Bernardino of Feltre, Bl.

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Franciscan preacher; b. Feltre, in Venezia, Italy, 1439; d. Pavia, Sept. 28, 1494. He was born Martin Tomitano. After proving himself an excellent student in his early years, he was sent to the University of Padua. Impressed by the preaching of james of the marches, he joined the Franciscan Observants in May of 1456, taking his religious name after bernardine of siena, who had just been canonized. Ordained in 1463, he began his public preaching some six years later. He soon became immensely popular, and crowds flocked to hear his sermons (Sermoni del beato Bernardino da Feltre, ed. Carlo da Milano, Milan 1940) as he journeyed through the towns of northern Italy. Like his contemporary savona rola, he denounced the numerous abuses of the day and often ended his preaching with the burning of various vanities on a bonfire. Bernardine has become almost equally well known through his connection with Barnabas of Terni (d. 1472) and the establishment of the montes pietatis, a scheme whereby the poor could borrow money at low interest rates on the pledge of various goods, thus avoiding the clutches of usurious bankers, who were the contemporary scandal of Italy. Although he met much opposition from the bankers, as well as from those who objected to his charging even a reasonable rate of interest (see usury) to make the operation self-supporting, Bernardine helped to establish some 30 montes pietatis during the last years of his apostolate. He was buried at S. Maria del Carmine in Pavia, and his cult was recognized in 1654. He is honored by the franciscans and is the patron of pawnbrokers.

Feast: Sept. 28.

Bibliography: a. luise, Alza la voce come una bella tromba: aspetti della predicazione del beato Bernardino da Feltre (Belluno, Italy 1994). v. meneghin, Iconografia del b. Bernardino Tomitano da Feltre (Venice 1967). g. paludet, Bernardino da Feltre: piccolo e poverello (Venice 1993). o. pampaloni, Storia di conventi e nobili famiglie (San Casciano 1993).

[b. j. comaskey]