A pious legend tells of the time when Saint Peter Martyr was told by the townspeople of Milan, Italy that Mary had appeared in a church of Cathars denouncing Catholicism and affirming Catharist doctrine as truth.
Catharism (Albigensianism) of course, is the heretical set of beliefs of dualism – that the universe was some sort of cosmic battleground between two “gods” of good and evil. Amongst other things, they denied the Divinity of Christ and that the Host is truly the Body of Christ.
Saint Peter Martyr, after hearing that Milanese nobleman and peasantry alike were persuaded by this vision to abandon the Faith, devised a plan. After celebrating Mass, he placed a Consecrated Host in his scapular and went to the Catharist church.
When he arrived to confront the vision of the Madonna with Child, he held up the Host and said:
“If you are truly the Mother of God, here, adore your son.”
At that moment, the false Madonna was revealed as the devil, fleeing to a great noise and stench while the walls of the church split in two. The Cathars there to witness the event were said to return to the One True Faith.
The fresco pictured above captures the moment when Saint Peter Martyr challenged and defeated the devil, seen in the Portinari Chapel at the Basilica of Sant’Eustorgio in Milan.
Saint Peter Martyr, pray for us!
Photo Credit: G.dallorto, Wikimedia Commons