Butler’s Lives of the Saints – Saint James of Sclavonia, or Illyricum, Confessor

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Though a native of Dalmatia, from which country he received his surname, he spent the chief part of his life on the opposite coast of the Adriatic sea, in Italy, where he embraced with great fervour the humble and penitential state of a lay-brother among the Observantin Franciscan friars at Bitecto, a small town, nine miles from Bari. By an eminent spirit of compunction, humility, self-denial, and heavenly contemplation, he seemed not to fall short in fervour of the greatest lights of his Order. He was seen by a fellow-friar, whose testimony is produced in the process for his canonization, raised in body from the ground at prayer, and many predictions, authentically proved, show him to have been often favoured by God with a prophetic spirit. He was sometimes removed to other neighbouring convents of his Order; and he was for some years employed in quality of cook in that of Conversano, eighteen miles from Bari. In this office, from the presence and sight of a temporal fire, he took occasion sometimes to contemplate the everlasting fire of hell, and at other times to soar in spirit above the highest heavens, to the source of infinite love which burns through all eternity, begging some spark to be kindled in his breast from this divine flame, which darts its rays on all creatures, though many unhappily shut their hearts to them, and receive not their influence. In such contemplation he often fell into ecstacies in the midst of his work, and stood for some time motionless and entirely absorpt in God. One morning whilst he was making ready a mess of beans for his community’s dinner, he happened to be thus ravished in spirit, and stood for a considerable time with his hand in the beans, having his mind absorpt in God, and tears streaming from his eyes, fell into the vessel of beans before him. The Duke of Adria, or Atria, in whose estate Conversano was comprised, and who often retired from the court of King Ferdinand I to pass some months in the country, coming to this convent, passed through the kitchen, and saw the holy brother in this wonderful rapture. He stood some time in great surprise, and said, “Blessed are the religious brethren whose meals are seasoned with such tears.” After he was gone from the place, James came to himself, and being informed that so great a guest was come, he went to ask the duke what he was pleased to order to be dressed for his dinner. “I will eat nothing,” said the duke, “but some of the beans which have been seasoned with your tears.” Which answer gave the saint extreme confusion. The duke took every occasion of testifying his extraordinary veneration for his sanctity. Saint James was sent back by his superiors to Bitecto, and there closed a holy life by a most happy death, in 1485, on the 27th of April: but his festival occurs on the 20th in the Martyrology published by Pope Benedict XIV for the use of his Order. His body remains uncorrupted at Bitecto; and an account of many miracles wrought through his intercession is collected from authentic vouchers by Papebroke.

MLA Citation

  • Father Alban Butler. “Saint James of Sclavonia, or Illyricum, Confessor”. Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Principal Saints, 1866. Saints.SQPN.com. 22 April 2013. Web. 17 April 2014. <>