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Saint Vigilius of Trent ( ) is venerated as the patron saint and first bishop of Trent. He should not be confused with the pope of the same name. According to tradition, he was a Roman patrician and was the son of Maxentia and a man whose name is sometimes given as Theodosius.

His brothers, Claudian and Magorian, are also venerated as saints. Vigilius was educated at Athensmarker and seems to have been a friend of Saint John Chrysostom.

He then went to Romemarker and then settled at Trentomarker in 380 and was chosen to be bishop of that city. He may have been consecrated by either Ambrose of Milanmarker or Valerian of Aquileia (Valerianus). As bishop, Vigilius attempted to convert Arians and pagans to orthodox Christianity and is said to have founded thirty parishes in his diocese. A letter attributed to Ambrose has the Milanese bishop encouraging Vigilius to oppose marriages between Christians and pagans (Ep. 29 in P.L., XVI, 982). Vigilius preached in Bresciamarker and Veronamarker, which lay outside of his diocese.

His companions during his missions were Saints Sisinnius, Martyrius and Alexander, who were sent by Ambrose to assist Vigilius. Tradition makes these three natives of Cappadociamarker. A work called De Martyrio SS. Sisinnii, Martyrii et Alexandri (P.L., XIII, 549) is attributed to Vigilius.

Sisinnius, Martyrius and Alexander (Sisinio, Martirio e Alessandro) were killed at Sanzenomarker after they attempted to convert the local population there to Christianity; Vigilius forgave their killers and had the remains of the three men sent to John Chrysostom in Constantinoplemarker, as well to Simplician, Ambrose's successor, in Milan. Milan would later give some of those relics back to Sanzeno in the 20th century, where they rest in the Basilica dei Ss. Martiri dell'Anaunia.

Vigilius is associated with the legend of St. Romedius, who is often depicted alongside or astride a bear. According to Romedius' hagiography, Romedius once wished to visit Vigilius, a friend of his youth, but Romedius' horse was torn to pieces by a wild bear. Romedius, however, had the bear bridled by his disciple David (Davide). The bear became docile and carried Romedius on its back to Trentomarker.

Death

Punta San Vigilio, where Vigilius is said to have been killed.
According to a much later tradition, Vigilius, who had been accompanied by his brothers Claudian and Magorian as well as a priest named Julian, was killed in the present-day parish of Rendena, in the Rendena Valley, where he had been preaching against the locals there, who worshipped the god Saturn. Vigilius said Mass and overturned a statue of the god into the Sarca Rivermarker. As punishment, he was stoned to death near Lake Gardamarker at the area called Punta San Vigilio.

Ironically, a statue of the pagan god Neptune stands in front of Vigilius' shrine in Trent today.

Veneration

Trento Cathedral with the Fountain of Neptune.
Vigilius was buried at a church that he built at Trent, later expanded by his successor Eugippius, and dedicated to Vigilius. This became Trento Cathedralmarker. He was immediately venerated after his death, and the acts of his life and death were sent to Rome, and Pope Innocent I, according to the Catholic Encyclopedia, "seems to have made a formal canonization, for Benedict XIV ("De canonizat. SS.", Prato, 1839, I, ch. iv, no. 12) calls Vigilius the first martyr canonized by a pope.”Vigilius’ arm was separated as a separate relic and placed into its own reliquary in 1386. He is venerated in Tyrol. A German farmers’ saying associated with a 2nd feast day of January 31 was: "Friert es zu Vigilius / im März die Eiseskälte kommen muss!" (“If it freezes on St. Vigilius’ Day / in March the ice cold will come!”). There are similar sayings associated with other “weather saints.”

References

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