Saint of the Day – 5 October – Blessed Pietro of Imola (c1250-1320) Knight of the Order of St John of Jerusalem and Grand Prior , Lawyer, Jurist, Mediator, Peace-maker. Born in mid-13th century in Italy as Pietro Pattarini and died on 5 October 1320 in Campo Corbellini, Florence, Tuscany, Italy of natural causes . Also known as – Peter of Imola, Peter Pattarini, Pietro Pattarini de Imola.
The Roman Martyrology states: “In Florence, blessed Pietro da Imola, who, a Knight of the Order of St John of Jerusalem, took care of the sick with pious charity.”
Very little is known of the details of the life of Blessed Pietro of Imola whose memorial we celebrate today. He was born in the mid 1200s at Imola, in Italy, into the noble Pattarini family who had been the Lords of Linasio for over 100 years and part of the Ghibelline faction. Pietro was an excellent scholar and become a well-known lawyer and jurist. The respect held for his legal opinion is evident ,by the fact that his name is found on many important documents which are still preserved in Imola, giving his interpretation of the laws of his time. In 1289 he became a Court Magistrate and eight years later was to use all his skills and experience to negotiate a peace between the rival Guelph and Ghibelline factions in Romagna. The Guelphs were predominately from wealthy mercantile families who supported the Pope while the Ghibellines tended to come from families with wealthy agricultural estates who supported the Emperor. It was no easy task and took several years but, at last, Pietro was able to persuade the Ghibellines to leave Romagna.
After successfully mediating this conflict and crowning, what had been a successful secular career, Pietro sought a new vocation dedicated to charitable works, in helping the poor and the sick. He began working in one of the Order of St John’s hospitals in Florence and was invested as a Knight in 1310. His administrative skills were welcome and appreciated and put to good use as he assumed greater responsibilities in his work in the hospital. His talents were not unnoticed and after some years he was chosen Grand Prior of the Order in Rome. He again returned to Florence to the Commandery of St James in Campo Corbellini.
We do not know for certain if he became the Commander of St James or assumed other duties. Nevertheless, he continued performing great charitable works serving the sick who were either home-bound or in the hospital. Blessed Pietro died in Florence on 5 October 1320 and his loss was felt by everyone who knew him. He was buried in the Church of St James in Campo Corbellini which still belongs to the Order of the Knights.
One of the most remarkable stories about Blessed Pietro occurred after his death. One day in preparation for the feast of St James, the Church was being decorated by the brothers and a Priest had placed a ladder against the tomb of Blessed Pietro and was standing on it and working up high against the wall, hanging some decorations. The Priest lost his balance and the ladder began to fall. Suddenly, Bless Pietro’s tomb opened slightly and his hand reached out and steadied the ladder, no doubt saving the life of the Priest. This miracle was authenticated by several witnesses. Blessed Pietro’s relics were later translated to under the main Altar of the Church in a reliquary that Commander Fra Augustine Mego had made for it, and the miracle-working arm was kept in a separate little box. After the flooding of the Arno river in 1557, the documents and reliquary were submerged and greatly damaged. However ,the box containing his arm survived and is still venerated in the Imola Cathedral. The main relics of Blessed Pietro reside at St Lawrence’s Church in Florence on 10 June 2016 and further relics are contained in the Reliquary at the Chapel in the Grand Magistry of the Order of Malta in Rome. The skin and nails of the arm and hand remain intact, all these centuries later.
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