Pietro I Orseolo
|Saint Pietro I Orseolo|
near Udine, Italy
near Prades, Pyrénées-Orientales, France
|Roman Catholic Church|
Pietro I Orseolo (Peter Urseolus) (928–987) was the Doge of Venice from 976 to 978. He is venerated as a saint by the Roman Catholic Church. He was born near Udine to one of the more powerful families in Venice. At the age of 20 he was named commander of the Venetian fleet, performing distinguished service as a soldier, and waging successful campaigns against the Dalmatian pirates. He was also devoted to the Roman Catholic Church.
In 976, the sitting doge, Pietro IV Candiano, was killed in a revolution that protested his attempts to create a monarchy. According to a statement by St. Peter Damian, Orseolo himself had led a conspiracy against Candiano. This statement however cannot be verified. Peter was elected to take his place. His dogaressa and consort was Felicia Malipiero.
As doge, Peter demonstrated a good deal of talent in restoring order to unsettled Venice and showed remarkable generosity in the treatment of his predecessor's widow. He built hospitals and cared for widows, orphans and pilgrims. Out of his own resources he began the reconstruction of St. Mark's Basilica and the doge's palace, which had been destroyed during the revolution, along with a great part of the city. Two years later, on September 1, 978, seemingly without notifying anyone, not even his wife and children, he left Venice with Abbot Guarin and three other Venetians (one of whom was St. Romuald) to join the Benedictine (now Cistercian) abbey at Saint-Michel-de-Cuxa (Catalan: Sant Miquel de Cuixà) in Prades (Catalan: Prada), southern France.
Here he led a life of great asceticism, performing the most menial tasks. There is some evidence that he had been considering such an action for some time. His only contact with Venice was to instruct his son Otto (who had become doge in 1008) in the life of Christian virtue. After some years as a monk at the abbey, probably with the encouragement of Saint Romuald (who later went on to found the Camaldolese branch of the Benedictines), Orseolo left the monastery to become a hermit in the surrounding forest, a calling he followed for seven years until he died. His body is buried in the Prades (Catalan: Prada) church.
Forty years after his death, he was officially recognized as a saint by the local bishop. He is still venerated as a saint by the Catholic Church, his cultus having been confirmed in 1731 by Gregory XII, who set his feast day for January 14. The calendar reform after the Second Vatican Council transferred the feast to January 10, the date of his death.
- Attwater, Donald and Catherine Rachel John. The Penguin Dictionary of Saints. 3rd edition. New York: Penguin Books, 1993. ISBN 0-14-051312-4.
Pietro IV Candiano
|Doge of Venice
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