Bishop of Populonia (Piombino, Tuscany, Italy); d. island of Elba, late sixth century. When in the sixth century the Vandals drove the bishops out of Africa, Cerbonius went with St. Regulus (d. 542) to Tuscany and was made bishop of Populonia, where he lived a communal life with his clergy. Totila (d. 552), king of the Ostrogoths, ordered Cerbonius exposed to a bear in punishment for sheltering Roman soldiers, but when the bear did not attack, the bishop was freed. Because of this legend he is often pictured in art with a bear. The Lombards exiled him on Elba, where he died 30 years later. His body was buried at Populonia. He is the patron of Massa Marittima, the diocese into which his see was later incorporated. A later and even more legendary life asserts that he was denounced and summoned by Pope vigilius for celebrating Mass too early on Sunday, but the marvels attending his trip to Rome moved the pope to meet him on the road and send him back to Populonia with honor.
Feast: Oct. 10.
Bibliography: Acta Sanctorum Oct. 5:87–102. a. butler, The Lives of the Saints, ed. h. thurston and d. attwater (New York 1956) 4:80. gregory i (the Great), Dialogus 3.11.