SAINT PETRONIUS, BISHOP OF BOLOGNA, C.
HE was son to Petronius, prefect of the prtorium,
a person famous for his eloquence. Our saint inured himself from his
infancy, while he lived in his father’s house, to all the
exercises of a severe ascetic life. Being arrived at man’s
estate, he travelled into the East, and visited the deserts of
Palestine and Egypt, in order to improve himself in the sciences of
true Christian perfection by the example and instructions of the
great saints who inhabited them. For this purpose, he made a
considerable stay with the most famous among them, such as St. John
of Lycopolis, St. Apollo, St. Ammon, &c. We have an account of
the edifying circumstances which he collected in this journey in the
second book of the Lives of the Fathers, which Gennadius ascribes to
him; and Erasmus, Gesner, Goldast, and Baronius, to Evagrius of
Pontus; but which was certainly compiled from the relation of our
saint by Rufinus, as Fontanini demonstrates1 from the express
testimony of St. Jerom,2 and many circumstances mentioned in the work
itself. St. Eucherius mentions that, lately. St. Hilary of Arles, and
St. Petronius, then living in Italy, had passed from the highest
state of worldly pomp to the service of the church.3 St. Petronius
despised the study of eloquence and profane literature;
notwithstanding which, upon his return into Italy, when he arrived at
Rome in 430, he was chosen bishop of Bologna by pope Celestine, St.
Felix, bishop of that see, being dead on the 4th of December.4 He who
had performed his tedious journey through the eastern wildernesses
barefoot, joining to its fatigues the most austere penitential
austerities, and who had brought home not a dissipated mind, but an
improved spirit of compunction and devotion, because he had made
prayer and mortification his constant companions, would be far from
remitting any thing of those exercises when raised to the pastoral
dignity in the church. He, on the contrary, redoubled his assiduity
and fervor in them, being sensible that the sanctification of his own
soul, and that of his flock, had a mutual dependence on each other.
Bologna had been thrice plundered a little before, namely, by
Radagaisus, a pagan Goth, slain near Rome, and twice by Alaric, the
Arian Goth. St. Petronius purged it of the remains of Arianism, and
repaired the ruins of the city, and especially the churches St. Zama,
the first bishop appointed by pope Dionysius in 270, had founded the
cathedral called the Domo, of which St. Peter was titular. It was
demolished in the persecution of Dioclesian, but soon after rebuilt.
After the persecution of Julian the Apostate, the church of St. Peter
having been removed by St. Fustinian, it was afterwards
re-established by our saint under the title of SS. Nabor and Felix,
and is at present in the hands of the Poor Clares. Sigonius and the
learned pope Benedict XIV. reckon the following churches founded at
Bologna by St. Petronius: of St. Stephen, (adjoining to St. Peter’s,)
upon the model of the church of the Holy Cross and of the Holy
Sepulchre at Jerusalem; those of St. Thecla, St. Agatha, St. Lucy,
St. Bartholomew, St. John Evangelist, St. Mark, St. Martin, &c.
He enriched the city with the relics of many saints, particularly
those of the holy martyr St. Florian, who seems to have received his
crown under Dioclesian; his relics were brought from Vicenza, and
deposited by St. Petronius in the church of St. Stephen. He is
honored as patron of the city.5 The Roman Martyrology mentions him on
this day.* See Rufin.,1. 2, de Vitis Patr.; Gennad. de Vir. Ill., c.
41; Ceillier, t. 14, p. 299; Fontanini, Hist. Liter. Aquileiens, p.
361,1. 5, c. 12; Tillem. t. 15, p. 35; Bened. XIV. de Festis SS.;
Bonon. Bue the Bollandist, pp. 422 ad 470.