|The body of Blessed Agostino Casotti, which rests in the|
Basilica cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta in Lucera, Puglia, Italy
Blessed Agostino Casotti, also known as Augustine of Lucera, was born circa 1260 AD in the Dalmatian city of Traù. He was born into the noble Casotti family, of Venetian origin. At age 15 he entered the Dominican Order at Spalato, where he spent a few years before leaving to study at the University of Paris in 1286. He then returned to his native Dalmatia where he founded several Dominican convents. He also spent time in Italy attempting to reconcile the rival political factions, and later went to Bosnia to combat the Bogomil heresy. Afterwards he went to Hungary, where he met and befriended Cardinal Niccolò Boccasini—the future Pope Benedict XI. The pope personally consecrated and appointed him Bishop of Zagreb in 1303. As bishop, Blessed Agostino presided over several disciplinary synods; founded a Dominican priory, a library and a cathedral school; and cared for the poor. He also attended the ecumenical Council of Vienne in 1311-1312.
Blessed Agostino was opposed to the tyranny of King Charles I of Hungary and the Croatian feudal lord Mladen II (a vassal of Hungary who terrorized Agostino's native city of Traù). As a result, in 1318 he was forced into exile by the King. In January 1322, the Dalmatian cities of Sebenico and Traù rebelled against Mladen II and voluntarily joined the Republic of Venice. This angered King Charles, who desired to subject all Dalmatia to the Hungarian crown. After four years of being exiled and unable to return to his see in Zagreb, in 1322 – at the suggestion of King Robert of Naples – Agostino was appointed Bishop of Lucera by Pope John XXII.
The city of Lucera, located in Puglia, Italy, had previously been the site of a bloody conflict between Christians and Muslims. After the Muslims were completely expelled from Sicily in the 13th century, the city of Lucera was the only city in Italy where the remaining Muslims were permitted to live. In 1300, a Christian army decimated nearly the entire Muslim population of Lucera. The city was destroyed and the Muslim community thereafter disappeared. It was in this environment that Blessed Agostino was charged with the duty of restoring Christianity in the region.
Agostino initiated many public works in Lucera: he created an orphanage for girls; founded a hospital; and reconstructed and expanded the city walls. He also decreed that the city of Lucera should be known by its previous name of Santa Maria della Vittoria (Our Lady of Victory). Within a single year he had transformed the city and Diocese of Lucera. Realizing that death was near, he retired to a Dominican convent in Lucera, where he died in the odor of sanctity on August 3, 1323.
After his death, he was venerated by the people of Lucera and his cult quickly spread. In around 1640, Pietro Casotti, one of his descendants, erected an altar in his honour in the Cathedral of Traù. His body rests today in the Basilica cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta in Lucera, Italy.
He was beatified by Pope Clement XI on April 4, 1702. His feast is celebrated on August 3.
Blessed Agostino was known for performing many miracles. In particular, he is said to have had the gift of healing. During his episcopal consecration in Rome, he cured the rheumatism of Pope Benedict XI when his head was touched by the pain-stricken hands of the pope. He also planted a lime tree in Zagreb which cured many people. It is said that the tree was even respected by the Turks when they invaded the city.
Blessed Agostino was distinguished for his extraordinary doctrinal and theological knowledge. He wrote a treatise against witchcraft and magic entitled Dicta super quaestionibus de haeresi, haeretico, superstitione, sortilegio (On Superstition), and a treatise on poverty entitled Consilium de paupertate Christi et Apostolorum (On the Poverty of Christ and His Apostles).
Blessed Agostino Casotti is described by modern Croatian sources as “the first beatified Croat” and as “one of the first Croatian theologians”, and his name has been croatized to “Augustin Kažotić”. This is one of the countless examples of modern Croats deliberately attempting to rewrite history. Unfortunately many ignorant people, misled by this recent deception, have blindly followed this distortion of history and have come to accept the false claim that Agostino Casotti was a Croat.
The Casotti family was of Venetian origin; branches of the family existed in Traù, in Padua and also in Tuscany, all bound by their common Venetian roots. To this noble family belonged Blessed Agostino Casotti. This is confirmed by the Yearbook of Italian Nobility (Annuario della nobiltà italiana, 1882), an annual genealogical publication on the noble families of Italy.
Casotti spent 14 years in Zagreb as a bishop, however his tenure in Zagreb is not the reason he is claimed by the Croats. The reason he is claimed to be Croatian is because he was born in Dalmatia, a region which today is part of Croatia, but which previously was Venetian and underwent profound ethnic and political changes in the 19th and 20th centuries, culminating in the ethnic cleansing of the native Italian population by the Yugoslav Communists at the end of the Second World War. This was followed by a largely successful propaganda campaign designed to erase the Italian history of the region and replace it with a rewritten slavicized version of history intended to justify Yugoslav expansionism, pretending that the region, it culture and its historical figures were all Slavic.
However, Agostino Casotti was neither a Croat nor a Slav. He was a native of Traù, a Latin city in Dalmatia, born into a family of Venetian descent. To pretend that Casotti was a Croat, simply because he was born in a city which today belongs to Croatia, would be akin to calling Immanuel Kant (a native of Königsberg, Prussia) a “Russian” simply because the city in which he was born has been cleansed of its German-speaking population, renamed Kaliningrad and annexed to Russia.
The city of Traù, like the other cities of Istria and Dalmatia, was a Latin city of Romance language and Italian culture, and remained so until the 20th century. To call Blessed Agostino Casotti a “Croat” is an act of perverse revisionism. It constitutes a crime against history, a crime against the memory of those who were murdered and expelled from these lands by the Yugoslavs, and a crime against the native Latin people who created that rich cultural heritage of Istria and Dalmatia which the Slavs today have misappropriated for themselves.