BUONVISO OF PIACENZA
The subject of this brief sketch belonged to the best blood of Piacenza, Italy. By some his family is said to have been of the ruling class in the province of the same name. His parents gave him splendid educational opportunities, of which he made the best use, and became a doctor in law-most likely at the University of Bologna. It would seem, indeed, that he was professor of that science at the famed institution, when Blessed Reginald of Orleans reached Bologna on his return from Jerusalem in the fall of 1218. There, at any rate, in 1219, he received the habit of a Friar Preacher from Reginald.(1)
As Saint Dominic, having determined to make his own home at Bologna, soon sent Blessed Reginald to help Father Matthew of France at Saint James', in Paris, Buonviso lost his beloved first superior before he had made his religious profession. In exchange, however, he came into immediate contact with the founder of the Order himself. Under both the docile and talented subject from Piacenza made remarkable progress, whether in spiritualities or in his studies. He seems always to have been guided by providence, for his soul does not appear to have been contaminated in the least by the evil influences which pervaded Italy in the early thirteenth century.
How thoroughly Buonviso (or Bonviso, as he is sometimes called, for the sake of brevity) gained the good will and confidence of Saint Dominic may be seen from the fact that the patriarch sent him to preach in his own native city, Piacenza, before the completion of his novitiate. This was in 1220. Evidently the saint placed more reliance in the young candidate for the Order than Buonviso had in himself, for his humility hid from his own eyes that which won him the esteem and affection of his superiors and confrères.
Although he had graduated in law with distinction, our novice had as yet made but little progress in theology. Accordingly, as he himself tells us, he humbly begged to be excused from preaching on the ground of want of knowledge. Dominic encouraged him kindly, and said: "Go in confidence, my son. The Lord will be with you. He will inspire you what to say." Buonviso then went to Piacenza and preached, as he was told. He himself assures us that Dominic's prophecy was fulfilled. God certainly blessed the young man's obedience. The people of the city were delighted with his preaching. In fact, as a result of it, three splendid young men received their vocation to the Order. From elsewhere we learn that these were John Salomonio, Nicholas of Parma, and William Telusa.(2)
Good Father Buonviso is also the authority for saying that he acted as syndic at Saint Nicholas', Bologna, apparently in absences of Father Rudolph of Faenza for the ministry; and that he accompanied Saint Dominic on several apostolic journeys. In this way, he witnessed not only miracles performed by the saint, but also his zeal, charity, patience, tenderness of heart, and practice of heroic virtue. Likely he was still at Saint Nicholas', Bologna, when the holy patriarch there surrendered his pure soul to God.
It seems certain that Dominic, prior to his death, August 6, 1221, had decided to establish the Order in Piacenza. So had he selected Father Buonviso, although but lately out of the novitiate, as the founder and first superior of the new convent in his native city. Accordingly, thither he went shortly after the death of the founder, if not even before. His fellow-townsmen received him as a messenger from heaven. In their joy they contributed generously towards the construction of a church and priory. There Dominic's early disciple now spent many of the best years of his life -- perhaps ended his days at the convent which he had built.
From Piacenza our Friar Preacher attended the translation of Saint Dominic's relies at Saint Nicholas' ' Bologna, in 1233. A few months later, the disciple's intimate association with the master stood him in good stead, when he was called to be the fourth witness in the process of the latter's canonization. Buonviso's testimony shows him to have possessed a clear, well-balanced mind. It also reveals an observant disposition, as well as proves that he thoroughly studied the life and habits of his beloved father in religion. It must have made a strong impression on the examiners in the case. From this sworn testimony are taken many of the facts given above.(3)
The scanty records of the times give us practically no information on the life and actions of this early Friar Preacher after his appearance as a witness in the cause of Saint Dominic's canonization. Pietro Maria Campi, in his History of Piacenza, maintains that he was still in that city, and in active service, late in 1236.(4) From that time we find no more about him. It is but natural, therefore, to conclude that he died shortly afterwards, and that his remains were there laid to rest in the convent which was erected under his own paternal care.(5) On page XI of his preface to the works of Blessed Jordan of Saxony, Father Joachim J. Berthier places Buonviso's death in 1233, and says that he died in the odor of sanctity.
1. CAMPI, Pietro Maria, Historia Ecclesiastica di Piacenza, Book 2, pp. 117 ff, and passim; MAMACHI, pp. 513, 543-544 and col. 110; PIO, col. 48; QUETIF-ECHARD, I, 48-49.
2. CAMPI and QUETIF-ECHARD, as in note 1.
3. Father Buonviso's testimony is given in MAMACHI, cot. 110, and in QUETIF-ECHARD, I, 48-49.
4. Historia Ecclesiastica Di Piacenza, as in note 1.
5. Perhaps it was the inability to find anything definite about his death that prevented Marchese from including Father Buonviso in his Sagro Diario Domenicano. (Ed. note)