The saint of Templars and Flagellants

Oct 13th, 2008 | author Antonella Bazzoli | posted in Panorama, Trace of the Templars

St. Bevignate in the act of blessing. The portrait of the hermit was painted in the second half of the XIII century

Even if we do not have evidence of his existence, we must rely on tradition to tell us Bevignate was a hermit who lived in Perugia, although we don’t know exactly when. André Vauchez called him “the mysterious saint of Perugia” and Ugolino Nicolini said, “total darkness surrounds his story.” Nicolò Del Re wrote: “Nothing is known about his life….

Some say he lived at the end of the fifth century, others between the XII and XIII.” A charming and fanciful legend says he came from Germany under the orders of Theodoric, King of the Goths, in the company of his six other brothers, including St. Ercolano.
Iacobilli reports that Bevignate left the material world to enter into a “monastery of monks who wore white habits of wool cloth and blue rope belts… then he went into a deserted forest near Perugia where he lived many years in poverty and penitence and exercised in prayer and divine contemplation”.
Among his miracles there was one regarding olives and wheat, which both became ripe before their times so that Bevignate could feed the impoverished who visited him. A second miracle occurred when two innocent individuals were sentenced to death, however were released by recommendation of the saint. A third miracle was the resurrection of a child, who was killed by a wolf and saved by the saint. This miracle is made reference to in an interesting fresco inside the church.

The portrait of the flagellant could represent Brother Raniero Fasani

Regarding the feast of Saint Bevignate, as noted from municipal statutes of 1342, it was officially recognized on May 14. In regards to the day when St. Bevignate died, Ettore Ricci states: “According to tradition he was born in the last years of the fifth century, and died on May 14 of 520.” Two differing dates are recorded for his death then, as we have May 12 noted in the manuscript of Modena. But there is another event – curious and somewhat unusual – that could confirm the date of May 12 rather than the 14th.
In 1260, when the construction of the church was almost complete, the Podestà (Mayor) of Perugia granted a period of “exceptional festivities” which included the suspension of all work activities for a period of 15 days. These celebrations took place from May 4 to the 19th, which means 7 days before and 7 days after the date of the 12th. Just a coincidence?
Another character, Brother Raniero Fasani, founder of the Movement of the Flagellants, supports the concession of these civic holidays. According to the historian Bonazzi: “The hermit Brother Raniero Fasani passed his religious life in penitence at the suburban temple of St. Bevignate. A man appeared to him in a vision: it was St. Bevignate, another Perugian Saint, who ordered him to make public the punishments he was inflicting upon himself in secret. The same desire could have been impressed upon him by the town, considering their veneration for the saint of Perugia.”
We know that in 1260 Fasani implored the authorities of Perugia for an extension of holidays and celebrations, obtaining it until May 30. Only five days later, the city sent their first request for the canonization of Bevignate to the Pope.
All these facts are related and testify to the existence of a close relationship between the Flagellants and Knights Templars, a theory confirmed also by a fresco painted in the apse of the templar church, which represents some penitents, half-naked, in the act of flagellating themselves. The scene was frescoed beneath that of the Last Judgment.
The veneration of the inhabitants of Perugia for Bevignate remained unchanged for many centuries, as certainly demonstrated in the seventeenth century by the magnificent and spectacular procession held in Perugia on May 17 1609, on the occasion of the transferal of the bodies of St. Ercolano, St. Pietro Vincioli and St. Bevignate.

Antonella Bazzoli - 10/13/2008 – Translated by Genna Neilson
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