Saint of the Day – 3 September – Saint Vitalian of Capua (Died 699) Bishop of Capua, Hermit, miracle-worker. Died in 699 in Montevergine, Avellino, Italy of natural causes. Patronages – Catanzaro, Italy, San Vitaliano, Italy, Sparanise, Italy. Also known as – Vitalian of Caudium, Vitalian of Montesarchio, Vitaliano of… Additional Memorial 16 July in Catanzaro.
The ‘Roman Martyrology’ reports for 3 September: “In Campania, Saint Vitalian, Bishop.” This record taken from the ‘Geronymian Martyrology‘ suggests that Vitalian was an inhabitant of Sannio, in the Caudina Valley; the ancient “Caudium” today corresponds to the City of Montesarchio on the Via Appia, located between Capua and Benevento.
These two Cities in the past contended for the Saint as their Bishop, in fact, Capua counts him in 25th place on its Episcopal list but nothing detracts from the fact that he was also Bishop of nearby Benevento for some time.
A legendary ‘Life’ was written at the end of the 12th century, perhaps by a cleric from Benevento, with the intention of affirming the consecration of Mount Partenio, later also called Montevergine, even before the arrival of Saint William of Vercelli in 1142, Founder of the venerated Sanctuary of the Madonna and of the Benedictine Congregation there.
Vitalian was acclaimed Bishop by the people of Capua, against his will. When chosen Bishop by the people of the region, which was the custom in those days, he was roundly abused by his enemies, including Priests who had wanted the seat. He was accused of preaching chastity without practising it and being involved in debauchery. Vitalian denounced their lies, then packed up and left the city, intending to go to Rome, Italy and present himself for audience with the Pope. His enemies followed him, captured him, tied him in a leather bag, and threw him into the Garigliano River to drown.
Divine protection saved him from death and caused him land unscathed on the coast at Ostia, after the river had carried him to the sea. Furthermore, the City of Capua was punished with drought, famine and plague.
Then the Capuans went to the holy Bishop, begging him to return home. Their misery ended only when Vitalian returned to them – his entry to the City caused the first rain in months. He became widely known as a miracle worker during the time he remained there.
But Vitalian, desiring a life of prayer and penance, retired to Mount Partenio, where he erected a sacred oratory dedicated to the Virgin and where he died in 699 and was buried in the Chapel he had built.
Before 716, his body was moved from Montevergine to Benevento by the Bishop Giovanni, some scholars say in 914 due to the raids of the Saracens. In 1122 Pope Callixtus II, transferring the bishopric of Capua to Catanzaro and donated the Saint’s relics to the City. In 1311 Pietro Ruffo, Count of Catanzaro, built a special Chapel in that Cathedral to store the relics of St Vitalian. In 1583, when the Chapel had fallen into a state of ruin, Bishop Nicolò Orazio had the relics re-enshrined in a velvet lined cask under the Altar in the Church of Our Lady of Catanzaro. This Sepulcher of St Vitalian exuded a pure water with miraculous properties.
Catanzaro, venerates St Vitalian as its main Patron on 16 July which is perhaps, the date of the translation of his mortal remains from Montevergine to Benevento and then to Catanzaro.
The City of Catabzaro experienced the protection of St Vitalian several times during earthquakes and in 1922 the City solemnly celebrated the seventh centenary of the arrival of the relics.
The cult of St Vitalian Bishop, spread over the centuries in Campania – the famous “Marble Calendar” of Naples, sculpted in the 9th century, remembers him on 3 September. It is believed that his cult in Naples came with the Capuans, who took refuge there in 595. Churches in his honour were built in various Campania municipalities and the Municipality of St Vitaliano, in the Province of Naples, Diocese of Nola, bears his name.