Peter of Rates
|Peter of Rates|
Saint Peter of Rates, the legendary first bishop of Braga
|Bishop and Martyr|
|Honored in||Roman Catholic Church|
|Major shrine||Church of Saint Peter of Rates, Rates, Póvoa de Varzim|
Saint Peter of Rates (Portuguese: São Pedro de Rates), also known in English as Saint Peter of Braga, is traditionally considered to be the first bishop of Braga between the years 45 and 60. Tradition says he has been ordered to preach the Christian faith by Saint James the Great, and that Peter of Rates was martyred while attempting to make converts to the Christian faith in northern Portugal. The ancient Breviary of Braga (Breviarium Bracarense) and the Breviary of Evora hold that St. Peter of Rates was a disciple of St. James and preached at Braga. However, the Bollandists argue that this claim is “purely traditional.”
The legend holds that Saint James, one of the apostles of Christ, visited the northwest of the Iberian Peninsula in 44 AD. One of his alleged visits occurred at Serra de Rates, in the current municipality of Póvoa de Varzim. During his visit, the apostle is said to have ordained the local Peter of Rates as the first bishop of Braga. This is probably a myth, given that it is proven that Saint James was celebrating Easter in Jerusalem precisely in this year.
It is believed that Saint Peter of Rates was beheaded while converting believers of the Roman religion to the Christian faith.
The discovery of Peter's body by Saint Felix
Centuries later, around the 9th century, the discovery of Peter's body was attributed to Saint Felix the Hermit, a fisherman of Villa Mendo, an ancient Roman villa that existed until the early years of the Kingdom of Portugal, and rediscovered in the 20th century under the sand dunes of Rio Alto in Estela, also in Póvoa de Varzim.
Felix had left home and settled in the biggest hill of the area, which is today known as São Félix Hill. Regularly, Saint Félix observed a light in the darkness of the night from the hill. One day, curious about the light's origins, Felix came upon the body of Saint Peter of Rates. On that spot, the Romanesque Monastery of Rates was built, and the relics kept there until 1552; in that year the body was transferred to Braga Cathedral, were it is still kept. Scientific studies suggest that the body kept in Braga is from a 9th-century child.
Miraculous fountains of Saint Peter of Rates
In the civil parishes of Balasar and Rates in Póvoa de Varzim, there are two fountains that the population believes are miraculous because they were used by this saint.
In the 18th century, there are descriptions that Saint Peter of Rates was beheaded while drinking the waters of the fountain in Balasar. The population believes that two indentations on the fountain are impressions from the saint's knees. At the fountain of Rates, a stone is believed to cure in cases of sterility. Due to that belief, on April 26 of every year, the feast day of Saint Peter of Rates, the pregnant women and female animals do not work in some villages.
- "Braga". Catholic Encyclopedia. 2009. Retrieved November 9, 2011.
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