Peter Damian

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St. Peter Damian

St. Peter Damian, (b. 1007, Died 1072) the bishop of Ostia who fought hard against simony. Reformer of church life, reconciled disputes between government and church, St. Peter is best known as a man for those in poverty. His was a life of love and prayer for Jesus, to the point his health was affected. Peter was never officially canonized.[1] Saint Peter Damian was proclaimed a great Doctor of the Church in 1828 by Pope Leo XII.

Early life

Peter was born in Ravenna, Italy, the baby of a large poor family. His parents passed away at a young age and he was orphaned for several years. Adopted under the care of his older brother. This brother ill-treated and under-fed him while employing him as a swineherd.[2] After several years of servitude, another brother was archpriest at Ravenna, had pity on him and gave him the finest education. Peter would eventually become professor. Taught at the University of Parma, and when about twenty-five years old was already a famous teacher at Parma and Ravenna. In those days, Peter would spend hours praying and he would fast rigorously. He decided to leave his teaching and give himself completely to prayer with the Benedictines of the reform of St. Romuald at Fonte Avellana.[3]


Peter was so eager to pray and slept so little that he soon suffered from severe insomnia. When he was not praying, he studied the Bible. Vigorously upheld clerical celibacy. For penance, St. Peter was known for wearing a hairshirt, to arm himself against the allurements of pleasure and the wiles of the devil. The Abbott in charge requested upon death that Peter would replace him. Abbot Peter founded five other hermitages. Preached to his brothers about a life of prayer and solitude and wanted nothing more. For years, Peter Damian was much employed in the service of the Church by successive Popes. He often made his presence felt with the poorer members of society. Often seen dining with the impoverished. In 1057, Pope Stephen IX made him Cardinal-bishop of Ostia.


Money and the evil associated with it, permeated the Church. Peter Damian watched closely the Church fortunes and always worked for her purification. Peter published his terrible treatise on the vices of the clergy, the "Liber Gomorrhianus", dedicating it to the pope. It aroused a great inner Church confrontation. Even the Pope, who had at first praised the work, was persuaded to repudiate. Questions arose as to the validity of the ordinations contained. He exacted first a solemn oath from the archbishop and all his clergy that for the future no preferment should be paid for; then, imposing a penance on all who had been guilty, he re-instated in their benefices all who under took to live contently. Simony was condemned by future Pope Gregory VI, archpriest John Gratian. In June, 1055, during the pontificate of Victor II, Damian attended a synod held at Florence, where simony and clerical incontinence were once more condemned.

In July, 1061, the pope died and once more a schism ensued. Damian used all his powers to persuade the antipope Cadalous to withdraw, but to no purpose.


Early in 1072, he was sent to Ravenna to reconcile its inhabitants to the Holy See, they having been excommunicated for supporting their archbishop in his adhesion to the schism of Cadalous. On his return, he was seized with fever near Faenza. Peter lay ill for a week at the monastery. With the monks gathered around him saying the Divine Office, he died on February 22, 1072. He was at once buried in the monastery church, lest others should claim his relics. His relics transferred another six times to more glorious Church than the preceding.

Almost immediately after his death, the liturgy of cultus,the actual arrangement and execution of the public Divine worship as authorized by the Church was implemented. The Sacred Congregation of Rites, established by Sixtus V, 1587, as the authoritative organ of the Holy See, is the supreme arbiter.


  • “...Let us faithfully transmit to posterity the example of virtue which we have received from our forefathers”


His preaching was most eloquent and his writing voluminous. Peter wrote many letters, 170 in total. Also, 53 of his sermons and three biographies. 225 poems, the best-known in English is "A Hymn of Paradise." He wrote the hymn in honor of St. Gregory the Great, "Anglorum iam Apostolus" ["Apostle of the English"].


  1. Saint Peter Damian Star Quest Production Network
  2. St. Peter Damian Catholic Encyclopedia
  3. St. Peter Damian American Catholic