Every year there is a day that I recognize looking from my balcony over the valley up to the mountains when I see great fireworks above Segni: it is July 18th and it is the feast of Saint Bruno, the patron saint, who died at Segni on this day in 1123.
Not only is a solemn mass sung in the cathedral, there is a procession along the streets of the village. The feast is the most beautiful of Segni and is characterized by the “Palio di San Bruno”, a horse race based on speed and dexterity and the day ends with the fireworks show.
Meanwhile, the Segni kitchens and eateries offer the best of Lepina cuisine and on the Sunday nearest to the festival there are visits to the Saracen Gate and to the Nymphaeum and you can walk up to the Campo di Segni on the Lepini Mountains.
But who was Saint Bruno to deserve so many celebrations?
Bruno or Brunone was born in Solero, in Piedmont near Alessandria in 1045 and was Abbot of Montecassino and Bishop of Segni. A double career that is granted to a few. In fact one provides for the priestly investiture and one for the monastic life.
But Bruno had been a prodigy since he was a child. During his studies at the Grammar and Rhetoric School of Bologna, he immediately distinguished himself for his oratory skills and became a “doctor”. Thanks to his ability to communicate and argue in debates, he soon arrived in Rome and in particular into the presence of Pope Gregory VII.
It was the Pope himself who chose him to counter the theses of some opponents who did not recognize the presence of Christ in the Eucharist. The disputes with the heretic Berengario during the Lateran Council of 1079 have passed into history.
Thanks to the work done during the Council, Bruno was appointed by the pope from my balcony o the position of Bishop of Segni, which at that time was certainly not an easy seat. In fact, the count of Segni supported the emperor Henry IV, in contrast to the pope, and came to imprison Brunone, who however performed some miracles just while he was in prison.
Saint Bruno turned water into wine three times and for this he was freed by the count.
Saint Bruno was also noted by the pope in the fight against ‘simonia’, that is, the buying and selling of things that refers to the spiritual sphere, and was also present on other councils such as the Council of Piacenza and Clermont where the First Crusade in the Holy Land was decided.
In Rome he was again imprisoned, this time directly with Pope Gregory VII in the Mausoleo di Adriana.
After prison, Bruno decided to retire to a convent and chose the nearby Abbey of Montecassino where the monks who followed the Rule of St. Benedict “Ora et Labora” (pray and work).
In 1104 Pope Pasquale II appointed him as head of the Council of Poitiers in France. Once again he had great success and on his return to Montecassino he was elected abbot in 1107.
But then Bruno took the side of the antipope Silvestro IV, who supported the emperor Henry V. So when in 1111 the pope and the emperor agreed on how to divide the temporal power and to the appointment of bishops, Bruno was forced to resign as an abbot. He then returned to Segni where he died.
Saint Bruno was a great writer and after his death all the citizens of Segni began to venerate him to the point that Pope Lucius III declared him a saint in 1181. His skull is protected in the beautiful cathedral of Segni that is dedicated to him.
Today, Segni and Saint Bruno are a single thing and the saint is an identifying element for this splendid town of the Lepini Mountains.