Barbatus of Benevento

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Saint Barbatus of Benevento
Born c. 610
Cerreto Sannita, Italy
Died 682
Honored in
Roman Catholic Church
Eastern Orthodox Church
Major shrine The Duomo of Benevento, where his relics have been preserved beneath the main altar since 1687
Feast February 19
Attributes Crozier
Patronage Benevento

Saint Barbatus of Benevento (Italian: San Barbato) (c. 610 – February 29, 682), also known as Barbas, was a bishop of Benevento from 663 to 682. He succeeded Hildebrand in this capacity. He assisted in a church council called by Pope Agatho in Rome in 680 and in 681 attended the Third Council of Constantinople against the Monothelites.

Biography[edit]

He was born in the village of Vandano, near Cerreto Sannita, then part of the Duchy of Benevento, toward the end of the pontificate of Gregory the Great. At that time, Benevento had recently (in 590) been captured by Germanic Arian Lombards from the Trinitarian Romans.

According to his saint's life (which was written later), he received a Christian education, and spent a good deal of time studying the Christian scriptures. He took holy orders as soon as allowed to do so, and was immediately employed by the local bishop as a preacher, a task for which he had considerable talent. Shortly thereafter, he was made the curate of St. Basil's Church in nearby Morcone. The parishioners there objected to Barbatus' remarking upon their falling short of the Christian ideal, and persecuted him to quiet him. He continued in the same vein, causing these same people to slander his character. He was eventually obliged to cease his charitable works because of these slanders.

He later returned to Benevento, where he was welcomed back by those who remembered him from earlier. At the time, the people of Benevento indulged in many idolatrous behaviors, including veneration of a golden viper and a local tree, and also held games to which Barbatus strongly objected. The local Lombard prince, Romuald I son of the Arian Lombard King Grimoald I, was himself seriously involved in these activities. Barbatus regularly preached against them only to be ignored.

Later, he told the people of the city the great trials they would soon suffer at the hands of the East Roman Emperor Constans II and his army, who shortly thereafter landed in the area and laid siege to Benevento. The people, in their fear, renounced the practices Barbatus had criticized. He then cut down the tree the locals had worshipped, and melted the viper into a chalice for use in the church. As Barbatus had foretold, the siege ended with the defeat of Constans.

It is also believed by several parties that Barbatus was himself directly responsible for a more practical form of resistance to Constans. In 1903 the foundations of the Temple of Isis were discovered close to the Arch of Trajan in Benevento, and many fragments of fine sculptures in both the Egyptian and the Greco-Roman style belonging to it were found. They had apparently been used as the foundation of a portion of the city wall, reconstructed in 663 under the fear of an attack by Constans, the temple having been destroyed by order of Barbatus to provide the necessary material (A. Meomartini, O. Marucchi and L. Savignoni in Notizie degli Scavi, 1904, 107 sqq.).

The presiding bishop of Benevento, Hildebrand, died during the siege. After the withdrawal of the invaders, Barbatus was made bishop on March 10, 633. Barbatus took advantage of his new position and quickly destroyed the remaining superstitious artifacts hidden by the prince and the local population. In 680, he assisted in a council held by Pope Agatho, and took part in the sixth general council held in Constantinople in 681 regarding the Monothelites. He died shortly after the end of the council, at roughly seventy years of age.

On 19 February 682, s. Barbato died, under Pope St. Leo II (682-683).

He is recorded in the Roman Martyrology as one of the chief patrons of the city of Benevento. The relics of St. Barbato Montevergine rest partly in the Cathedral of Benevento, where they were pinned by Cardinal Orsini in the year 1687.

It is now remembered and celebrated on February 19 and is also the patron of Benevento, Cicciano, Castelvenere, Casalattico and Valle dell'Angelo. On this day, to Castelvenere, his hometown, there is the traditional "Day of Thunder", a competition between three pyrotechnic disabled firemen.

With s. Barbato the cult of the "Madonna della Libera" began to spread in different countries of Sannio, remaining, for example, glued to Montecalvo Irpino, in Pietrelcina and Mojano. The image of his beautiful statue is venerated at the site of today, in a chapel on the ground floor of the palace in Ferrara, where, until a few years ago s'erigeva the humble and ancient chapel dedicated to the Lord in Lombard to honor Madonna.

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