Saint Peter Igneus - Firewalks
Type of Spiritual Experience
Friar Herbert Thurston was a Catholic priest, a member of the Jesuit order and an historian. He wrote extensively on Catholic mysticism and psychic phenomena and was a member of the Society for Psychical Research. He was also widely read on this subject. He is described as ‘an honest skeptic’., and once said ‘the role of Devil’s advocate is a thankless one and does not make for popularity’.
A description of the experience
Friar Herbert Thurston - The Physical Phenomenon of Mysticism
In the early days of the Patarine and Investiture controversy, strong feeling was aroused in many localities against simoniaeally intruded prelates. In 1062, after the death of Bishop Gerard of Florence, an unworthy candidate by a huge bribe secured the appointment for himself, but thereby provoked a series of riots among the citizens, some favouring his cause and others opposing it. As the only means of restoring peace, it was decided that an appeal should be made to the judgment of heaven.
St. John Gualbert, Abbot of Vallombrosa, directed one of his monks, Peter Aldobrandini, afterwards Cardinal and now venerated as St. Peter Igneus, to submit himself to a fiery ordeal in order that right and truth might prevail.
Two great piles of wood were formed, ten feet in length, with only the narrowest path between them. These were kindled until they burnt fiercely, and even the path itself was strewn with red-hot embers. Then Peter, having offered Mass and divested himself of his chasuble, but retaining the other sacred vestments, walked slowly along the passage-way between the two blazing piles. Not a hair of his head was injured, nor was his alb even scorched. He would have returned the same way, but the people were satisfied that God’s will had been made manifest.
The simoniacal bishop was deposed and afterwards gave proof of sincere repentance.
There seems to be good contemporary evidence for this incident, and Mgr. Mann, for example, in his Lives of the Popes, accepts it as historical.