From Africa to Sicily, Saint Benedict the Black
The birth of Benedict the Black in 1526 is celebrated on this date. He was a black patron saint.
He was born in Messina, Italy on the estate of Chevalier de Lanza a San Fratello. His parents, Christopher and Diana, were slaves who had been taken from Africa to Sicily. Granted his freedom at age 18, he stayed as an employee of his former master. Ridiculed and mocked by others due to his origin and skin color, he never forgot his humanity. He met with, and became enamored of, a group of Franciscan hermits near Palermo.
Through their beliefs, Benedict sold and gave away what little he had and joined this group. He was called Benedict the Moor; and Benedict the African. He became a novice master and reluctant superior of the friars in Palermo. When his term ended, he happily returned to the friary kitchen. Benedict never referred to possessions as "mine" but always "ours." He possessed gifts for prayer and the guidance of souls. His humility and cheerfulness set an example that helped reform his order. Upon his death, King Philip III of Spain paid for a special tomb for the simple friar.
Benedict was not a Moor, but the Italian "il Moro" for “the Black.” Benedict died in 1589.
The African American Atlas
Black History & Culture an Illustrated Reference
by Molefi K. Asanta and Mark T. Mattson
Macmillam USA, Simon & Schuster, New York
Today in American History