St Isaac of Monteluco (11th April)
The only surviving source of information on St Isaac is the Dialogues of Pope Gregory I. It seems that Isaac was a religious man from "Syria" who arrived in Spoleto "at the time that
the Goths first invaded Italy" and "lived almost until the last days of
the Goths". This seems to place the account in the reigns of the
Gothic kings of Italy, Odoacer (476-93) and Theodoric (493-526). However, it should probably be placed in the later part of this period: a number of Syrian monks fled their native land in ca. 519 during a wave of persecution by the Monophysite hierarchy. (The Monophysites, who rejected the doctrine of the two natures - human and divine - of Christ, became ascendant in the Eastern Church under the Emperor Anastasius.)
St Isaac first attracted attention in Spoleto when he spent three days and nights in prayer in a church there. When one of the keepers of the church abused him and as a result became possessed, St Isaac banished the evil spirit. This led to acclamation and offers of land on which to establish an abbey, but St Isaac chose instead to build a small cottage in "a desert place", which must have been Monteluco. He soon attracted followers, but when they begged him to accept funding he replied: "A monk that seeketh for livings upon earth is no monk".
It is clear that St Isaac continued to attract attention: "In that place... he became famous for the spirit of prophecy: and his life was renowned far and near, for the notable miracles that he wrought".
One of Pope Gregory’s sources was Eleutherius, the Abbot of San Marco (see Walk I). The other was Gregoria, whom St Isaac had helped to become a nun. (Both Eleutherius and Gregoria were living in Rome when Pope Gregory was writing.) According to tradition, Gregoria gave St Isaac the land on Monteluco on which he founded his hermitage, and he became the first abbot of San Giuliano in 528. (The earliest surviving references to the monastery are in two letters of Pope Pelagius I, written shortly after St Isaac's death).
The relics of St Isaac were originally preserved in the crypt of San Giuliano, where they were subsequently translated into a fine sarcophagus (12th
century). The relics and the sarcophagus were translated to Sant' Ansano in 1502 and were kept in what is now the crypt of Sant' Isacco (beneath its apse). The original sarcophagus was sold in the 19th century, the relics were moved into a new one that was donated by Pope Pius IX, who was Bishop of Spoleto in the period 1827-32.
- The relics have recently been enclosed in a copy (1999) of
the original sarcophagus, which stands in front of the back wall of Sant' Isacco.
- The original sarcophagus was recovered by the Commune on the initiative of Giuseppe Sordini and is now in Room 5 of the Museo Nazionale del Ducato di Spoleto.)
- The 19th century sarcophagus was used in 2000 for the relics of the Blessed Simon of Collazzone and is now under the high altar of Sant' Ansano.