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St Peter of Tarantaise

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Cistercian archbishop. Born in Dauphine, France in 1102, Peter joined the Cistercian Order at Bonneveaux at the age of 20 with his two brothers and father. When he was 30 he was sent to serve as the first abbot of Tamie, in the Tarantaise Mountains, between Geneva and Savoy. There he built a hospice for travellers. In 1142, he was named archbishop of Tarantaise, although he was initially very reluctant to take up the office. He devoted much energy to reforming the diocese.

He got rid of corrupt and immoral priests, and did much to help the poor and educate the young. Peter also established the custom of distributing bread and soup the 'May Bread' just before the harvest. This custom continued throughout France until the French Revolution.

After working very hard for 23 years as bishop, Peter suddenly vanished. He was discovered some time later serving as a lay brother in a Cistercian abbey in Switzerland and was persuaded to return to Tarantaise and resume his episcopal duties.

Peter of Tarantaise was an advisor to popes and kings. He defended the papacy in France and helped bring about a reconciliation between King Louis VII of France and Prince Henry II of England. Peter was canonized in 1191. He should not be confused with Peter of Tarantaise, who became Pope Innocent V.

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