Saint of the Day – 17 May – Saint Emiliano I of Vercelli (Died 506) Bishop of Vercelli, Italy in the sixth century, Monk and Hermit, Confessor, Defender of the Faith, apostle of the needy, Social Reformer, spiritual director. Born in the 5th century, possibly in the Piedmont region of Italy and died on 11 September in Cercelli, Italy., the date of his entry into life is also celebrated as his feast in some places. Patronages – Cigliano and Villanova Monferrato.
Indeed, he might have preferred to hide in a hermitage and live in solitude and contemplation to better taste the flavour of the Lord but God’s call wanted him to actively serve his neighbour and he knew how to carry it out with commitment and fervour. Among other measures of practical life, he also had an aqueduct built. He asked of himself the maximum efforts in all things and did not spare himself in any way. Of others, he demanded what they could give, in the name of the Lord.
The Roman Martyrology states of him today: “In Vercelli, translation of St Emilian, Bishop.”
Emiliano, the Eleventh Bishop of the great Diocese of Vercelli, was born around the middle of the fifth century. Some sources mistakenly say he was of Spanish origin but he was probably Piedmontese.
He worked in difficult times, as a worthy successor of St Eusebius (who died in 371). After the fall of the Western Roman Empire (476), the barbarian populations occupied the Italian territory. Theodoric, King of the Ostrogoths, defeated Odoacer (493) and the Burgundians, with the capture of Ravenna, they conquered Italy. The occupied populations were continually tested by the ravages of wars. Vercelli, an important Roman municipality, was almost abandoned and depopulated. The most important authority, even from a civil standpoint, was the Bishop. Theodoric tried to establish a peaceful co-existence with the reduction of taxes and the liberation of many slaves. Although he was Arian, he did his utmost to improve relations between the Church of Rome and that of Constantinople. A few decades earlier, in the Council of Chalcedon (451), Christ’s dual nature, human and divine, had been recognised, not without great difficulty. Such were also the teachings of St Eusebio and S.tMassimo of Turin, fully shared by St Emiliano.
Our saint was from the important Eusebian Monastery which, as St Ambrose wrote, gathered around the Bishop, both contemplative religious and aspirants to the Priesthood. According to tradition, Emiliano was a Hermit for forty years near Sostegno, where then a Monastery of regular clerics was built. Even today there is an ancient Sanctuary dedicated to him.
He was elected Bishop between 493 and 497, maintaining a certain aptitude for contemplation. An authentic Shepherd, he was concerned, both with souls (let us think of him, often gathered with his community around the tomb of St Eusebius) and with the living conditions of his faithful.
For this purpose he asked Theodoric, to build a bridge and reduce taxes. Emiliano strongly defended the centrality of Papal power. He went to Rome for a Council called by St Symmachus (early 6th century), whose appointment and the first years of his Pontificate were marked by violent struggles to cancel his election. Pope Symmachus also escaped an attack. Peace returned in 505, thanks also to the intervention of Theodoric, with the adoption of the first rules to avoid external interference in the Papal elections.
Emiliano was an excellent spiritual director. He gave the veil and was confessor of the four sisters Licinia, Leonzia, Ampelia and Flavia who lived in the proto-monastery founded by Eusebia, sister of St Eusebius.
He died on 11 September, around 506 and was buried in the Cathedral. His cult remained alive and Altars were raised in his honour. On 17 May 1181, Bishop Alberto transferred St Emiliano’s relics to the main Altar. Rediscovered in 1565, seven years later it was placed in the Chapel of the Vergine dello Schiaffo, which was then dedicated to him.
Two Parishes, Cigliano and Villanova Monferrato are dedicated to him.. He is not to be confused with Emilian II, a successor to the See of Vercelli, wo centuries later, who was his great devotee.