Did you know? A saint lived in an arch of the Colosseum. He was Benedict Joseph Labre born in 1748 in Amettes, in the French region of Pas de Calais and died in Rome in 1783. He grew up in a humble family and was rejected since young age by many monasteries in his homeland as unsuitable for communal life. For this reason decided to live his life as the “wanderer of god”. He used to sleep on the street, living on offerings, never asking for alms, giving away to others what he considered superfluous. He used to dress in a simple way, always described carrying a sack with something to eat and a few books. After years travelling around Europe he settled in Rome in 1777 living in the Colosseum. He was called “the pilgrim of the Virgin Mary”, “the poor man of the forty hours”, “the penitent of the Colosseum” and lived the last years of his life under the arch number 43 (XLIII) of the amphitheater. He was highly renowned everywhere but was not infrequently ridiculed by those who considered him “a weirdo”. Every day, he made his daily pilgrimage through the streets of Rome, every evening, he attended the litanies in Santa Maria ai Monti, blocks from the Colosseum. And here, on April 16, 1789, he felt sick on the steps of the church. A butcher, Pierpaolo Zaccarelli, took him home on via dei Serpenti. He died immediately after the Extreme Unction; even if he wanted to stay on the ground, they had laid him on a bed. He was 35. In via dei Serpenti, where he died, there is now a chapel and a plate remembers the fact. A huge crowd of people from every social class attended the funeral: immediately after it the Romans began to invoke his intercession, making pilgrimages to his grave in Santa Maria ai Monti. His reputation of holiness spread rapidly throughout Europe, so much so that the beatification process began just a year after his death. He was beatified on May 20, 1860 and canonized on December 8, 1881 by Pope Leo XIII. He is the patron saint of homeless people and beggars.

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