At Italy On This Day you will read about events and festivals, about important moments in history, and about the people who have made Italy the country it is today, and where they came from. Italy is a country rich in art and music, fashion and design, food and wine, sporting achievement and political diversity. Italy On This Day provides fascinating insights to help you enjoy it all the more.

Sunday, 10 January 2016

San Pietro Orseolo – Doge of Venice and monk



Rich powerful Doge made a life-changing decision


Pietro Orseolo, a former Venetian Doge who joined the Benedictine order, died on this day in 987.


Pietro Orseolo was born in Udine
Piazza della Libertà in Udine, birthplace of  Pietro Orseolo.  
He was canonised by Pope Clement XII in 1731 and his feast day is celebrated on the anniversary of his death on 10 January each year.

Pietro Orseolo became Doge of Venice in 976 but after just two years in office he left his palace in the middle of the night to go to France to become a monk.

Orseolo was originally from a powerful family in Udine and at the age of 20 became commander of the Venetian fleet waging successful campaigns against pirate ships.

He was elected Doge after the previous ruler of Venice had been killed in a revolt. Orseolo restored order to the city, built much needed hospitals and cared for widows and orphans.

He started to rebuild the Doge’s palace and St Mark’s Basilica using his own money. But he suddenly left Venice to travel to southern France with three other Venetians to join a Benedictine abbey. It is believed he told no one about his decision in advance, not even his wife and family.

After some years living as a monk performing menial tasks at the abbey, Orseolo went to live in the surrounding forest as a hermit. He continued to live like this for seven years until he died in 987.


As doge of Venice, Orseolo funded building work on the Basilica and the Doge's Palace
Orseolo funded a rebuilding project on St Mark's Basilica
in Venice before leaving for France.
Forty years after his death he was beatified and 700 years later he was made a saint.

Travel tip:

Udine, the birthplace of San Pietro Orseolo, is a city in the region of Friuli Venezia-Giulia not far from Italy’s border with Slovenia. In the principal square, Piazza della Libertà, there are beautiful 15th century Venetian-style buildings, such as the town hall, Loggia del Lionello, and clock tower, Torre dell’Orologio, which resembles the one in Piazza San Marco in Venice. 

Travel tip:

Bacino Orseolo in Venice, a wide stretch of water where gondolas are moored near Piazza San Marco, is named after Doge Pietro I Orseolo, who established a hospice for pilgrims there in 977, one of the good works he accomplished before he left Venice to become a monk.

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