2016, JANUARY 24.
VENOSA, ABBEY OF THE SANTISSIMA TRINITÀ
The Abbey of the Santissima Trinità or Abbey of the Most Holy Trinity is a Roman Catholic abbey complex at Venosa, in the Vulture area of the province of Potenza, in the southern Italian region of Basilicata. The architecture of the abbey shows Roman, Lombard, and Norman influences.
The complex lies within the Parco Archeologico (“archaeological park”) of Venosa, approximately 1.5 km north-east of the town; it falls under the Roman Catholic Diocese of Melfi-Rapolla-Venosa. It consists of the old church, of uncertain date; the monastery buildings; and the Incompiuta, the unfinished or new church, begun in the last quarter of the 11th century and never completed. The complex was declared a National Monument by Royal Decree on 20 November 1897.
The date of construction of the monastery is unknown; some elements may date from the 8th century. A foundation date of 954 AD is documented in the spurious Chronicon Cavense of the forger, scholar and priest Francesco Maria Pratilli (1689–1763).
It is no longer a monastery, but is used by the Trinitarian Order [Order of the Most Holy Trinity for the Redemption of the Captives (Ordo Sanctissimae Trinitatis redemptionis captivorum), often shortened to The Order of the Most Holy Trinity (Ordo Sanctissimae Trinitatis)], founded by St. John de Matha.
Most of the story of John of Matha’s life is based on legends that circulated after his death. It is reasonably certain that he was born to noble parents at Faucon-de-Barcelonnette, on the borders of Provence on 1169, June 23. He was baptized John, in honour of St. John the Baptist. His father Euphemius sent him to Aix, where he learned grammar, fencing, riding, and other exercises fit for a young nobleman. It is said that while there he gave the poor a considerable part of the money his parents sent him, and he visited the hospital every Friday, assisting the sick poor.
He studied theology at the University of Paris and was ordained a priest at the age of 32 in December 1192. According to Trintarian tradition, on 1193, January 28. , John celebrated his first Mass. During that Mass, he was struck with a vision of Christ holding by the hand two chained captives, one a Moor, the other a Christian (the Crusades were in full force at the time). The Christian captive carried a staff with a red and blue cross. After the Mass, John decided to devote himself to the task of ransoming Christian captives from the Moors. Before entering upon this work, he thought it needful to spend some time in retirement, prayer, and mortification; and having heard of a holy hermit, St. Felix of Valois, living in a great wood near Gandelu, in the diocese of Meux, he repaired to him and requested him to instruct him in the practice of perfection.
One day while walking with Felix, John had another vision – a white stag appeared at a stream with a red and blue cross between its antlers. John disclosed to Felix the design he had conceived on the day on which he said his first mass, to succour captive Christians under slavery, and Felix offered his help in carrying it out. They set out for Rome in the midst of a severe winter, towards the end of the year 1197, to obtain the pope’s benediction.
On 1198, December 17, he obtained the preliminary approval of Pope Innocent III for a new order dedicated in honour of the Blessed Trinity for the redemption of Christian captives.
St. John founded the Trinitarians to go to the slave markets, buy the Christian slaves and set them free. To carry out this plan, the Trinitarians needed large amounts of money. So, they placed their fund-raising efforts under the patronage of Mary. In gratitude for her assistance, St. John of Matha honored Mary with the title of Our Lady of Good Remedy. Devotion to Mary under this ancient title is widely known in Europe and Latin America, and the Church celebrates her feast day on October 8. Our Lady of Good Remedy is often depicted as the Virgin Mary handing a bag of money to St. John of Matha.
This order was fully approved in 1209. The Order of the Most Holy Trinity’s first monastery was established at Cerfroid (just north of Paris) and the second at Rome at the church of San Tommaso in Formis. Christian slaves were first rescued by the Order in 1201. In 1202 and 1210 John travelled to Tunisia himself and brought back countless Christian slaves.
Before his death, Trinitarian tradition says he met St. Francis of Assisi and introduced Francis to the Frangipani family, one of the benefactors of the Franciscan order. St. John of Matha died on 1213, December 17, in Rome in the house of St. Thomas In Formis on the Caelian Hill.
In 1655, his relics were transferred from Rome to Madrid. His cultus was approved in 1665 and his feast day is December 17.