Blessed Alexander of Lugo,
Also known as Alexander Baldrati
Feast day: February 10
Born in Lugo, Italy, 1595.
Died on Chios Island in 1645.
Dominican martyr of Spain. He was martyred by Muslims.
If anyone ever was framed and destroyed by a tissue of lies, it was Alexander Baldrati a Lugo, who was martyred by the Islamics. Alexander was baptized in the Dominican church at Lugo, Italy. Showing early signs of piety, he was carefully educated and was received into the order in Lugo in 1612. He studied first in Faenza, then in Naples, in the convent of Our Lady of the Arch. After his ordination, he was sent to Bologna, where he carried on a heavy program of preaching and teaching. He devoted half his time to God and half to his neighbor; by arithmetic, that left none for himself. Eventually his health failed. It was during his convalescence in Venice that circumstances sent him on the great adventure of his life.
Just why a sick man should embark on a trip to the Orient is not quite clear; perhaps his superiors thought a sea voyage would help him. At any rate, he arrived on the island of Chios and--like many convalescent religious--promptly began devoting a full day to preaching.
He happened to incur the bitter hatred of an apostate Christian, who began planning his downfall. When the archbishop of Edessa arrived, en route to his see, and stopped over with the Dominicans, the apostate convinced his friends that the Christians were moving in on Chios (sort of like the pope is moving into the White House) and a furor of anti-Christian feeling arose among the fanatical Islamics. However, the target of wrath was not the archbishop of Edessa, nor the other transient archbishop staying with the Dominicans, but Alexander. The apostate, who had elected himself spokesman, went to the governor and denounced Alexander. This Dominican, he said, had secretly become a follower of Islam, and he could prove it.
Like many another brazenly false charge, this one was difficult to disprove. Alexander was haled into the Mohammedan court, and the governor praised him highly for his wisdom in converting to the beliefs of Islam. He was promised great rewards as his portion, especially if he could get some of his fellow Dominicans interested in the faith of the prophet.
Alexander protested indignantly that he had never been in the slightest danger of professing Islam, that he was a Christian and proud of it. The governor therefore informed him that he must be treated as an apostate from Islam. Alexander realized that he was bound for the sacrifice no matter what happened, but he wanted the record kept straight. "I have never believed in your prophet," he said. "I have never believed in the Koran, nor in any of its teachings!"
"This man has abandoned the faith of Mohammed," said the governor. "He has blasphemed. He is guilty of death." Without further discussion, the unhappy Dominican was taken off to prison, still protesting his orthodoxy. The governor sent soldiers to bring the Dominican prior and two archbishops. "Why did you harbor this traitor?" he demanded of them. "Our law commands us to kill anyone who abandons the faith of Mohammed, and you had no right to shelter him from his just punishment. We could seize all of you and put you to death for this treason."
The prior and the two visiting archbishops held up stoutly under the governor's polished trickery. They protested that Alexander was an excellent Christian and never had been anything else. As soon as they were released, they sent word to Alexander to be of good courage, that everyone would pray that he could bear up through the ordeal ahead. They called the Christians of the island to keep vigil in the churches, to pray for those who were to die.
Alexander, brought once more before the court, was given three days to reflect on whether or not he would proclaim himself a faithful son of the Prophet. "I do not need three days," he said. "I can give you a definite answer right now. I am a Christian, and have never been a Mohammedan. Your prophet is a prophet of lies, your law proceeds from the father of lies." His bold words met a chorus of fanatical screams from the populace already incited to murder by the apostate. "Avenge your prophet!" cried the governor, and the crowds pressed in until it was necessary to put Alexander in a dungeon to keep him alive until the governor's plans were complete.
Alexander was condemned to be burned at the stake. When he was led out to die, the maddened crowds pressed in as if they would tear him to pieces. No one listened to his protesting that he was and always had been a Christian. When he was tied to the stake, the governor said to him: "Lift one finger to show that you believe in the God of Mohammed, the one true God, and your life will be spare." Bleeding and stiff from torture, the Dominican raised three fingers and cried out: "I believe in God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit."
The fire would not touch the martyr as he stood suffering at the stake. Wind blew the flames away, or put them out; faggots fell and rolled away from him. With a maddened roar, the crowd fought through its guard and hacked him to pieces. Then someone tossed gunpowder on the fire and, in the sight of 40,000 witnesses, Alexander Baldrati a Lugo gave up his valiant spirit.