Saint of the Day – 15 July – Blessed Bernard of Baden TOSF (1428-1458) Margrave of Baden (Margrave was originally the medieval title for the military commander assigned to maintain the defence of one of the border provinces of the Holy Roman Empire.) Tertiary of the Order of St Francis, apostle of the poor and the needy. Born in c 1428 in Hohenbaden Castle, Baden-Baden, Baden-Württemberg, Germany and died on 15 July 1458 in Moncalieri, Italy of natural causes. Also known as – Bernard of Marchio, Bernard II, Margrave of Baden-Baden, Bernhard of Baden, Bernardo, Bernardus, Bernhard. Patronages – Baden, Germany, Baden-Baden, Germany, together with Saint Konrad of Constance , he is the Patron Saint of the Archdiocese of Freiburg, Germany, Moncalieri, Italy.
Blessed Bernard was born in late 1428 or early 1429 (his exact birthday is not known) at Hohenbaden Castle near Baden-Baden in the present state of Baden- Baden. Württemberg in Germany. This Castle was the then tribal seat of the Margraves of Baden and Bernhard was the second son of Margrave James I and his wife Catherine of Lorraine, who was the daughter of Blessed Margaret of the Palatinate and Duke Charles II of Lorraine (1364-1431) .
Berrnard grew up in a deeply religious family. His father,had founded Fremersberg Abbey and expanded the Collegiate Church in Baden-Baden. The Margrave’s house was characterised by a deep devotion and religious practices and a great sense of responsibility towards the family members and subjects.
Bernard received a careful education, which would prepare him for his later role as a sovereign. The intent was that he would be Margrave of Pforzheim, Eberstein, Besigheim and several districts in the northern part of the Margraviate.
He was related to the Habsburg dynasty via his older brother Karl I, who had married Catherine of Austria, a sister of Emperor Frederick III. This relationship should give Bernard access to the imperial Court. But first, he assisted his uncle René of Anjou in an armed conflict in northern Italy. According to contemporary sources, he fought bravely. After his father’s death in 1453, he returned to Baden, where he agreed with his brother to give up his claim to part of the margraviate. Instead, he became Frederick III’s personal envoy, despite his young age.
Bernard saw a number of disgraceful situations and tried to alleviate hardship and poverty wherever he could. He spent most of his income assisting the poor and those in need. Even during his lifetime, he impressed his contemporaries with his unusual and deep piety.
Under pressure, after the fall of Constantinople to the Turks in 1453, the imperial Habsburg family began preparing a Crusade against the expanding Ottoman Empire. In March 1453, the Turks captured Constantinople, the capital of the Greek Empire, after a terrible battle and the City was lost to Christianity. This was the main reason that Frederick III, in particular, saw the need to attempt to rout the Turks. Thus, Bernard left soldier life and embarked on a diplomatic career, which was more in line with his peaceful nature. Emperor Frederick III sent him to various Courts in Germany, France and Italy to arouse interest and raise money for a new Crusade. He was so attracted to this mission to save Christianity, that he soon after handed over the office of Margrave of Baden with all rights to his brother Karl for a period of ten years.
Bernard had, since childhood, lived a very religious life and wanted to support his brother-in-law the Emperor by all means. At the imperial Court he also became an ardent intercessor for the needy, following the teachings of Christ and His Church and seeing the Face of Christ in the poor. Bernard rightly believed, that Godliness should lead to mercy for those in most need. He himself lived as he taught and divided his guaranteed annual income into three: one-third was to be used for the poor, one-third was to benefit the Church, and one-third was for himself. In addition, he led a strictly religious life and gave up all worldly pleasures, which earned him deep respect even during his young lifetime.
Emperor Frederick III held two parliaments in 1455, where he appointed delegations of German Princes to recruit rulers outside Germany to take part in a crusade against the Turks. Bernard’s intention was to work on behalf of Emperor Frederick III for the good of Christianity in the areas that the Turks had occupied. His last voyage as an imperial envoy began in late May 1458 and led him and his companions to the Duchy of Orléans and on to Genoa.
He was on his way to Rome, to meet Pope Callistus III (1455-1458), who himself tried to encourage support for a Crusade with great enthusiasm but little success . But shortly after Bernard left Turin in northern Italy, he and his companions were infected by an epidemic, probably the plague. He tried to get home to Baden but even before reaching the village of Moncalieri on the Po River south of Turin in Piedmont, two of his companions were dead. In a hostel next to the Franciscan Monastery in Moncalieri, Bernard died on 15 July 1458, not yet thirty years old.
Due to his position as Prince and Emperor’s envoy, Margrave Bernard was buried in front of the High Altar in the dormitory Church of Santa Maria della Scala in Moncalieri. He was not a citizen of Moncalieri but was, nevertheless, solemnly carried to the grave in the presence of numerous clergy and local citizens, which was probably due more to his privileged status, than the strongly believing and holy life he had led.
During the mourning ceremony, Bernard’s life was told, which led to a citizen of Moncalieri asking Bernhard for prayer and help, as he had only been able to move with a cane and crutches for a long time the result of a bone disease. Already, during the mourning ceremony, this man recovered, which led to general astonishment and joy and was immediately attributed to the prayers of the newly buried Badian Margrave. Bernard’s cult and calls for help and support had begun. He already had a reputation for holiness and for a special devotion to the Virgin Mary, and many miracles were reported at his tomb. In Moncalieri and the surrounding area, accounts spread of his effective intercession. His tomb and his relics became a pilgrimage site which it still is. Pilgrimages were and are held there, prayers are said, vows are made and sacrifices are offered. Bernhard has, for many centuries, been the Patron Saint of Moncalieri, which is probably the only City in Italy, that has a German Prince as their Protector.
His cult spread rapidly in Piedmont and the surrounding areas of France and Germany. In Vic near Nancy and Metz in Lorraine, where Bernhard’s brother Georg had been Bishop, an Altar and Statue were rected in St. Stephan’s Collegiate Church. Of course, he was also remembered in his home county. There, Margaret, daughter of Margrave Charles I, who from 1477 to 1496 was Abbess of the Monastery of Lichtenthal, had a wooden Statue made in honour of her uncle, which was erected in the princely Chapel.
Bernard was Beatifed on 16 September 1769 by Pope Clement XIV. His Canonisation process continues, at present, the second miracle required is being investigated.