Saint of the Day – 26 April – Saint Peter of Braga (Died c 60) Martyr, the first Bishop of Braga, Portugal between the years 45 and 60. Born as Pedro de Rates on an unknown date and he died in c 60 in norther Portugal. Patronage – Braga. Also known as Peter of Rates and Pedro di Braga.
The Roman Martyrology states: “At Braga, Portugal, St Peter, Martyr, the first Bishop of that City.”
Tradition says he was ordered to preach the Christian faith by Saint James the Greater and that Peter of Rates was martyred while attempting to convert the locals to the Christian faith in northern Portugal. The ancient Breviary of Braga (Breviarium Bracarense) and the Breviary of Evora hold that Peter was a disciple of Saint James and preached at Braga.
The document holds that Saint James, one of the Apostles of Christ, visited the northwest of the Iberian Peninsula in the year 44. One of the places he visited was Serra de Rates, in the current municipality of Póvoa de Varzim, Portugal.
During his visit, the Apostle Ordained and Consecrated the local Peter of Braga as the first Bishop of Braga.
It is believed that Saint Peter was beheaded while converting the local pagans to the Christian faith.
Centuries later, around the 9th century, the discovery of Peter’s body was attributed to Saint Felix the Hermit, a fisherman of Villa Mendo, an ancient Roman villa that existed until the early years of the Kingdom of Portugal and rediscovered in the 20th century under the sand dunes of Rio Alto in Estela, also in Póvoa de Varzim.
Felix had left home and settled in the biggest hill of the area, which is today known as São Félix Hill. Regularly, Saint Félix observed a light in the darkness of the night from the hill. One day, curious about the light’s origins, Felix came upon the body of Saint Peter. On that spot, the Romanesque Monastery of Rates was built and the relics kept there until 1552; in that year the body was transferred to Braga Cathedral, where it is still kept.
In the civil parishes of Balasar and Rates in Póvoa de Varzim, there are two fountains that the population believes are miraculous because they were used by this saint.
In the 18th century, there are descriptions that Saint Peter of Braga was beheaded while drinking the waters of the fountain in Balasar. The faithful believes that two indentations on the fountain are impressions from the saint’s knees. At the fountain of Rates, a stone is believed to cure in cases of sterility. Due to that belief, on 26 April every year, the feast day of Saint Peter, the pregnant women and female animals do not go to work.