Saint Venturino, Dominican preacher and missionary crusader
On March 28, the Church commemorates Saint Venturino of Bergamo (1304 – 1346), a Dominican preacher and missionary crusader.
Saint Venturino was born at Bergamo, and received the habit of the Order of Friars Preachers at the convent of Saint Stephen, Bergamo in 1319. He was a popular preacher and attracted large crowds of people in all the cities of northern Italy. In 1335, he announced his intention to go on a pilgrimage to Rome with approximately thirty thousand of his converts.
Pope Benedict XII, then residing at Avignon, France, assumed that Venturino wished to make himself pope. Thus, he wrote letters to Giovanni Pagnotti, Bishop of Anagni, his spiritual vicar, to the Canons of St. Peter’s and St. John Lateran’s, and to the Roman senators directing them to stop the pilgrimage.
The pope’s complaint to the Dominican Master General resulted in an ordinance of the Chapter of London, condemning such pilgrimages. The pope’s letters and orders, however, did not reach Saint Venturino, and he arrived in Rome on March 21, 1335. He and his group were warmly welcomed, and he preached in numerous churches throughout the city. Twelve days later he left Rome, when he learned of the new ordinance, and the pilgrimage ended in disorder. In June, he requested an audience with Benedict XII at Avignon clarify things, but he was immediately seized and thrown into prison for eight years. He was restored to favor by Pope Clement VI, who appointed him to preach a crusade against the Turks, on January 4, 1344; his achievement was remarkable. He advised the pope to appoint his friend, Humbert II of Dauphiné, to be leader of the crusade. However, Humbert proved unqualified and the crusade came to nothing. Saint Venturino’s writings consist of sermons (now lost) and letters. He died at Smyrna.