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San Prospero Patron Saint of Reggio Emilia

November 24. Solemn religious ceremonies dedicated to Bishop Prospero, Patron Saint of Reggio Emilia. In piazza San Prospero and streets of the town centre.

The Patron Saint, according to tradition, lived in the 5th century A.C. and was bishop of Reggio Emilia between 480 and 505, approximately. According to custom at the time, the Bishop was elected by the clergy and by the people united in a meeting - the example of St. Ambrogio is famous - choosing him from among the clergy and laymen who were most admired for their faith, culture and piety. This is what happened for San Prospero, who was certainly from Reggio and who merited not only the honour of being elected Bishop, but also being venerated as a Saint for his commitment in the diffusion and defence of the faith, as well as protector of the city. To understand the role of San Prospero in the life and history of the town and the diocese, it is necessary to be reminded of some of the events in those very difficult times. In 476 Odoacre, chief of the Eruli, first mercenary, then invader of the Western Roman Empire, had defeated and killed the Roman general Oreste at Pavia and deposed the last Emperor Romolo Augustolo. Odoacre then reigned Italy for many decades with the title of Roman Patrician, taking possession of a third of the lands to assign them to his soldiers and their families. In Italy there then followed a period of relative calm, apart from the easy abuses and episodes of violence which occurred, while the large and small land-owners were stripped of their lands and homes, often forced to flee or killed if they opposed the confiscation... But, it turned out that Odoacre's pacts and alliances with the Vandals from Africa, the Visigoths from Spain, the Franks and Burgundians from France, made Zenone, the Eastern Emperor, jealous. Thus, the latter, wishing also to free himself of Teodorico and his Ostrogoths, pushed them into invading Italy. The war between the Eruli and the Ostrogoths lasted almost four years; Odoacre was defeated in 489 on the Isonzo, then at Verona, then on the Adda and forced to take refuge at Ravenna. He resisted while being besieged here for three years, then in 493 surrendered and was killed for betrayal this meant. Four years of war and ravages and sackings the army. Four years of anarchy and violence throughout our region, while the wealthiest and most cultured citizens, the Roman magistrates fled to the south. The people abandoned the plain and took refuge in the hills and in the woods. In this situation it was the Bishops who had to assume the responsibilities of the magistrates, often also acting as judges and administrators of the cities. In the absence of others, and for the religious and moral authority with which they were invested, the Bishops had to exercise both religious and public functions, as true defenders of the city. San Prospero must have excelled in these arduous duties more than his seven predecessors, not only for his virtues and his learning, but above all for his spreading the Gospel, his protection of the weak and assistance to the bewildered. For these reasons the people of Reggio acknowledged his saintliness and invoked, even after his death, holy protection of the city. References permitting us to know about the life of the Patron Saint of Reggio in more detail, are scarce. San Prospero lived between 430 and 505 approximately, probably a true "Reggiano", he was elected by the clergy and the people and governed the diocese for 22 years; but practically all records from that time have been destroyed. This is due to the disastrous invasion of the Ungari-Magiari. In 899, after having invaded and sacked Veneto and Romagna, they came to Emilia where they destroyed the Monastery at Nonantola and at Reggio the Monasteries of S. Tommaso and S. Prospero, going as far as killing Bishop Azzo II. As a result, the first documents which tell us of the veneration of S. Prospero and the festival in his honour are a rent contract from the year 822 (eight years after the death of Carlo Magno) and two liturgical texts, "De vita" and " De traslatione", much later, but possibly dating back to the time of Bishop Tomaso (701/704), who transferred the Saint's remains from the church of S. Apollinare (now St Agostino) to the Church erected in his honour together with the monastery, which was later burnt down by the Ungari. After the transfer and subsequently a number of omens, his veneration spread widely in Emilia, Lombardia, Liguria, Tuscany and Umbria; but after the Council of Trento, which imposed the adoption of the Calendar and the Roman breviary, his veneration was gradually limited to the diocese of Reggio, Modena and Parma. To prevent the Saint's relics being lost or stolen in other calamities, Bishop Teuzone (979 - 1030) constructed a Basilica in his honour within the walls of the castle and transferred the venerated remains in the year 997; our Patron has resided in our town for the last one thousand years. Teuzone's Basilica, having become very old and ruined, the Town decided to honour the saint with a temple which was even larger and more magnificent: the present Cathedral. Later, in 1601, to cut short any dispute, bishop Claudio Rangone ordered an examination of the relics and it was established that they are properly preserved in the Basilica of the "Lions".


Reggio Emilia Tourist Office

Via Farini, 1/A 42121 Reggio Emilia
Fax. 0522.436739

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