St. Peter of Verona is the fastest-canonized saint in the history of the Catholic Church, being raised to the altars a mere 337 days after his martyrdom.
St. Peter’s feast day is today; he is the patron saint of inquisitors. We seek his intercession for all whom battle heretics today.
Saint Peter of Verona, O.P. also known as Saint Peter Martyr (1206 – April 6, 1252), was a 13th century Dominican preacher and Inquisitor in Italy.
He was born in the city of Verona, a son of Cathars, adherents of the dualist faith, which posits a good God and an evil god as equal and opposing powers; the evil god is usually responsible for or at the very least in control of the material world. This religion had many adherents in Northern Italy in the thirteenth century. Peter went to a Catholic school, and later to the University of Bologna, where Peter is said to have maintained his orthodoxy and at the age of fifteen, met Saint Dominic. Peter joined the Order of the Friars Preachers (Dominicans) and became a celebrated preacher throughout northern and central Italy.
In 1252, because of what was said to be his virtues, severity of life and doctrine, talent for preaching, and zeal for the orthodox Catholic faith, Pope Innocent IV appointed him Inquisitor for Lombardy; he had been fighting against heretics since the 1230s under Pope Gregory IX.
As his superiors destined him to preach to the Cathars, he evangelized nearly the whole of Italy, preaching in Rome, Florence, Bologna, Genoa, and Como. Crowds came to meet him and followed him; and conversions were numerous. He typically attacked Catholics who confessed the Faith by words, but in deeds denied it. The Cathars, against whom he preached, were a heretical group that adhered to elements of dualism and Manichaeism and rejected the authority of the Church and many Christian teachings.
He was killed by a group of Cathars on April 6, 1252, when returning from Como to Milan. According to legend, a man called Carino who with some other Cathars had designed the attack struck his head with an axe, and then gave Peter’s companion Dominic several fatal wounds. It is told that, upon rising to his knees, Peter recited the first article of the Symbol of the Apostles (the Apostle’s Creed), and offering his blood as a sacrifice to God he dipped his fingers in it and wrote on the ground the words: “Credo in Unum Deum“. The assassin then pierced his heart.
His body was carried to Milan and laid in the Church of Sant’Eustorgio, where an ornate mausoleum, the work of Balduccio Pisano, was erected to his memory.
His assassin, Carino, later converted and eventually became a Dominican at Forlì and is the subject of a local cult as “Blessed Carino of Balsamo“. [For the story of Carino’s conversion, see here.]
Many miracles were attributed to him while alive, and even more after his martyrdom.
St Peter was canonized by Pope Innocent IV on March 9, 1253 after an interval of only 337 days, making him the fastest papally canonized saint in history.
Saint Peter the Martyr’s feast day is on April 29. The Church of Santa Maria Antiqua in Verona is co-entitled to him.