Fructuosus of Braga
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Saint Fructuosus of Braga
Statue of Fructuosus on a façade of Braga Cathedral
|Born||last decade of 6th century or early 7th century|
El Bierzo or Toledo, Visigothic Kingdom of Hispania
|Died||16 April 665|
Braga (present-day Portugal)
|Venerated in||Roman Catholic Church|
Eastern Orthodox Church
|Attributes||Monk with a stag|
- For the martyr-saint of Tarragona, see Fructuosus.
Saint Fructuosus of Braga was the Bishop of Dumio and Archbishop of Braga, a great founder of monasteries, who died on 16 April 665. He was the son of a Visigothic dux in the region of Bierzo and he accompanied his father at a young age on certain official trips over his estates.
His relationship with the kings of his time was not always happy one. In 652, he wrote what was apparently a second letter to King Recceswinth asking for the release of political prisoners held from the reign of King Chintila, some of whom had languished in prison until the reign of King Erwig. In 656, he undertook to plan for a voyage to the Levant. However, according to the new laws enacted by King Chindasvinth, it was illegal to leave the kingdom without royal permission. One of the few disciples privy to his plans had given him up to authorities and Fructuosus was subsequently arrested and imprisoned. He was later present at the Eighth Council of Toledo in 653, in place of Bishop Riccimer of Dumio. It was at this Council that St Fructuosus raised the issue of political prisoners once again.
After the death of Bishop Riccimer, Fructuosus succeeded him in the See of Dumio. At the subsequent Tenth Council of Toledo (656), the clergy of Dumio complained that Riccimer's will, which dispensed church rents to the poor and freed the episcopate's slaves, had impoverished the See. The Council agreed that, by not providing compensation, Bishop Riccimer had obviated his duty and the acts of his will were rendered invalid. They gave the job of correcting the problem to Fructuosus and commanded him to take moderation in the case of the slaves. At the same Council, Archbishop Potamius of Braga was remanded to a monastery for licentiousness and his archdiocese was given to St Fructuosus on 1 December 656.
Fructuosus dressed so poorly as to be mistaken for a slave and he even received a beating from a peasant, from which he was only saved by a miracle (according to the monastic chroniclers). He established the monastery of Compludo in the El Bierzo region, and several other monastic foundations. Some of these were located in Gallaecia, but he subsequently established monasteries farther south in the Iberian Peninsula. The location of these foundations "is not known with complete certainty." Fructuosus established Rufiana or the Monasterium Rufianense in El Bierzo, as well as a monastery known as Visoniense and another known as Peonense. It has been speculated that these may refer to San Pedro de Montes, San Fiz de Visoña, San Juan de Poyo, respectively. In Baetica, he established a monastery at the Island of Cádiz and one called Nono (location unknown).
At Nono, he attracted such a number of monks that the local dux complained to the king that he had lost too much of his military levy. His monastery at Compludo was known for its unusually severe Rule. In this monastery, monks were required to reveal all their thoughts, visions and dreams to their superiors. They were subjected to bedtime inspections throughout the night. Monks were forbidden to look at each other. Punishments here were also unusually harsh and included flogging and imprisonment within the monastery on a diet of six ounces of bread for three to six months.
His Vita is one of the chief sources for writing the history of his age. From the 16th to the mid 20th century the authorship of the Vita Fructuosi was wrongly attributed to Valerio of Bierzo. It is now accepted to have been written by an anonymous monastic disciple.
St Fructuosus' feast day is observed on 16 April. His relics, which for a time were in the Cathedral of Braga, were later transferred to the Shrine of Santiago de Compostela in the year 1102. They were returned to their original location in 1966.
- Like many such accounts, his vita is clear on the day but hazy on the year.
- Karl Joseph von Hefele (1895). A History of the Councils of the Church: From the Original Documents. Vol. IV. Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark. pp. 474–475. J.-D. Mansi (ed.), Sacrorum Conciliorum nova et amplissima collectio, editio novissima, Tomus XI (Florence: A. Zatta 1765), pp. 40-41, 43.
- María Adelaida Andrés Sanz; Carmen Codoñer Merino; La Hispania Visigótica y Mozárabe: Dos épocas en su Literatura. Volume 28. Universidad de Salamanca, 2010), pg. 121.
- Ulick Ralph Burke, A History of Spain: From the Earliest Times to the Death of Ferdinand the Catholic, Volume 1. (Longmans, Green, 1900), p. 106.
- Roger Collins, Early Medieval Spain. (New York: St Martin's Press, 1995), p. 84.
- Francis Clark, (2003), The "Gregorian" dialogues and the origins of Benedictine monasticism, page 353. BRILL
- Roger Collins, (2004), Visigothic Spain, 409-711, p. 170. Wiley-Blackwell Publishing.
- Thompson, E.A. The Goths in Spain. Clarendon Press: Oxford, 1969.
- Iberian Fathers. Writings of Braulio of Saragossa, Fructuosus of Braga, translated by Claude W. Barlow Catholic University of America Press (1969).