St. Peter of Tarentaise was born in 1102 near Vienne, France. When he was 20, he entered the Cistercian Order, convincing his family to join him. Two brothers and his father entered the religious community of Bonnevaux with him, and his sister became a religious.
Ten years after his entry, Peter was sent to found a new house in Switzerland, in the Tarentaise mountains. He also opened a hospital, which served as a guest house for travelers through the mountains.
In 1442, Peter was appointed as Archbishop of Tarentaise. Although he was happiest living the simple life of a monk, he accepted at the urging of St. Bernard and other monks in his order. As bishop, Peter reformed the diocese and began programs to provide education and food to the poor. His tradition of donating food, called “May Bread,” lasted until the French Revolution in 1789.
Peter performed many miraculous healings as bishop, but after 13 years, he fled his diocese disguised as a lay brother and went to a Cistercian abbey in Switzerland. He hid there for about a year, until he was discovered and his superiors forced him to return to Tarentaise.
When the anti-pope Victor and the true Pope Alexander III were at strife, Peter was one of the only major Church voices to support Alexander’s claim, even going against the emperor Frederick Barbarossa. Pope Alexander III recognized Peter’s loyalty and holiness and sent him to reconcile King Louis VII of France and Henry II of England. Shortly after an unsuccessful reconciliation attempt, St. Peter died of an illness in 1175. He was canonized in 1191.
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