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Internet Medieval Sourcebook

Peter Damian (1007-1072/1073): The relics of St. Romuald of Ravenna 
the Life of St. Romuald, 11th century


Romuald of Ravenna was one of the most influential figures in the revival of eremitic monasticism which occurred in the eleventh century. His biographer, Peter Damian, was also a famous hermit, but even more importantly was a key member of the reforming circles which focused on Pope Gregory VII during the early stages of the Investiture Controversy. This brief anecdote betrays many of the basic attitudes toward relics current in eleventh-century Christianity.


(70) After the most holy death of the venerable man [Romuald], God showed forth many signs of the miraculous through him. But who would wish to read about such events as have already happened, when anyone may frequently witness new miracles. Since so many miracles occur at [Romuald's] tomb, we deem it better to pass most over in silence and to relate only a few. . . A certain brother, who had been a disciple of the holy man, donated a small church to the monastery for the repose of his own soul. The brother sent a piece taken from the sleeves of the hair shirt worn by the blessed man to this church and instructed that it be placed with honor under the altar. The messanger, however, neglected to place it under the altar as he had been ordered, but left it incautiously in a crack in the wall. After this had been done a certain demon came to this same church. Standing in its midst he turned his head here and there, looking over everything. He began in a dreadful manner to fasten his wild eyes with hostile intent on that very wall where the fragments of the holy hair shirt lay. Then he could not keep himself from repeatedly yelling, "He is casting me out, he is casting me out!" So exclaiming he was straightaway expelled. From this it can be concluded that there is almost nothing which cannot be brought about through the intercession of this man [Romuald] before God, since the demon was not even able to stand before the smallest fragment of his clothing. If he exhibits such marvels when he is absent, what would not be possible in the presence of his body? . . .

(71) Five years after the death of the holy man, permission was given to the monks by the Holy See to construct an altar above his venerable body. A certain Brother Azo went into the forest in order to fashion a small coffin which would be sufficient to contain the bones and the dust of the holy confessor. When night had fallen a venerable old man appeared to another of the brother in his sleep and, interrogating him on the spot, said, "Where is the prior of this monastery?" When the monk replied that he did not know, the old man quickly responded, saying, "He has decided to go into the forest in order to fashion a coffin, but the body of the blessed man will not fit into so small a space." The next day the prior, having finished the coffin, returned. He was asked by the brother who had seen the vision for what reason he had gone into the forest. Tired by his labor, the prior did not wish to respond. The brother, however, related to the prior both the reason for his trip and the vision which he himself had seen, narrating them in order.

(72) Therefore they opened the tomb and found that almost the entire body of the holy man was intact and preserved, just as it had been when they had originally placed it in the tomb, except that a thin sheen of liquid had appeared on certain parts of the body. Throwing away the small coffin which had already been prepared, they immediately prepared a container suited to the size of the blessed body. Placing the holy relics of their patron inside, they solemnly consecrated the altar above it.


Source: Source: Peter Damian, Vita s. Romualdi, 70-72 in Patrologia latina, ed. Jean-Paul Migne, 221 vols. (Paris, 1844-1864), 144:1006-1008.

This translation by Thomas Head has been made available to fellow students and researchers for private or classroom use. All other rights are reserved. Duplication for any other purpose, including publication, is prohibited. This translation was last updated on June 10, 1997.

From Thomas F. Head, An Anthology of Translated Texts Illustrative of the History of the Cult of the Saints (c 2000). [Link is to Internet Archive]. Thomas Head prepared these texts as part of the now defunct ORB: Online Reference Book for Medieval Studies [Link is to an archived and non-maintained version]. Dr. Head died on Nov 12, 2014 after an extended illness. I believe that he would have wanted his translated texts, marked for free personal use, and bibliographies to continue to be available and not just through the sometimes slow operation of the Internet Archive. They were marked "They may be reproduced for private use, but may not be reproduced for publication."


This text is part of the Internet Medieval Sourcebook. The Sourcebook is a collection of public domain and copy-permitted texts related to medieval and Byzantine history.

Unless otherwise indicated the specific electronic form of the document is copyright. Permission is granted for electronic copying, distribution in print form for educational purposes and personal use. If you do reduplicate the document, indicate the source. No permission is granted for commercial use.

© Paul Halsall, January 2023
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