Herculanus of Perugia

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Saint Herculanus of Perugia
Pietro Perugino cat48h.jpg
Bishop and martyr
Died549 AD
Kingdom of the Ostrogoths
Venerated inEastern Orthodox Church
Roman Catholic Church
FeastNovember 7; also March 1

Saint Herculanus of Perugia (Italian: Ercolano; died 549 AD) was a bishop of Perugia and is patron saint of that city. His main feast day is November 7; his second feast is celebrated on March 1. According to Saint Gregory the Great in his Dialogues,[1] Herculanus suffered martyrdom when Totila, king of the Ostrogoths, captured Perugia in 549.

Before the city was captured, Herculanus is said to have tried to save the city with an old ruse: he fed the last sack of grain to the last lamb. This was meant to give the Ostrogoth forces the impression that the Perugians had food to spare, and were able to feed a weak lamb with their precious grain. With food to spare, they were thus able to withstand the siege. However, Totila was not fooled by this trick and captured the city just the same.[2]

This same trick has also been attributed to Gagliaudo, who saved his city (Alessandria)--successfully—from the forces of Frederick Barbarossa. An interpretation of the tale is found in Umberto Eco's novel Baudolino.

Totila is said to have given orders for Herculanus to be completely flayed. However, the Ostrogoth soldier who had to perform this gruesome task took pity on the bishop and decapitated Herculanus before the flaying had been completed.

Gregory writes that forty days after the head of Herculanus had been cut off, it was found to have been reunited to his body.[3]

The inhabitants of the castle of Cisterna in Umbria, above the River Puglia, were under Perugian rule, and were obliged to send three pounds of wax to Perugia for the feast of St Herculanus.[4]

Perugian coin of the 15th century (CNG Coins). It depicts the half-length bust of St. Herculanus, holding a crozier.


External links[edit]

  • Saint of the Day, November 7: Herculanus of Perugia at SaintPatrickDC.org
  • (in Norwegian) Den hellige Herculanus av Perugia
  • Ekkart Sauser (2003). "Herculanus von Perugia". In Bautz, Traugott. Biographisch-Bibliographisches Kirchenlexikon (BBKL) (in German). 22. Nordhausen: Bautz. col. 517. ISBN 3-88309-133-2.