Our Holy Father, Augustine, died at Hippo, in North Africa, but this date commemorates the entombment of his mortal remains at Pavia, in Italy. The movement of his remains from the African to the Europe is an intriguing tale.
Soon after Saint Augustine died on 28th August 431 A.D., the Vandals discontinued their fourteen- month siege of the fortified city of Hippo. Not long afterwards, after another defeat at the hands of the Vandals, all the inhabitants of Hippo withdrew into foreign countries. They abandoned the empty town to the barbarians, who then entered and burnt it.
Saint Augustine was buried in his cathedral, (now known as “the Church of Peace” but then called “St. Stephen’s”, because Augustine, as Bishop, had deposited a portion of that martyr’s relics in it’s Altar in 424 A.D.). His grave was respected by the barbarians, though they were Arians (heretical Christians who disputed the divinity of Christ). Augustine’s library also escaped their fury. Even so, the ancient English ecclesiastical historian, Bede, wrote in his “True Martyrology,” that the body of Augustine was transferred to Sardina, and in his time redeemed out of the hands of the Saracens there, and deposited in the church of St. Peter at Pavia, Italy, about the year 720 A.D.
Oldrad, Archbishop of Milan, wrote a history of the transfer of Augustine’s remains a second time. This time it was ordered by the Holy Roman Emperor, Charlemagne, according to information extracted by Oldrad from authentic archives then kept at Pavia. Oldrad says that the North African bishops who were banished by Huneric into Sardinia took with them these relics about fifty years after the saint’s death; and that they remained in that island until Luitprand, the pious and magnificent king of the Lombards, procured them from the Saracens for a great sum of money.
Luitprand, King of the Lombards, when the Saracens invaded Sardinia, redeemed the body of our holy father Augustine, and conducting it in solemn pomp to Pavia, on this date enshrined it in the Church of Saint Peter in Ciel d’oro. In 1331 Pope John XXII had appointed the Augustinian Hermits guardians of the tomb of St. Augustine in the Church of S. Pietro in Ciel d’Oro at Pavia. They were driven out by political turmoil in 1700, and fled to Milan. Their monastery being destroyed in 1799, and the church desecrated, the remains of St. Augustine were taken back to Pavia and placed in its cathedral. In recent times the church of San Pietro was restored, and on 7 October, 1900, the body of the saint was removed from the cathedral and replaced in San Pietro–an event commemorated in a poem by Pope Leo XIII. The Augustinians are again in possession of their old church of S. Pietro.