Peter Orseolo, St.
PETER ORSEOLO, ST.
Doge of Venice, Benedictine recluse; b. Venice, 928;d. Cuxa Abbey, Prades, France, Jan. 10, 987. Married at age 18, Orseolo (Urseolus) and his wife lived in continence after the birth of a son. In 948 he commanded the fleet in a war against pirates. After a revolution (976) during which Doge Peter IV Candiano was murdered, Orseolo was elected doge of Venice. He promoted peace, built hospitals, and cared for widows, orphans, and pilgrims. Using his own money he began the reconstruction of St. Mark's Cathedral and the doge's palace, both having been destroyed in the revolution.
At Mass one day, Peter heard, "And he who does not carry his cross and follow Me cannot be my disciple" (Lk 14:26), and he determined to join Marinus and romuald, hermits living in the Po Delta. They refused to accept him, but shortly afterward he met Abbot Guarin of Cuxa, the great reformer of northern Catalonia and southern France, who took Orseolo and two other Venetians, John Gradenego and Morosone, as well as the two hermits, back to cuxa abbey on Sept. 1, 978. Orseolo was immediately a model religious, seeking the most menial tasks and undertaking severe penances.
As for Venice and her affairs, Peter contented himself with instructing his son, Otto, then doge, in the virtues of a Christian ruler. After Peter's death a cult sprang up; his body was translated in 1027; his cult was approved for Cuxa and Venice in 1731 and later for all Benedictines and camaldolese.
peter damian (Vita s. Romualdi, Patrologia Latina, ed. J. P. Migne [Paris 1878–90] 144:959–963) claimed that Orseolo entered Cuxa in reparation for his share in the revolt and murder of his doge predecessor. Orseolo's chaplain, John the Deacon of Venice (Chronicon Venetum, Monumenta Germaniae Historica [Berlin 1826–] Section: Scriptores. 7:4), gave other reasons. And while it is likely that the Candiano family deliberately fostered the story given in Damian's account, it remains a fact that Orseolo's election was somewhat mysterious. The piety of certain chronicles may conceal the factional strife to which Orseolo owed his office. Furthermore, mild and tolerant, he probably encouraged local mischief and was happy to go to a monastery to fulfill an old vow. Peter called himself duke of Venice, Dalmatia, and Croatia, a title that reflected his ambition rather than an historical reality.
Feast: Jan. 10.
Bibliography: Vita (1027) by a monk of Cuxa, in j. mabillon, Acta sanctorum ordinis S. Benedicti 5:851–860. Bibliotheca hagiographica latina antiquae et mediae aetatis (Brussels 1898–1901) 2:6784–86. h. tolra, St. Pierre Orséolo (Paris 1897). b. schmid, Studien und Mitteilungen aus dem Benediktiner- und Cistercienser-Orden 22 (1901) 71–112; 251281. a. m. zimmermann, Kalendarium Benedictinum: Die Heiligen und Seligen des Benediktinerorderns und seiner Zweige (Metten 1933–38) 1:81–84. r. cessi, Enciclopedia Italiana di scienzi, littere ed arti (Rome 1929–39) 25:603. g. f. von pÖlnitz, Venedig (Munich 1949) 78–84. a. butler, The Lives of the Saints, rev. ed. h. thurston and d. attwater (New York 1956) 1:64–65.
[c. m. aherne]