Saints of the Day – Peter Chrysologus, Doctor

detail of a painting of Saint Peter Chrysologus; School of Guercino, 17th century; Diocesan Museum of Pius IX, Imola, Italy; swiped from Wikimedia CommonsArticle

Born at Imola, Emilia, Italy, c.400; died at Imola, July 31, c.450; feast day was December 4. Although Saint Peter Chrysologus (‘golden speeched’) has been included among the Doctors of the Church by Pope Benedict XIII in 1729, very little is known about his life. All his writings have perished except a large collection of short sermons. There is no account of him earlier than nearly 400 years after his death, and it is unreliable.

Saint Peter studied under the direction of and was ordained deacon by Bishop Cornelius of Imola, of whom he speaks with veneration and gratitude. Peter successively was appointed by Emperor Valentinian III and his mother Galla Placida as archdeacon and then archbishop to succeed John of Ravenna, who was a frequent correspondent with Pope Gregory the Great. An unlikely legend says that he was named bishop of Ravenna around 433 by Pope Saint Sixtus III, who reputedly selected him in place of another elected by the people because of a vision Sixtus had telling him to do so.

At any rate, he at once set about the reform of his lax see and to eradicate paganism. He was known for his charities, and preached so effectively that he was surnamed Chrysologus. His first sermon impressed Empress Galla Placidia enough that thereafter she generously supported his ambitious building projects, including a baptistery and church dedicated to Saint Andrew in Classis, the port of Ravenna. Her son, Valentinian, and Saint Leo the Great respected and supported him as well. Sometimes he would become so caught up in the excitement of his own preaching that he would become momentarily speechless.

Peter was one of those who received a letter from the Monophysite leader Eutyches protesting his condemnation by Saint Flavian of Constantinople. Peter advised Eutyches to stop attempting to justify himself after his condemnation by the synod of Constantinople in 448 and not to cause dissension in the Church. He referred him to the teaching authority of the bishop of Rome.

Bishop Peter received Saint Germanus of Auxerre in Ravenna in 448, and when Germanus died there on July 31, Saint Peter officiated at his funeral, and kept his hood and sackcloth as relics. Peter was forewarned of his own death soon thereafter and returned to Imola for his final days.

Peter’s sermons, almost all on Gospel subjects, are simple, practical, and clear, but are without the eloquence that his surname suggests. Nevertheless, these extant homilies were the reason Pope Benedict XIII declared him a Doctor of the Church in 1729 (Attwater, Benedictines, Delaney, Farmer, Walsh, White).

In art, Saint Peter is shown being presented to Pope Sixtus III by Saints Peter and Apollinaris of Ravenna; or with a dish in his hand (White).

MLA Citation

  • Katherine I Rabenstein. Saints of the Day, 1998. CatholicSaints.Info. 21 July 2020. Web. 24 November 2020. <>