Saint of the Day – 9 February – Saint Sabinus of Canosa (c 461–566) Bishop, Confessor, Benedictine Monk, Papal Legate, miracle-worker, graced with the charism of prophecy, Defender of the Faith against heretics, friend of Saint Benedict of Nursia, builder of Churches and Monasteries, following the Benedictine discipline of Ora et labora. Born in c 461 in Italy and died on 9 February 556. Patronages – Atripalda, Canosa Italy, Torremaggiore and Furci and Bari, Italy, protector against poisoning. At some point Sabinus went blind but records do not reveal exactly when this occurred, nor is it revealed in the Dialogues of St Gregory. Additional Memorial – 14 September in Atripalda. Roman Martyrology: “At Canossa in Apulia, St Sabinus, Bishop and Confessor.”
Saint Pope Gregory tells that he was endowed with the spirit of prophecy and the power of miracles. After he had become blind, when a cup of poison was offered to him by a servant who was bribed, he knew it by divine instinct. He, however, declared that God would punish the one who had bribed the servant and, making the Sign of the Cross, he drank the poison without anxiety and without harmful effect.”
Sabinus was a friend of Saint Benedict, whom he visited at Montecassino and to whom, as recorded by St Gregory the Great, he once expressed his preoccupations on the incursions of the Ostrogoth King Totila into the Italian peninsula. According to the hagiographic legend, he succeeded in saving Canosa from the threat of the latter. In fact, the Dialogues of Pope Gregory I (Book III, Chapter 5) also contains a second anecdote relating to “Sabinus, Bishop of Canosa.” Totila, King of the Goths, who was sceptical about the prophetic powers of the blind St Sabinus, visited and had dinner with him. He handed him a glass of wine, in place of the cupbearer. “Then the man of God taking the cup but not seeing him that did deliver it, said: ‘Blessed be that hand.’ At which words, the King very merrily blushed because, albeit he was taken, yet he had found that gift in the man of God which before he desired to know.” Totila was so impressed that he renounced his pillaging.
In 531, under the Papacy of Boniface II, he participated in the Roman Synod. Sabinus was sent twice as a Papal Envoy to Constantinople, in 525, by Pope John I and in 536 to accompany Pope Agapitus I, (who lost his life on the journey,) to defend the true faith against the Monophysite heresy.
St Sabinus died after 52 years of dedicated service in the Episcopate.
Bishop Angelarius rescued the relics of St Sabinus from Canos Cathedral and took them to Bari when Canosa was destroyed by Saracens in 844. It is not clear how some of them came to be venerated in San Giovenale, Orvieto. The Cappella di San Sabino, to the left of the apse of this Church, was built at the end of the 13th century on what might have been the site of a free-standing Oratory of St Sabinus. This Church itself is referred to as Sts Giovenale and Sabinus in a document of 1314.
A reliquary (1340) by Ugolino di Vieri for the skull of St Sabinus of Canosa (see below) was displayed in this Chapel until 1845, when it was sold to the Museo dell’ Opera del Duomo. The rest of the saints’ relics are said to rest under its high altar.
Week long festivities are celebrated each year in Atripalda prior to the Feast Day of our Saint, where St Sabinus’ memory is celebrated on 14 September.