Leo of Cava

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Name of two abbots of the Benedictine Abbey of la cava, outside Salerno, Italy.

Leo I, St., from Lucca in Tuscany; d. July 12, 1079. Leo was designated successor by Abbot alferius, the founder of Cava, at the moment of his death in 1050. He is known almost uniquely through the vita by Abbot Hugh of Venosa in Apulia, former monk of Cava, who wrote his biography (c. 1140) along with the lives of Alferius and Leo's successors, peter pappacarbone and constabilis. The vita presents Leo as a humble and charitable man, dedicated to the relief of the poor and oppressed, and thus in constant conflict with the vindictive and cruel Gisulf II, Prince of Salerno (105277). It is reported that Leo was rewarded with visions of the Mother of God. The archives of Cava contain many documents outlining donations made to Cava during his abbacy. Toward the end of his life he selected as coadjutor and successor Alferius's nephew Peter. This choice aroused dissension and hostility because of the strictness of the new abbot. Leo's immemorial cult was approved by Pope Leo XIII in 1893.

Feast: July 12.

Leo II, Bl.; d. Aug. 19, 1295. After becoming abbot of Cava in 1268, he followed the example set by his namesake and predecessor. In 1274 he took part in the Council of Lyons, stopping at cluny on his way there. He encouraged the development of the Cava scriptorium and both the monastery's beautiful cloister and the chapel of San Germano (decorated with giotto paintings), which he built, are extant. Despite numerous endowments, the abbey suffered a notable loss during his reign when it was compelled to give up all its holdings in Sicily in 1282. His cult was approved by Pope Pius XI in 1928.

Feast: Aug. 19.

Bibliography: l. a. muratori, Rerum italicarum scriptores, 5001500, 25 v. in 28 (Milan 172351; 174871) 6.5:1116, thirteenth-century manuscript at Cava. p. guillaume, Un monaco ed un principe del secolo XI (Naples 1876); Essai historique sur l'abbaye da Cava d'après des documents inédits (Naples 1877) 2943, 170182. p. lugano, I santi padri Cavensi (Naples 1932) 1315, 4851.

[i. de piccoli]