Life and death of St. Placido, co-patron saint of Messina


By John

“In the sign of San Placido” is the title of the precious volume created by Rocco Crimi and Franco Tumeo with the aim of reviving the cult of the Benedictine martyr saint (co-patron of Messina and other centers in the province, such as Castel di Lucio).
It is a book – published by Di Nicolò, with a contribution by Elisa Lo Monaco in the appendix – which retraces the stages of the saint’s life, his martyrdom in 541 in Messina and the birth of the cult following the discovery of human remains during the restoration works carried out in the Church of San Giovanni di Malta in August 1588, in which it was believed that, among others, the bones of San Placido and his brothers, Flavia, Eutichio and Vittorino were identified. In reality it was a real necropolis in which many other skeletons were found. The book starts from the discovery of an ancient missal from 1669, which belonged to one of the last abbots of the Convent of the Minor Observants of Ficarra, who among Gregorian chants and sacred themed engravings, typical of the traditional liturgy, recalls, which constitutes its precious peculiarity, the then recent “In festo inventionis SS. Placidi, et socioru Martyr” or the discovery of the bones of San Placido and his companion martyrs celebrated on 4 August. Rocco Crimi, president of the Crimi Foundation, starting from this element, delves into the folds of the invention of the remains of the Saint which led to a real “factory” of relics which, as a consequence, had the proliferation of miracles. And among these an “almost resurrection” which was even witnessed by Caravaggio who represented it in that masterpiece which is the “Resurrection of Lazarus” and which is found in the Regional Museum. The consequence was that the demand for relics grew enormously, so much so that Pope Paul V was forced to issue a provision which made it absolutely forbidden, under the threat of serious penalties, to extract or dispose of relics and finds from the church of San Giovanni.
Franco Tumeo, journalist and writer, for his part, has drawn up an exhaustive note on the life, death and miracles of San Placido Martire, starting from the birthplace of the saint who claims he was the son of a Roman patrician, Tertullus, and of the Messina noblewoman Faustina, sister of the more famous Elpide. Raised in a monastery, he was one of the most faithful followers of Benedict, who he followed in 528 to Cassino where he witnessed the birth of the Abbey and the Benedictine Order. In 532, sent to Sicily by Saint Benedict, he built the first Benedictine monastery in Sicily in Messina, in the Oliveto district, where he met his death on 5 October 541 together with his brothers Eutichio and Vittorino and his sister Flavia, at the hands of the pirate Mamucha. Finally, on 4 August 1588 the discovery of the remains attributed to the saint and the other saints to whom the people of Messina have always shown great devotion, so much so that San Placido was named patron saint of the city. An extraordinary figure of spirituality who has gone beyond the borders of the city to spread even in the province, as in the case of Castel di Lucio, of which we find testimony in this interesting volume thanks to Elisa Lo Monaco, pharmacist and researcher who has long been committed to studying and disseminating Nebroid popular traditions.