Saint of the Day – 8 February – Blessed Pietro Igneus OSB Vall. (c 1020 – 1089) Cardinal Bishop of Albano, Reformer – particularly against simony, Papal Legate and peace-maker. Born in c 1020 in Italy and died on 11 November 1089 of natural causes. Roman Martyrology: In Albano in Lazio, Blessed Peter, called Igneus because he passed unharmed in the fire, Monk of Vallombrosa and later Bishop of Albano, who devoted himself tirelessly to the renewal of ecclesiastical discipline.
Pietro was born to a noble family probably in Florence, although no documentation has been received that would allow us to reconstruct his first years of life. He was a relative to St John Gualbert (c 985-1073), the Founder of the Vallombrosians branch of the Benedictines and the Uncle of St Bernardo degli Uberti, Cardinal Bishop of Parma and Abbot, also a Vallombrosian Monk. He had at least one sibling.
Becoming a Monk in the Vallombrosana Congregation in 1018, he was a close follower of John Gualbert and adhered to the Gregorian Reform.
The most renowned event of his life, was the famous ordeal, which took place in 1068 near Badia a Settimo, near Florence. The episode was part of the fight against the simoniacal investiture of a Bishop of Florence, a certain Pietro Mezzabarba. The investigation was conducted by Pietro and by John Gualbert and defended by St Peter Damian among others. The controversy caused a great deal of distress in the Vallombrosan Monastery which to Bishop Mezzabardba, was like a thorn in the side of his control over the city of Florence.
The episode caused a great sensation among the faithful of the time. Pietro, to demonstrate the reliability of the theses supported by John Gualberto, which documented the simony of Mezzabarba, voluntarily submitted to the “Judgement of God,” walking on an expanse of burning coals and remaining miraculously unscathed. For this reason he was called Igneus which means “fire-tried” and was immediately made the object of a popular devotion. This triumph of the Monks, led to a confession on the part of the erring Bishop. Following the sensational episode, Pope Alexander II accepted the theses of the Vallombrosans and deposed the Bishop. Mezzabarba subsequently repented and retired to a Monastery, spending the rest of his life in penance and spiritual recollection.
In 1068 he was sent by his Abbot, John Gualbert, to direct the Abbey of San Salvatore near Fucecchio, at the express request of the Cadolingi counts, who had financially helped the construction of the Abbey. While remaining in Fucecchio for a few years, in 1072 Pope Alexander II raised him to the office of Bishop of Albano but he always kept the title of Abbot of San Salvatore in Fucecchio.
Pietro attended the October 1072 Consecration of the Church of Santi Donato e Nicola in Albano, while he himself, Consecrated the Church of San Miniatis in Rubbicana on 7 February 1077.
He co-operated with Pope Gregory VII to repress simony and reform church discipline. Gregory VII entrusted him with several important missions – in 1079 he served as a Papal Legate in the German kingdom with the Bishop of Padua, to mediate between the Emperor Henry IV and Rudolf of Swabia. Upon the renewal of the excommunication against the Emperor at Salerno in 1084, he was designated – at Pope Gregory VII’s behest – as one of the two legates sent to France for the promulgation of the sentence. He is mentioned in the Papal Bull of Pope Urban II, on 8 July 1089 and is attested for the last time, in the Papal Curia in September 1089.
Pietro served as a Co-Consecrator for the episcopal Consecration of the new Pope Victor III in 1087. He participated in the conclaves held in 1086 and in 1088.
He died on 11 November 1089, most probably in Albano. His body was brought back to Vallombrosa and buried in the Abbey.
Blessed Pietro was Beatified on 4 March 1673 by Pope Clement X.