Celestino V 1209 – 1296

Pietro da Morrone, the future pope Celestine V, was born according to tradition, in Sant’Angelo Limosano in the County of Molise, then province of the Kingdom of Sicily. This tradition is supported by the fact that the young Peter entered the nearby Benedictine convent of Santa Maria di Faifula, near Montagano. Pietro, who was the penultimate of twelve brothers and sons of simple farmers, was entrusted to the monastery when his mother was widowed. At only 20 years of age Pietro decided to become a hermit and lived a few years as such on Mount Porrara, the southernmost peak of the Majella. After being ordained a priest by the Pope, he retired to the Morrone Mountain, near Sulmona, where he lived in a cave in total isolation.

The sanctity of his life attracted many pilgrims and, to avoid them, Peter fled to the mountains of the Majella even further east to inaccessible places where, together with other hermits, he founded a hermitage at an altitude of more than a thousand meters: Holy Spirit in Majella. His congregation was incorporated in the Order of the Benedictines because the canon law forbade to found a new one, however Pope Gregory X in 1275 confirmed his congregation which he called of the Celestines. On July 5, 1294 the long vacation of the pontifical throne ended with his election as Pontiff due to his reputation for holiness and the influence of Charles II of Anjou. He was almost eighty years old when he took the name of Celestine V in very dark times for the Church. A holy and pious man, he was faced with interests and conflicts within the Church, which led him, on December 13, 1294, to abdicate, encouraged by Cardinal Caetani, who was elected pope in his place with the name of Boniface VIII and who confined him to the Castle of Fumone in Ciociaria, where he remained until his death in 1296 at the age of eighty-seven.

Strictly judged by Dante as “the one who made for cowardice the great refusal” in the third canto of the Inferno, today we speak of the “angelic Pope” as a man of extraordinary faith and strength of spirit, heroic example of humility and common sense.