Saint of the Day – 21 January – Saint Epiphanius of Pavia (439–496) Bishop of Pavia, Italy from from 466 until his death. Papal and Secular Mediator and Peacemaker, Known as – “Epiphanius the Peacemaker,” “The Glory of Italy,” “The Light of Bishops.” Born in c 439 at Pavia, Italy and died in 496 at Burgundy, France of a fever.
The Roman Martyrology for 21 January reads : “In Pavia, Saint Epifanio, Bishop , who, at the time of the barbarian invasions, worked zealously for the reconciliation of the peoples, for the liberation of prisoners and for the reconstruction of the destroyed City.”
Our primary source for Epiphanius’ life is the Vita Epifanius written by St Magnus Felix Ennodius (c 473-521) , who knew him personally, travelling with the Bishop on his mission to King Gundobad of the Burgundians in 494–6. According to St Ennodius, Epiphanius’ father was Maurus and his mother Focaria, who was related to Mirocle, Bishop of Milan (304-326). Epiphanius was the brother of Saint Honorata and Saint Liberata.
He joined the household of Bishop Crispinus at the age of eight for his education and became a lector, learning to read and write, as well as stenography. At the age of 18 he was Ordained Subdeacon and Deacon at 20. Bishop Crispinus, as he lay dying, appointed Epiphanius as his successor in the presence of the ex-consul Flavius Rusticus. Although he resisted the appointment, Epiphanius was made Bishop in Milan in his 28th year.
Shortly after becoming Bishop, Epiphanius was asked to intervene between Anthemius and the barbarian leader Ricimer, appealing to both parties for peace. More peacemaking and diplomatic missions followed and most of these to high-ranking figures proved to be successful endeavours. Religious dignitaries such as Epiphanius had wide-ranging influence on the rulers and aristocrats during this period. In the eighth year of his episcopate (spring 475), the Emperor Julius Nepos, sent him on a diplomatic mission to Euric about Visigothic incursions.
Another success was Epiphanius’ negotiations over the ransom of his sister, St Honorata, who had been abducted from the Monastery of St Vincent in Pavia, during the war between Theodoric the Great and Odoacer.
Epiphanius actively worked on the reconstruction of Pavia which, in 476, had been sacked and destroyed by rival armies. Epiphanius visited the victors several times, to implore clemency for the vanquished. In particular, he successfully implored the clemency of Odoacer, of Theodoric and of the King of Burgundians, Gundobaldo, from whom he obtained the release of six thousand prisoners.
In 496 , returning from Ravenna , where he had gone for yet another legation to King Theodoric in favour of Pavia and the entire Province, he fell ill in Parma with pneumonia, was transported to his home in Pavia, where he died at the age of fifty-eight years, after thirty years as Bishop.
Shortly after his death , Epiphanius was revered as a saint and numerous miracles were attributed to him . In 962 most of his relics were moved to Hildesheim to give this region more prestige and heavenly help. The relics of Epiphanius are still contained in a golden casket placed under the central Altar of the Cathedral of Hildesheim.