Saint of the Day – 4 December – Blessed Pietro Tecelano TOSF (c 1200 – 1289) Layman, Widower, Franciscan Tertiary, Apostle of the sick and the poor, spiritual and secular adviser, miracle-worker. Born in c 1200 at Campi, Tuscany, Italy and died in early December 1289 in Siena, Italy of natural causes. Patronages – Siena, Italy and Comb-makers. Also known as – Pietro Pettinaio, Peter…. Pier…. Additional Memorials – 16 March, 4 and 11 November, 10 December – Memorials on different Calendars.
The Roman Martyrology states: “In Siena, Blessed Pietro Pettinario, religious of the Third Order of St Francis, distinguished for his particular charity towards the needy and the sick and for his life of humility and silence.”
Pietro was born around 1200 in Campi, a village of Castelnuovo Berardenga near Siena and moved with his parents to Siena at some point during his childhood.
He married but the couple remained childless. In order to provide for his new wife he worked as a comb-maker, that is a merchant of bone and mother-of-pearl combs used in spinning. .. He purchased a house in which vines flourished so as to make wine. Sadly his wife died and Pietro then lived alone and devoted his time to his business and soon became rich and famous.
Perhaps converted thanks to the newly born Franciscan Order, he became famous once more but now for his generosity towards his competitors – on market days he arrived late to sell, so as not to damage them too much. In addition to carrying out his working activity, he also dedicated himself to assisting the sick at the hospital of Santa Maria della Scala where he bound wounds and sores and helps the most needy. In this work he was assisted by eight friends – merchants and lawmen, who he had encouraged to join him in his apostolate.
He lived a simple life, giving excess wealth to the Franciscans and he spent his evenings in meditation and devoting such nights to God in prayer.
Pietro left no writings and is remembered for his silences, we often see him depicted with a finger on his lips. The few things he said and the many he did, were very effective, to the point that some traffickers, after having defrauded the City, returned the money to him, he then returned it to the relevant section of the City administration. The governors, in turn, often called upon him for help and advice – in 1282 , for example, he was asked to choose the five inmates to be amnestied.
When the Franciscans of Siena had doubts about the authentic vocation of their novices , they had them examined by him. His life was inspired by the most rigorous followers of St Francis of Assisi, the spirituals.
The Dominican preacher, Blessed Ambrogio Sansedoni, who went to Pietro for spirtual guidance, renounced his election as a Bishop on Pietro’s advice.
Seeking solitude, he sold his home and business, donating the proceeds to the poor and spent the last few years of his life, as a guest of the Franciscans. There, considered himself far too talkative, Pietro aimed at living amongst them in silence.He undertook several pilgrimages to religious sites including Assisi, where Saint Francis of Assisi worked and lived.
During his lifetime he was hailed as a miracle-worker and was considered a great saint. He became a sought after adviser to Priests as well as to the people of Siena and was considered charismatic.
Pietro died in early December 1289 (possilby the 4th) at an advanced age and was buried at the Franciscan Church in Siena. His grave soon became a pilgrimage site and the scene of miracles. A Shrine was built over his grave in 1326 and an annual local feast in his honour was established in 1329. The Shrine was lost to fire in 1655 and remaining relics were preserved when the Poor Clare nuns took them into their care
The people of Siena adored Pietro and called for his Canonisation. Official recognition of Pietro’s holiness led to Pope Pius VII confirming his “cultus” acting as formal Beatification on 18 August 1802.
Dante Alighieri included Pietro in his work (Divina Comedia) in “Canto XIII” through the character of Pier the Comb-Seller.