February 5, 2016

Saint Savvas the New of Sicily (+ 995)

St. Savvas of Siciliy (Feast Day - February 5);
Photo depicts the Cave Church of Saint Michael Outside the Walls in Atrani,
where it is said St. Savvas lived in asceticism for 8 years.

Saint Savvas was born in Collesano, Sicily in the first half of the tenth century to pious parents named Christopher and Kale. His father was tonsured a monastic at the Monastery of Saint Philip of Agira, and his mother founded a monastery for women. After his father retired to a hermitage with his brother Makarios the Younger, they were joined by Savvas who also was tonsured a monk at the Monastery of Saint Philip of Agira, where they built a church dedicated to the Archangel Michael.

The continuing advance of the Arabs into eastern Sicily and the famine of 940–941 obliged the entire family to seek refuge in Calabria. At first, he stayed with relatives in Caronia; later, accompanied by his brother Makarios, he visited northern Calabria, where he established the Monastery of the Archangels in Scalea, and Lucania, then settled in the area of Mercurion around 940, on the border between Calabria and Lucania, later moving on to Latinianon and Salerno in the wake of Arab attacks, erecting small churches and monasteries wherever he went. In the year 982 in Atrani on the Amalfi Coast he enclosed himself in a cave. Eight years later he established the Monastery of Saint Lawrence in Salerno, where his father served as abbot, and upon his repose on 17 December 990, he took on the duty of the abbacy.

This did not last long, as Duke Manso I of Amalfi requested the aid of Savvas to go to Rome, in order to request of Empress Theophano, who temporarily held the scepter of the Holy Roman Empire for her husband Otto II, to release the son of Manso whom Otto had taken hostage. Therefore, Savvas went to Rome and took up residence in the Monastery of San Cesario in Palatine. After several meetings with the Empress, he managed to have the son of the Duke released. However, Saint Savvas soon became ill and reposed in the Monastery of San Cesario in Rome on February 6, 995 (some sources say it was 991). His funeral in the church adjoining the Monastery, where his relics are today, was attended by Empress Theophano.

Saint Savvas was a great wonderworker, and his life recounts many of his miracles. His life survives in a twelfth century manuscript, and was written by Orestes, Patriarch of Jerusalem (986-1006), who spent some time in Calabria as a monk and claims personal acquaintance with Savvas. He must have written the life between 991 and 1006.

In Italy Saint Savvas is known as San Saba il Giovane or San Saba di Collesano. In english his name is usually translated as Sabas or Sabbas.