Rev. Alban Butler (171173). Volume IV: April. The Lives of the Saints. 1866.
St. Galdin, Archbishop of Milan, Confessor
HE was born at Milan, of the most illustrious house of the Vavassors of La Scala, famous in the history of Italy. Innocence and virtue were the ornaments of his youth, and prepared him for the ministry of the altar. Being promoted to holy orders, he was, by the archbishop, made his chancellor and archdeacon, and from that time began to bear the chief weight of the episcopal charge, which was at no time more heavy or difficult. Pope Adrian IV. an Englishman, died in 1159, and Alexander III. a person eminent for his skill in theology and in the canon law, was chosen to succeed him; but five cardinals presumed to form a schism in favour of Octavian, under the name of Victor. The Emperor Frederick I. surnamed, from the colour of his beard and hair, Ænobarbus, and by the Italians, Barbarossa, a prince who sullied the reputation which several victories and great natural parts had acquired him by many acts of tyranny, carried on an unjust quarrel with several popes successively; seizing the revenues of vacant ecclesiastical benefices, usurping the investiture and nomination of bishops, and openly making a simoniacal traffic of all that was sacred. It is not, therefore strange, that such a prince should declare himself the patron and protector of a schism which had been raised only by his faction and interest in Rome. The city of Milan offended him in 1159, by claiming an exclusive right of choosing its own magistrates; and still more the year following, by openly acknowledging Alexander III. for true pope. The emperor, highly incensed, sat down before it with a great army, in 1161; and, after a siege of ten months, in 1162, compelled it to surrender at discretion. In revenge, he razed the town, filled up the ditches, levelled the walls and houses with the ground, and caused salt to be sown upon the place, as a mark that this city was condemned never more to be rebuilt. The bodies of the three kings, which he found there in the church of St. Eustorgius, he ordered to be removed to Cologn on this occasion. The archbishop Hubert dying in 1166, Galdin, though absent, was pitched upon for his successor; and the pope, who consecrated him with his own hands, created him cardinal and legate of the holy see. The new pastor made it his first care to comfort and encourage his distressed flock; and, wherever he was able to exert his influence to abolish the schism, in which he effectually succeeded throughout all Lombardy. The Lombard cities had unanimously entered into a common league to rebuild Milan. When the walls and moats were finished, the inhabitants, with great joy, returned into their city on the 27th April, 1167. The emperor again marched against it. but was defeated by the Milanese; and seeing Lombardy, Venice, the kingdom of Sicily, and all Italy united in an obstinate league against him, he agreed to hold a conference with the pope at Venice, in which he abjured the schism, and made his peace with the church in 1177.1 The distracted state of the commonwealth did not hinder our saint from attending diligently to his pastoral duties. He preached assiduously, assisted the poor, who had always the first place in his heart, and made it his study to relieve all their wants, spiritual and corporal. By humility, he always appeared as the last in his flock, and by charity he looked upon the burdens and miseries of every one as his own. He sought out the miserable amidst the most squalid scenes of wretchedness, and afforded them all necessary relief. But the spiritual necessities of the people, both general and particular, challenged his principal attention. He restored discipline, extinguished all the factions of the schismatics, and zealously confuted the heretics, called Cathari, a kind of Manichees, who had been left in Lombardy from the dregs of the impious army of the Emperor Frederic. Assiduous prayer was the chief means by which the saint drew down the dew of the divine benediction, both upon his own soul and upon his labours. As Moses descended from the mountain, on which he had conversed with God, with his face shining, so that others were not able to fix their eyes upon it: so this holy man appeared in his public functions, and announced the divine word, inflamed by prayer, with an ardour and charity which seemed heavenly, and both struck and attracted the most obstinate. On the last day of his life, though too weak to say mass, he mounted the pulpit at the gospel, and preached with great vigour a long and pathetic sermon: but towards the close fell into a swoon, and about the end of the mass expired in the pulpit, on the 18th of April, 1176. All lamented in him the loss of a father, but found him still an advocate in heaven, as many miracles attested. He is honoured in the ancient missals and breviaries of Milan, and in the Roman Martyrology. See his two authentic lives, with the notes of Henschenius, Apr. t. 2, p. 593.
Note 1. That Alexander III. set his foot on the neck of the Emperor Frederic, in the porch of St. Marks church, in Venice, on this occasion, is a notorious forgery, as Baronius, Natalis Alexander, (in Sæc. 12, art. 9, in Alex. III.) and all other judicious historians demonstrate, from the silence of all contemporary writers, as of Romuald, archbishop of Salerno, who wrote the history of Alexander, and of this very transaction, at which he himself was present, both in the council of Venice, and at the absolution of the emperor: also of Matthew Paris, William of Tyre, and Roger Hoveden. Nor is the story consistent with reason, or with the singular meekness of Alexander, who, when the second anti-pope, John of Strume, called Calixtus III., had renounced the schism, in 1178, always treated him with the greatest humanity and honour, and entertained him at his own table. At Venice, indeed, among the great exploits of the commonwealth, are exquisitely painted, in the senate-house, this pretended humiliation of Frederic, and their great naval victory over his son Otho, and the triumph of the Lombard cities over his land army. But painters and poets are equally allowed the liberty of fictions or emblematical representations. The pictures, moreover, are modern, and no more amount to a proof of the fact than the bead-roll story of the beadle of Westminster Abbey might do. [back]