Sunday, February 21, 2016

St. Maximianus of Ravenna - February 21

Mosaic of St. Maximianus in the
Basilica di San Vitale in Ravenna, Italy

February 21 is the feast of St. Maximianus, archbishop.

St. Maximianus of Ravenna (San Massimiano di Ravenna) was born in 498 in the city of Pola, in Istria, Italy. He was born just two decades after the deposition of the last Western Emperor Romulus Augustulus, in a period when Italy was politically divided between the Romans and the invading Ostrogoths. For most of his life Istria was under the rule of the Ostrogoths, but in 538 it was reconquered by the Romans. St. Maximianus, now a deacon of the Catholic Church, gave his loyalty to Emperor Justinian.

In 546 he was consecrated bishop by Pope Vigilius and named the first Archbishop of Ravenna. As archbishop, St. Maximianus completed the Basilica di San Vitale in Ravenna, and also comissioned the construction of Sant'Apollinare in Classe in Ravenna, the church of Santa Maria Formosa in Pola, a Benedictine monastery in Rovigno, and several other churches.

He died on February 22, 556. His feast is celebrated by the Catholic Church on February 21.

Throne of Maximianus (Cattedra vescovile di Massimiano), an episcopal
throne in Ravenna commissioned by Justinian as a gift for St. Maximianus.

Pola: Birthplace of St. Maximianus

Pola was founded in 178-177 BC as a Roman military post. In 46-45 BC it was established as a Roman colony called Colonia Pietas Iulia Pola Pollentia Herculanea and settled by Italian colonists. In 12 BC the city of Pola, together with the rest of Istria, was included in Regio X Venetia et Histria (the tenth region of Italy). Pola, like all the other Istrian cities, was an integral part of ancient Italy and remained culturally and ethnically Italian for the next 2,000 years. During the Middle Ages it was part of the Exarchate of Italy, the Kingdom of Italy, and the Republic of Venice. In the early 19th century it briefly formed part of the Kingdom of Italy. In the 20th century, between the world wars, it once again formed part of the Kingdom of Italy.

After World War II Istria was occupied by the Yugoslav Communists and annexed to Yugoslavia. The native Italians were terrorized, persecuted, murdered and forced to flee in a series of events known as the Foibe Massacres and Istrian Exodus. Between 1946 and 1947, the city of St. Maximianus was emptied of nearly its entire population: approximately 94-98% of the inhabitants of Pola were forced to leave Pola and migrate to Italy and other countries. Yugoslav immigrants later arrived to repopulate the deserted city. In 1991 Yugoslavia broke up and Croatia declared its independence; the city of Pola was then incorporated into the new country of Croatia, where it remains today.

St. Maximianus is one of the many figures of history who represents the Italianity of Istria, the millennial connection between Istria and Italy, and the lasting legacy of the Istrian Italians.