Feast Day: June 19
Birth: c. 951 Ravenna
Death: 19 June 1027 Val di Castro
Life: Romuald (Latin: Romualdus; c. 951 – traditionally 19 June, c. 1025/27 AD) was the founder of the Camaldolese order and a major figure in the eleventh-century “Renaissance of eremitical asceticism”.
According to the vita by Peter Damian, written about fifteen years after Romuald’s death, Romuald was born in Ravenna, in northeastern Italy, to the aristocratic Onesti family. His father was Sergius degli Onesti and his mother was Traversara Traversari. As a youth, according to early accounts, Romuald indulged in the pleasures and sins of the world common to a tenth-century nobleman. At the age of twenty he served as second to his father, who killed a relative in a duel over property. Romuald was devastated, and went to the Basilica of Sant’Apollinare in Classe to do 40 days of penance. After some indecision, Romuald became a monk there. San Apollinare had recently been reformed by St. Maieul of Cluny Abbey, but still was not strict enough in its observance to satisfy Romuald. His injudicious correction of the less zealous aroused such enmity against him that he applied for, and was readily granted, permission to retire to Venice, where he placed himself under the direction of a hermit named Marinus and lived a life of extraordinary severity.
San Romualdo, from the San Marco altarpiece by Fra Angelico (Minneapolis Institute of Arts)
About 978, Pietro Orseolo I, Doge of Venice, who had obtained his office by acquiescence in the murder of his predecessor, began to suffer remorse for his crime. On the advice of Guarinus, Abbot of San Miguel-de-Cuxa, in Catalonia, and of Marinus and Romuald, he abandoned his office and relations, and fled to Cuxa, where he took the habit of St. Benedict, while Romuald and Marinus erected a hermitage close to the monastery. Romuald lived there for about ten years, taking advantage of the library of Cuxa to refine his ideas regarding monasticism.
After that he spent the next 30 years going about Italy, founding and reforming monasteries and hermitages. His reputation being known to advisors of the Holy Roman Emperor Otto III, Romuald was persuaded by him to take the vacant office of abbot at Sant’Apollinare to help bring about a more dedicated way of life there. The monks, however, resisted his reforms, and after a year, Romuald resigned, hurling his abbot’s staff at Otto’s feet in total frustration. He then again withdrew to the eremetical life.
In 1012 he arrived at the Diocese of Arezzo. Here, according to the legend, a certain Maldolus, who had seen a vision of monks in white garments ascending into Heaven, gave him some land, afterwards known as the Campus Maldoli, or Camaldoli. St. Romuald built on this land five cells for hermits, which, with the monastery at Fontebuono, built two years later, became the famous mother-house of the Camaldolese Order. Romuald’s daunting charisma awed Rainier of Tuscany, who was neither able to face Romuald nor to send him away. Romuald founded several other monasteries, including the monastery of Val di Castro, where he died in 1027.
Romuald’s feast day was not included in the Tridentine Calendar. It was added in 1594 for celebration on 19 June, the date of his death, but in the following year it was transferred by Pope Clement VIII to 7 February, the anniversary of the transfer of his relics to Fabriano in 1481, and in 1969 it was moved back to the day of his death.
– Christi Simus Non Nostri