Saint of the Day – 28 October – Saint Fidelis of Como (Died c 304) Soldier-Saint Martyr during the reign of Emperor Maximian.
The name of Fidelis is often repeated in Como, where an ancient, beautiful Romanesque Church, with apses and dome, is dedicated to the Saint of today. A saint, therefore, typical of the region and the city of Como, almost as much as St Abundius, patron saint of Como.
Faithful was this Martyr in the first centuries and the news about him is much scarcer than what his clear fame would suggest. He was probably a Christian missionary, sent by the Bishop of Milan to the shores of the lake, still inhabited by infidels. In fact, a somewhat late Passion gives the name of Materno, Bishop of Milan, who, in the third century, would have sent Fidelis to convert the idolaters of the region.
Preaching and teaching, St Fidelis would have reached the northern end of the lake basin. Here he would suffer a quick death, perhaps in the persecution of Maximian.
Another tradition says that he was a soldier of the imperial legions, a deserter, with two companions, when Diocletian and Maximian published the first edicts of persecution against Christians, aimed at purging the army and putting public officials under investigation.
Arrested in Como, Fidelis was allegedly tried, sentenced and finally beheaded.
After his death, the references to St Fidelis are, if not more numerous, at least more precise. Ennodio, narrating the life of Saint Anthony of Lérins, remembers that his first refuge was at the burial of St Fidelis, where, he adds, “the Lario puts down the threat of its white rams, when the earth opposes its harsh rest of the banks.”
This description may suggest that the Martyr’s burial was actually in Como, on the narrowest and steepest end of the large, often stormy lake. But other sources testify in favour of the burial of St Fidelis in Samolaco, that is, at the other end of the lake, in the very place of the beheading. It is certain that even before the year 1000, the relics of Fidelis were transferred to Como, in that Church – until then dedicated to Santa Eufemia – which was to take the name of the Martyr and honour him over the centuries.
But it seemed that the glory of the city by the lake was not enough for the ancient Martyr. In 1572, St Charles Borromeo solemnly transported the remains to Milan, to a Church then built in the centre of the city. And in the name of the Church of St Fidelis, the memory of the Martyr of Como also survives in the Lombard metropolis, from where he left a confident and faithful missionary.
At Milan, in 1559, St Charles Borromeo commissioned the church of St Fidelis by the artist/architect Pellegrino Tibaldi.
In the Diocese of Como, St Fidelis’ memory is celebrated today.