Saint Metrobio of Malesco, Martyr
In the parish church of Saints Peter and Paul in Malesco, the center of Val Vigezzo in Verbania a few miles from the Swiss border, are the relics of St. Metrobio, arrived in the resort ossolana in the 17th century. The only source which sounds like a saint hagiography with this name is the Roman Martyrology, where it is stated as at December 24:
In Tripoli, the Phoenicians, the Martyrs Lucian, Metrobio, Paul, Zenobia, and Theotimus Druze. This bald statement lets you know nothing about Metrobio but the place of his martyrdom, which occurred probably during one of the last organized Roman persecutions against the growing Christian faith. When in 1669 the inhabitants of Malesco made the request to have a body of some Martyr, as it did for many other parts of the diocese where the center belongs Novara, they got to Metrobio Xavier, extracted from the complex catacomb of Priscilla in Rome.
The gift, then considered so valuable as to justify a self-assessment by the families of the place to meet the necessary expenses of the case (by municipal resolution of December 28, 1671 were obtained on loan imperial 325 pounds), was obtained through the good offices of Father Illuminated by COSAC, a Capuchin Malesco already known for having preached Lent. The sacred remains arrived at their destination in 1673, received, on May 28, with sincere devotion and enthusiasm by the population that could be confident in the protection of a new saint, believed to be even more exclusive, local presence of his remains.
The reason that led to attribute to the martyr’s body arrived from Eastern Metrobio Rome, must be sought in the broader context of the phenomenon of recovery and translation of the holy bodies, from the Roman catacombs to hundreds of locations across the Catholic world. Both to meet the liturgical needs – for it had not granted the celebration of Mass for the holy office and not in the Roman martyrology – and to give a historical dimension to the new holy places to worship the relics were often identified as belonging to the Martyrs who had their place within the vast hagiographic production, albeit minimal as in the case. That approach, often prohibited by the ecclesiastical authorities who ran all the long passes, more bureaucratic devotional for the delivery of the relics, caused no little confusion in the religious imagination of the faithful, causing double images of relics and unjustified identifications of characters. Only a more careful exploration of the sources, both hagiographical and archaeological was Metrobio allowed to return to his true identity.
Thanks to recently conducted research, it could be traced back to what, in all probability, is the epitaph at the closing of the original tomb where the body was laid to Metrobio. The text passed in various works of Christian epigraphy (including that of Giovanni Battista de ‘Rossi Iscriptiones cristianae Urbis Romae), so reports: METROBIUS severianus / HERE vixit ANN (OS) XXVII mensibus / TRIBUS, D (IES) XII Merit.
Metrobio was a young man who died at twenty-seven years, three months and twelve days old, no sign of martyrdom or of any direct translation of his remains from the eastern Tripoli where the martyr mentioned in the martyrology lived. This data is now possible to refer to his person in no way changes the devotion of Metrobio is still subject to within the community maleschese; on the contrary it increases the historicity, allowing identification of the saint as a member of the primitive Christian community in Rome.
Although he did not die directly violentent death, as the epigraph suggests, he is still part of a community testifying that he had to undergo many trials to remain faithful to the Gospel message. The iconography, to a limited release in 1723, depicts Metrobio second canon of the classical Roman soldier, while the background has been the thought of martyrdom, even within the precious urn marble altar, built in 1900 on a design by Molli, his remains are covered by a Roman soldiers uniform of velvet and satin, embroidered by the nuns Rosminiane and benefactress offered by Rachel Salati. The local festival in honor of the saint was once celebrated on the second Sunday in June, is set at the first Sunday in August, in solemn remembrance of the last transport organized in 1900 to inaugurate the reconstruction works of the chapel.
Author: Damian Pomi
Source: Santi e Beati