Barbatus of Benevento

Barbatus of Benevento was born in Vandano, Italy, in 610.  This was near the end of Gregory the Great’s time as pope.  He received a Christian education, spending much time studying scriptures. He took holy orders as a priest as soon as allowed to.  He was appointed as a preacher by the local bishop.  Not long after he was made pastor St. Basil’s Church in Morcone.  His preaching was not welcomed because parishioners were indifferent and barely Christian. He continued his calls for reform but eventually returned to Benevento.

At the time, some people from Benevento had a superstition about honoring a golden viper and a local walnut tree. The local prince, Romuald I son of King Grimoald I, was involved in this. Barbatus regularly preached against them.  He was regularly ignored. Later, he warned the people of the city of the great trials they would suffer from the East Roman Emperor Constans II and his army, who had just arrived in the area and laid siege to Benevento. In fear, the people renounced the practices Barbatus had criticized. Barbatus cut down the tree the locals had worshipped and melted the viper into a chalice for the church.

Barbatus himself was responsible for a practical resistance to Constans.  He used broken parts of a pagan temple to rebuilt the city walls.
In 1903 the foundations of the Temple of Isis were discovered in Benevento.  Many fragments of Egyptian and Greco-Roman sculptures were found. They had apparently been used as the foundation of a portion of the city wall, reconstructed in 663 under the fear of an attack by Constans, the temple having been destroyed by order of Barbatus to provide the necessary material. The bishop of Benevento died during the siege.  Constans was defeated as Barbatus predicted.  After the invaders withdrew, Barbatus was made bishop on March 10, 633.  He continued his work to eliminate superstition. In 680, he assisted in a council held by Pope Agatho and took part in the sixth general council held in Constantinople in 681 about the Monothelites, who believe Jesus had a different human nature than other men.  He died shortly after the end of the council, on February 19, 682,  He was 70 years old.