Blessed Peter Cambiano, OP
Feast day: February 2
Born in Chieri, Piedmont, Italy, in 1320;
died February 2, 1365;
beatified in 1856.
Peter Cambiano's father was a city councillor and his mother was of nobility. They were virtuous and careful parents, and they gave their little son a good education, especially in religion. Peter responded to all their care and became a fine student, as well as a pious and likeable child. Peter was drawn to the Dominicans by devotion to the rosary. Our Lady of the Rosary was the special patroness of the Piedmont region, and he had a personal devotion to her. At 16, therefore, he presented himself at the convent in Piedmont and asked for the habit.
Here the young student continued his study and prayer, becoming a model religious, and was ordained at 25. His skill as a preacher had already become evident, not the least of his talents being a loud clear voice, which in those days of open-air preaching was a real asset.
Peter's span of active life was 20 years, most of which he spent among the heretics of northern Italy. The fathers of the Lombard province had a fine reputation to uphold. They were walking in the footsteps of martyrs, and they made a point of preparing their men carefully for controversy as well as for martyrdom. Peter's first assignment was to work among the Waldensians. These zealous and misguided folk, coming from France, had already infiltrated the Low Countries and were well established in northern Italy, by way of Switzerland.
The inquisition had been set up to deal with these people in Lombardy before the death of Peter Martyr, a century before. So well did young Peter of Ruffia carryout the work of preaching among them that the order sent him to Rome to obtain higher degrees. The pope, impressed both by his talent and his family name, appointed him inquisitor-general of the Piedmont. This was a coveted appointment; to a Dominican it meant practically sure martyrdom and a carrying on of a proud tradition.
In January 1365, Peter of Ruffia and two companions left the convent in Turin to go on a preaching tour that would take them into the mountainous country bordering Switzerland, where the heretics had done great damage. Their lives were in hourly danger. The Franciscans at Suse gave them hospitality, and they made the friary their basis of operations for a short, but very active, campaign against the Waldensians.
His preaching occasioned several notable defections from the ranks of the heretics, and it was decided that Peter must die. On the February 2, three of the heretics came to the friary and asked to see Peter of Ruffia, saying that they had an important message for him. They waited for him in the cloister, near the gate, and, when he appeared, surrounded him and killed him with their daggers. Peter died almost instantly, too soon to give any information about his assailants, and the murderers disappeared into a valley, where the heretics would protect them. All Piedmont, Switzerland, and Savoy were in an uproar over the death of Peter, who had been 'a saint in his life, a martyr in his death.'
The Franciscans at Suse claimed the holy relics, pointing out that it would not be safe to transport them to the nearest Dominican house, so Peter was buried among the Franciscans. Here he remained for 150 years until the Franciscan house was razed and desecrated by an invading army. Finally, in 1517, the relics of the great inquisitor were brought to Turin, and Peter was laid to rest among his brethren in the convent there