At the monastery of Novalèse in the Susa valley, at the foot of Mont-Cenis, around 840, Saint Eldrade, abbot, who was zealous for divine worship, instituted permanent praise psalms and took care to build new churches.”
St Heldrad died on 13 March 875, ‘calm and cheerful as he lived’ (Sanctoral of the diocese of Gap and Embrun, page 22). His relics were transferred to the parish church in Novalesa, Italy in 1794. He was Beatified on 9 December 1904 by Pope Saint Pius X (cultus confirmed).
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