(c. 1120—1197)

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St Giles (d. c. 710)


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merchant of Cremona. His name, given at baptism, means ‘good man’. Homobonus was trained by his father to follow his own profession of tailoring and selling cloth with diligence, honesty, and exactitude. In due course he married a wife, who matched his prudence and generosity. They had several children. He was notable both for his frequent prayers in the church of St Giles and for his extraordinarily generous almsgiving. Called ‘Father of the Poor’, he cared specially also for the disinherited. In a time of famine, he fed the hungry with bread and wine, cared for the sick personally, and buried the dead.

On 13 November 1197, after a lifetime of care for the poor in a penitential regime, he stretched out his arms in the form of a cross during the Gloria at Mass, fell on his face, and died. Sicard, bishop of Cremona, vigorously requested his canonization: this was granted by Innocent III only two years after his death. He is an interesting example of a lay saint (merchant and not royal) of the 12th century, whose cult was approved by the papacy at the very time that the papal reserve became effective. He deserves to be better known as a middle-class, married saint when few who were neither martyrs, bishops, monks, nor kings attained the full honours of canonization. Homobonus is the patron of Cremona, as well as of tailors and clothworkers. His rich and widespread iconography reveals the spread of his cult to different parts of Italy, France, Spain, and Germany. Outstanding is the portrait by Giovanni Lianori (15th century) now in the Musée du Petit Palais, Avignon. Feast: 13 November.

Propylaeum, pp. 520–1: D. Piazzi. Omobono di Cremona: biografie dal xiii al xvi secolo (1991); B.L.S., xi. 108–9. H.S.S.C., v. 179–84. P. Bonometti, Omobono la figura del Santo… (Cremona 1999). See also A. Vauchez, Sainthood in the later Middle Ages (1997).

Subjects: Christianity.

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