Epiphanius, St

Epiphanius, St bishop of Pavia, was born in that city, of a noble family, in 439 (according to others 438). He received an education for the priesthood under the special superintendence of St. Crispin, bishop of Pavia. He was consecrated subdeacon in 456, deacon in 458, and on the death of Crispin in 466, he was unanimously chosen bishop by the clergy and people. He had long been noted for his rigid asceticism, and after his election his rigor greatly increased. He took only one meal a day, abstained altogether from wine and meat, never used a bath, and was present at divine service with feet locked together. At that time the West Roman empire was falling to pieces, and a prey to the incursions of northern tribes. During these disturbances, bishop Epiphanius seems to have gained to a high degree the esteem and the confidence of all the rulers. He mediated a peace between emperor Anthemus and his son-in-law Ricimer. In 474 he was sent by the emperor Nepos as envoy to Enrich, king of the Visigoths. In 476 king Odoacer conquered Pavia, and gave the city up to plundering, on which occasion the cathedral was destroyed. Epiphanius rebuilt the cathedral, and prevailed upon the king to exempt the city for five years from all taxes. During the war between Odoacer and Theodoric, king of the Ostrogoths, he gained the confidence of both parties. Theodoric, who in 493 became the master of Italy, granted, upon the intercession of Epiphanius, an amnesty to all who had borne arms against him. Theodoric then (494) sent Epiphanius on a mission to Gundobald, king of the Burgundians, to treat with him for the release of the Ligurian prisoners, who were to repeople the desolated districts of Italy. The mission was successful, and Theodoric subsequently remitted to the Ligurians two thirds of the taxes. Epiphanius died in Pavia, January 21, 497. In 962 the emperor Otho had his relics transported to Hildesheim, in Germany. The Church of Rome commemorates him as a saint on January 21. — Butler, Lives of Saints, 1:191; Acta Sanctorum, January 21 (biography by his successor Ennodius); Neander, Light in Dark Places (New York, 1853), page 97; Hoefer, Nouv. Biogr. Generale, 16:161; Herzog, Real-Encyklop. 3:100. (A.J.S.)

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