Mike Aquilina

Lombard Bombardier

Wednesday June 04th 2008, 3:08 am

The London Telegraph tells of a 1,400-year-old Lombard warrior skeleton discovered, buried with his horse, in Italy.

In my book of historical sketches, The Resilient Church: The Glory, the Shame, and the Hope for Tomorrow, I speak at length about the Lombards, who were a thorn in the side of Pope St. Gregory the Great. It’s quite possible that this equestrian corpse was one of those very thorns. The years match up.

Here’s a snippet of my telling:

When Gregory heard that he had been elected, he was dismayed. It would be hard to imagine a more difficult time to become Pope. The savage and heretical Lombards were doing their best to turn Italy into a wasteland, and the Emperor’s exarch (the Greek term for a governor) at Ravenna had thrown up his hands and admitted that he could do nothing to protect Rome. The river Tiber had overflowed into the granaries and ruined Rome’s food supply. The unsanitary conditions after the flood bred the epidemic that had killed Pope Pelagius. With all these disasters facing them at once, the people of Rome expected more than leadership from their new pope. They expected miracles. No wonder Gregory tried to run away! …

These Lombards were a particularly vicious sort of barbarian, at least to their enemies. They massacred everyone in their path, except for the few who might be useful as slaves. The Lombards who weren’t pagans were Arians, so they had no qualms about plundering the orthodox churches and slaughtering the clergy. Cities emptied as they approached, and soon Rome and Ravenna were the only substantial cities left in the northern half of Italy…

Biting your nails? Find out how the story ends. Order the book now and read the rest (and feed my children).