About Me

Sep 4, 2013

Saint Labre, the clochard that lived at the Colosseum.

A moving sculpture portrays St. Benedict Joseph Labre on his deathbed: the funerary monument sculpted by Achille Albacini, a pupil of Canova, in 1892, is in the Church of Madonna dei Monti (left transept). 
But who was this eccentric saint canonized in 1881 and known as the 'beggar of the Colosseum'?
Born in the small village of Arnettes, near Arras, the eldest of 15 children, he had good parents and lived a comfortable life. 
Fascinated by the monastic life from a young age and despite his attempts to join Trappists, Carthusians and Cistercians, he was invariably rejected, judged 'unsuitable for communal life'.
In 1769 finally admitted to the Cistercian Abbey of Sept-Fonts decided, after a short stay, that his vocation was elsewhere.  Labre entered the Third Order of St. Francis. 
He reached Rome on foot and living from begging traveled to the major shrines of Europe (Loreto, Assisi, Santiago de Compostela, Einsielden, just to name a few).
He lived in Rome under one of the arcades of the Colosseum (XLIII, where the ticket boot is now).
Very popular in the city where the Romans had nicknamed him the Beggar of the Colosseum.
His health soon deteriorated:  he was only 35 years old.
He collapsed in the Church of Santa Maria ai Monti and was charitably transported to one of the backrooms of a butcher in Via dei Serpenti where in the afternoon he died.  It was a Holy Wednesday (April 16, 1783).  Huge crowds gathered for his funeral.  The police had to be doubled, soldiers accompanied the body to the Church: more honor could scarcely have been paid to a royal corpse.
He died a beggar in Rome.
Within a year of his death his reputation for sanctity had spread, it would seem, throughout Europe.
The process of beatification began only one year later.

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