November 7, 2018

Saint Herculanus of Perugia

St. Herculanus of Perugia (Feast Day - November 7)

According to Pope Gregory the Dialogist in his Dialogues (Bk. 3, Ch. 13), Saint Herculanus (Ercolano) suffered martyrdom when Totila, king of the Ostrogoths, captured Perugia in 549. Pope Gregory I heard from Saint Floridus of Città di Castello of the life of Saint Herculanus. He writes:

"Not long ago, the virtuous Bishop Floridus told me a notable miracle, which was this. 'The great holy man Herculanus, who brought me up, was Bishop of Perusium, exalted to that dignity from the state of a monk, in whose time the perfidious king Totila besieged it for seven years, and the famine within was so great that many of the townsmen forsook the place. And before the seventh year was ended, the army of the Goths took the city. The commander of his camp dispatched messengers to Totila, to know his pleasure what he should do with the Bishop, and the rest of the citizens. He responded that he should, from the top of the Bishop's head to his very foot, cut off a strip of his skin, and when that was done, to strike off his head. As for the rest of the people, they were to put them all to the sword.

When he had received this order, he commanded the reverent Bishop Herculanus to be carried to the walls, and there to have his head struck off, and when he was dead, that his skin should be cut from the very crown down to the very foot, as though indeed a strip had been taken from his body. After this barbarous act they threw his dead corpse over the wall. Then some upon pity, joining the head to the body, did bury him, together with an infant that was there found dead.

Forty days after, Totila made a proclamation that the inhabitants, which were gone, should without all fear come back again. Those, which upon extremity of hunger departed, returned home to their houses, and calling to mind the holy life of their Bishop, they sought for his body, that it might, as he deserved, be buried in the Church of Saint Peter. And when they came to the place where it lay, they dug, and found the body of the infant that was buried together with him, putrefied and full of worms, but the Bishop's body was so sound as though it had been newly put into the earth, and that which is more to be admired, and deserving greater reverence, his head was so fast joined to his body as though it had never been cut off, neither did any sign of his beheading appear at all. Then they viewed likewise his back, whether that were also whole and sound, and they found it so perfect and well, as though never any knife had touched the same.'"