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Saint Peter Damian

St. Peter Damian, Abbot

Born: c. 988 in Ravenna

Died: 22 Feb 1072 (Some believe he died in 1073.)

Canonized: Although he is considered to be a saint, he was never formally canonized.

Status: Saint, Doctor of the Church

Feast: 21 Feb

Peter’s Life

Peter Damian’s early days were unusual to say the very least. His mother already had many children so she threw her newborn out to die. The concubine of a local priest changed her mind and she took her back in. There was no father to be found. His mother died soon after this and Peter was raised by his older siblings.One of his brothers, who was married, took him in but mistreated him. Another brother, an Arch-priest named Damian, intervened and educated Peter. Peter was grateful and, in his brother’s honor, added the name Damian to his own.

Besides excelling as a student, Peter also became a professor. Despite this he was opposed to the study of the humanities.

In 1035 Peter entered a rather austere monastery and managed to outdo the other monks in his severe lifestyle. This caused him medical problems. Twice his own abbot sent him to other monasteries to bring them into line. In 1043, acting under obedience, he became an abbot.About 1050, during the pontificate of Leo IX, Peter wrote a treatise condemning the vices of the clergy. Among these vices were the sexual abuse of minors by priests and the resulting cover-up by the hierarchy. In 1053 he wrote another treatise defending the legitimacy of the priesthood of men who had purchased the office.

Due to his reputation for personal holiness, a succession of popes used him to bring reform to the church. Finally, in 1057, Pope Stephen IX ordered him to take the position of Cardinal-Bishop of Ostia. He went to war against the vices he saw prevalent there including, oddly enough, the game of chess. He once assigned a bishop the penance of reading the complete book of Psalms three times when he caught him playing the game.

In 1046 Emperor Henry III of the Holy Roman Emperor deposed two popes and put forth his own candidate. Peter congratulated Henry but later supported Archdeacon Hildebrand who, as Gregory VII, took back control from the emperor and instituted papal reforms.

Peter retired and spent his later days at Fonte Avellana although he was periodically sent on diplomatic missions by various popes. He subsisted on a diet of coarse bread and stale water. He wore an iron girdle and frequently engaged in severe flagellation.

Peter died in 1072 at the age of 83 in Ravenna. He was surrounded by monks praying the Divine Office.

After His Death

Although he is considered to be a saint, Peter was never officially canonized. Veneration began almost immediately after his death but was not officially recognized until it was approved and extended to the entire Catholic Church by Pope Leo XII in 1823 who also declared him to be a Doctor of the Church.


Peter is usually portrayed in works of art as a cardinal archbishop holding a birch and a book. Sometimes he is shown as a bishop with a cardinal’s hat either above his head or at his side. He is also portrayed as an old deceased hermit, on a stone slab in a cave with a crucifix on his chest. There are often books, a miter, a cardinal’s hat and angels near him. He has also been portrayed as praying before a cross with a miter and cardinal’s hat on the ground


Catholic Information Network: St. Peter Damian

Wikipedia: Peter Damian

Text © 2019 Gary J. Sibio. All rights reserved.

#history #church #people #saints #Catholic #medieval #clergy #monks #scandal #sexabuse


What do you think?

12 Points

Written by Gary J Sibio


  1. Another great Saint and his life. He seemed very devoted because of his denunciation of the priesthood’s abuse of children, although I find his devotion slightly overrun to have included the game of chess as deviant. For a man who lived prior to the year 1100, he lived a very long and full life.

    • From time to time there has been a rejection of anything that could be called fun. It was condemned because it supposedly distracted from our devotion to God. Peter Damian was extreme in that regard but, for the most part, that was an aberration. The church as a whole, and quite a few of the saints, were fun-loving people.

  2. To Gary J Sibio:
    Very knowledgeable and well written pattern on Cathology . My father also tho Protestant was worried about my already devout soul and when I played chess at age 7, I was given a severe whipping with belt and peach limb. My mother begged to intercede. His maternal ancestors were Catholic.

    You write well.