Saint of the Day – 3 March – Blessed Benedetto Sinigardi da Arezzo OFM (c1190-1282) Friar of the Order of Friars Minor, one of the first companions of St Francis and who received the Habit directly from his handi, Provincial of the Marches in Italy and later of the Holy Land, Missionary. Born in c1190 in Arezzo, Italy and died in 1282 in the Franciscan Convent of Poggio del Sole in Arezzo, Italy of natural causes. Although rarely mentioned, Blessed Benedetto is the Author of the Angelus! Additional Memorial – 13 August on some calendars. Also known as – Benedetto Sinigardi du Arezzo, Benedict of Arezzo.
The call of the Lord to Benedetto Sinigardi occurred during a sermon which St Francis of Assisi gave in 1211 in Arezzo. The poor man’s fame attracted huge crowds everywhere and that day Piazza Grande was packed to capacity. Among the listeners there was also the twenty-year-old Benedetto, son of Tommaso Sinigardo de’ Sinigardi and Countess Elisabetta Tarlati di Pietramala. He was, therefore, a member of two of the most important families in the City but Francis’ words penetrated his heart, to such an extent that, moved, he decided to change his life.
He had received a good education and was a good Christian, he attended Sacred worship and devotions, fasting three times a week. His soul wa,s therefore, ready to accept the words of the Seraphic Father and his choice was radical, as he left the comforts and riches to joyfully embrace Sister Poverty. He received the Habit directly from the hands of St Francis himself.
Good-natured, he had excellent qualities which immediately made him loved and esteemed by his brothers and by the people. At the age of only 27, he was appointed Provincial Minister of the Marches, a region that had such importance for the Franciscan Order.
The ardour to pronounce the Gospel made him ask later, to go as a Missionary to distant lands, even among the infidels and at the risk of his life. He went to Greece, to Romania and Turkey and experienced first-hand the realities caused by the schism between the Church of the East and that of the West. The final stage of his mission was the places where the Son of God was Incarnated and lived. He was elected Provincial Minister for the Holy Land and, in the sixteen years of his stay in those lands, he built the first Franciscan Convent in Constantinople, having cordial relations also with the Emperor.
According to tradition, John of Brienne, Emperor of Constantinople, following the example of St Louis of the French and St Elizabeth of Hungary, wanted to receive the Franciscan Habit from Benedetto’s hands.
After this intense apostolic activity, now an old man, he was called back to his native City. In Arezzo, in the Convent of the Friars Minor Benedetto died at a very old age, surrounded by a reputation for holiness. Miracles were immediately attributed to him and he was proclaimed Blessed by the people before the Ecclesiastical authority.
None of his writings have survived but we have two testimonies of his deep piety and devotion to the Passion of Jesus and to he Holy Virgin. In the last years of his life, he commissioned the Crucifix called “Of Beato Benedetto” which today stands on the High Altar of the Basilica of St Francis in the centre of Arezzo, where his body was also transported after the demolition of the Convent in which he died and was laid. Below is a glimpse of the right wall of the Church of San Francesco with a view of five Chapels which alternate between the classical and Gothic styles.
The first of these, on the left in the classical style, is the Gozzari Chapel. Here is the Sarcophagus containing the remains of Blessed Benedetto Sinigardi.
It was he who indicated to the painter, the so-called Master of St Francis, all the details with which it had to be created. In the same Basilica, in the main Chapel, there is also the cycle of frescoes of the Legend of the Cross, painted by Piero della Francesca two centuries later.
Furthermore, the beautiful custom of reciting the Marian Antiphon “The Angelus Domini” is attributed to Blessed Benedetto, meditating on the saving Mystery of the Incarnation of the Son of God in Mary’s virginal womb. The Angelus Domini became a pious practice firstly to the entire Franciscan Order, then to the whole Church, as it still is today.
In his visit to the City of Arezzo on 23 May 1993, after having stopped in prayer before the Tomb of Blessed Benedetto, John Paul II said in his speech: “We stop in the middle of the day for a moment of Marian prayer. It is so today in a singular way because we find ourselves in the place where, … the custom of reciting the Angelus Domini was born.”