Today’s Saint of the Day is St. Bénézet, a French shepherd boy with a vision.
Bénézet was born in Avignon, France, around 1165, and is most remembered as the builder who inspired and oversaw the construction of the Pont d’Avignon, also known as the Pont Saint-Bénézet, which spans the Rhône River in Avignon, France.
Bénézet, a shepherd with little formal education, said that he had been divinely directed in a vision to construct the bridge at a location where the power of the Rhône was so enormous that it had deterred even ancient Roman architects from undertaking the project. The idea was authorized by the bishop of Avignon, who was at first hesitant, and construction started in 1177. During the building of the bridge, Bénézet is reported to have performed 18 miracles, which included overcoming several hurdles via divine intervention. Rich donors convinced that Bénézet’s effort was decreed by God, banded together to form the first “Bridge-Building Brotherhood” to provide financial support for his endeavor. Four years before the bridge was finished, he passed away and was buried in a chapel constructed on one of the piers.
- St. is also referred to as Benedict, Benoît Benezet, Benet
- He is known as the patron saint of bridge construction.
- According to legend, when Bénézet laid the first stone, there were shouts of “Miracle! Miracle!”
- He built the bridge on his own because religious and civil authorities were reluctant to help him.
- According to legend, Bénézet moved a massive stone into position and declared it to be the beginning of the foundation.
- When Bénézet died, he was laid to rest on the bridge itself, in a small chapel that was dedicated to Saint Nicholas, the saint of seamen. It was on one of the bridge’s piers in Avignon.
- Bénézet’s relics were kept there until 1669 when a flood wiped out a portion of the bridge. The rediscovered casket was opened, and Bénézet’s corpse was discovered to be incorrupt.
- Later, the remains were transferred to Avignon Cathedral to Saint Didier’s Celestine Church. The bridge’s ruins are still a popular pilgrimage destination.
- The Feast of Bénézet is observed on April 14th each year.