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St Peter Martyr (29th April)

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Martyrdom of St Peter Martyr (ca. 1700) 
Cappella di San Pietro Martire, San Domenico, Spoleto  
An entry in the Roman Martyrology under 29th April reads: “St Peter, a martyr of the Order of Preachers, who was slain for the Catholic faith on the 6th day of April”.
St Peter, who was born in about 1203 in Verona, joined the Order of Preachers in Bologna in 1221 and devoted himself to preaching and to the refutation of heresy.  In 1234, he was appointed Inquisitor for Milan, a city that had a tradition of heresy.  He secured the support of Archbishop Settala and the Podestà, Oldrado and initiated a programme of persecution that led to the burning of a number of heretics.  When he returned to the city in 1242, he provoked a tumultuous riot.
The inquisition was also very active in Florence in the 1240s, under the Dominican Ruggero Calcagni.  In 1244, Pope Innocent IV sent St Peter to the city to assist.  Tradition has it that the Podestà, Bernardino Rosso, had the Piazza Santa Maria Novella extended to accommodate the people drawn by his preaching.  However, he faced strong opposition, not least because the Dominican attack on heresy inevitably became intimately linked to the conflict between Guelfs and Ghibelines.  He found it politic to form the militant Compagnia Maggiore della Vergine Maria, which effectively served as an armed bodyguard.  In 1245, Ruggero condemned the Ghibelline Podestà, Pace Pesamigola for heresy and this provoked a revolt.  St Peter was driven from the city, although he returned in 1245 to replace Ruggieri as the head of the Florentine Inquisition.  
St Peter became Prior of the Dominican convent at Como in ca. 1252.  On the Saturday after Easter of that year, while he travelled from Como to Milan, he was ambushed and stabbed to death.  (His enemies had bribed an assassin for forty Milanese pounds).  He had apparently prophesied his own murder, adding: “I shall do them more harm by my death than ever I have done in my lifetime".   This in fact turned out to be the case.
Cult of St Peter Martyr
St Peter was buried in San Eustorgio, Milan, in the chapel to the left of the high altar. 
Innocent IV immediately instructed the Archbishop of Milan to institute proceedings for his canonisation, and duly canonised him in 1253, less than a year after his death.  The ceremony of canonization took place in the piazza in front of San Domenico Vecchio, Perugia.  The body of St Peter was then exhumed and displayed on a stone pulpit that still remains in the Piazza di San Eustorgio, Milan, before it was re-interred in a marble sarcophagus.
Pilgrims flocked to the tomb and, in 1265, a confraternity was formed with the object of collecting money for a finer monument.  Work on it started in 1335, with donations from the King and Queen of Cyprus, from Azzo Visconti, Lord of Milan, and from Giovanni Visconti, Bishop of Novara.  The last of these seems to have commissioned monument from Giovanni di Balduccio, with the stipulation that it should be based on that of St Domenic, although it was in the event much larger and more extensively decorated than this precedent.  The work was completed in 1339 and the translation effected in 1340.  The Arca di San Pietro Martire survives in San Eustorgio. 
The primary 13th century texts for St Peter’s life are: 
the bull of canonization (1253); 
the “Leggenda” (ca. 1255-70) by Tommaso Agni da Lentino; 
the Vitae Fratrum” (ca. 1260) by Gérard de Frachet; 
the “Golden Legend” (ca. 1260) by Jacobus de Voragine.
St Peter Martyr at Spoleto
The Dominicans are first recorded in Spoleto in 1235, only a year after Pope Gregory IX had canonised St Dominic at Rieti, and the Bull of canonisation had been issued from Spoleto.  St Peter Martyr stayed with the friars preached in the city in 1245, he stayed with the friars, and he exhorted the citizens to establish a convent for them.  They received the small church of San Salvatore (later the site of San Domenico) in 1248. 

Tommaso Petrucci, Conti di Chiavano, the leader of the Ghibellines of Spoleto, laid siege to the city in 1391.  The siege was lifted on the feast of St Peter Martyr, and he was duly proclaimed as a patron of the city.  The Cappella di San Pietro Martire off the left wall of San Domenico probably dates to this time.    (All three panels illustrated on this page are from this chapel).