|Died||19 June 1027
Val di Castro
Eastern Orthodox Church
7 February (1595–1969)
According to the vita by Peter Damian, written about fifteen years after Romuald's death, Romuald was born in Ravenna, in northeastern Italy, to the aristocratic Onesti family. His father was Sergius degli Onesti and his mother was Traversara Traversari. As a youth, according to early accounts, Romuald indulged in the pleasures and sins of the world common to a tenth-century nobleman. After watching his father kill an opponent in a duel however, the 20-year old Romuald was devastated, and fled to the Basilica of Sant'Apollinare in Classe. After some indecision, Romuald became a monk there. Led by a desire for a stricter way of life than he found in that community, three years later he withdrew to become a hermit on a remote island in the region, accompanied solely by an older monk, Marinus, who served as his spiritual master.
Romuald apparently having gained a reputation for holiness, the Doge of Venice, Pietro I Orseolo, accepted his advice to become a monk, abdicated his office, and fled in the night to Catalonia to take the monastic habit. Romuald and his companion, Marinus, accompanied him there, establishing a hermitage near the Abbey of Saint-Michel-de-Cuxa, at that time in the county of Barcelona, which Orseolo entered.
In his youth Romuald became acquainted with three major schools of western monastic tradition. Sant'Apollinare in Classe was a traditional Benedictine monastery under the influence of the Cluniac reforms. Marinus followed a much harsher, ascetic and solitary lifestyle, which was originally of Irish eremitic origins. The abbot of Sant Miguel de Cuxa, Guarinus, had also begun reforms but mainly built upon a third Christian tradition, that of the Iberian Peninsula. Romuald was able to integrate these different traditions and establish his own monastic order. The admonition in his rule Empty yourself completely and sit waiting places him in relation to the long Christian history of intellectual stillness and interior passivity in meditation also reflected in the nearly contemporary Byzantine ascetic practice known as Hesychasm.
His reputation being known to advisors of the Holy Roman Emperor Otto III, Romuald was persuaded by him to take the office of abbot of an ancient monastery to help bring about a more dedicated way of life there. The monks, however, resisted his reforms, eventually causing Romuald to resign his office, hurling his abbot's staff at Otto's feet in total frustration. He then again withdrew to the eremetical life. He was drawn, though, throughout his long life to help in the establishment of monasteries and hermitages throughout Italy. The most prominent of these are the hermitages of Fonte Avellana (founded around 1012) and Camaldoli (founded around 1023), both located in Tuscany, where Romuald's daunting charisma awed Rainier of Tuscany, who was neither able to face Romuald nor to send him away. Romuald founded several other monasteries, including the monastery of Val di Castro, where he died in 1027.
Romuald's feast day was not included in the Tridentine Calendar. It was added in 1594 for celebration on 19 June, the date of his death, but in the following year it was transferred by Pope Clement VIII to 7 February, the anniversary of the transfer of his relics to Fabriano in 1481, and in 1969 it was moved back to the day of his death.
St. Romuald's Brief Rule For Camaldolese Monks
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Sit in your cell as in paradise. Put the whole world behind you and forget it. Watch your thoughts like a good fisherman watching for fish. The path you must follow is in the Psalms — never leave it.
If you have just come to the monastery, and in spite of your good will you cannot accomplish what you want, take every opportunity you can to sing the Psalms in your heart and to understand them with your mind.
And if your mind wanders as you read, do not give up; hurry back and apply your mind to the words once more.
Realize above all that you are in God's presence, and stand there with the attitude of one who stands before the emperor.
Empty yourself completely and sit waiting, content with the grace of God, like the chick who tastes nothing and eats nothing but what his mother brings him.
- The traditional year of his death, given as 1027, rests entirely on testimony by Guido Grandi (died 1742), a hagiographical forger, who stated that he had seen the date in documents: see Tabacco 1942, preface:liv.
- John Howe, "The Awesome Hermit: The Symbolic Significance of the Hermit as a Possible Research Perspective", Numen 30.1 (July 1983:106-119) p 106, noting Ernst Werner, Pauperi Christi: Studien zu socialreligiosen Bewegungen in Zeitalter des ersten Kreuzzuges (Leipzig) 1956; Howe also notes the contemporary examples of Peter the Hermit, leader of a crusade; Norbert of Xanten, founder of the Praemostratensians, and Henry of Lausanne, declared a heretic; and Eilbert of Crespin, besieged by the faithful in his hermitage.
- Peter's Vita Beati Romualdi was edited by Giovanni Tabacco in the series Fonti per la storia d'Italia (Rome) 1957.
- Howe 1983:106.
- Peter Damian's Vita, quoted in Howe 1983:106.
- Calendarium Romanum (Libreria Editrice Vaticana) 1969, p. 95
- "Holy Family Hermitage, Camaldolese Hermits of Montecorona". Bloomingdale, OH.
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