Brother Raynerius de Pontio was born probably between 1130 and 1140, in Ponza, parents of high social status, perhaps noble (claris ortus natalibus, says a chronicler of the time). According to research conducted by a local scholar on the Codex Diplomaticus Cajetanus could have belonged to the family of Suio.

Says of him Luca Campano, a monk, biographer of Joachim of Fiore, who would then held important positions in the clergy of the time. Luca brings together the lives of two monks in a tale rich in details that, while not drawing a true biography Raniero, clearly testifies his life and includes details of key importance to place its existence in a specific historical context.

The fact that his name says from Ponza responds with great probability, its actual origin and not to a membership of a local monastery. Even in the Ponza islands existed at that time the monasteries of the Benedictine rule, Ponza, and Palmarola Zannone. However, were not included in detail in an order authoritative and organized, able to give to its abbots, to his monks, a lasting trace in the name.

In those days Ponza was going through a transition period. With the defeat of the Arab fleet in the waters of Palermo, in 1063, perhaps the island was enjoying years of relative tranquility. Excluded from major events, but not troubled by attacks and looting.

We may think that the vocation of a monk Raniero was born for the attraction exerted by the local monastic examples on him, probably already predisposed to reflection, meditation and study. Perhaps aspiring to religious and spiritual experience more complete, he passed on the peninsula and entered the Cistercian order, probably attracted by the Abbey Cistercian Fossanova, not far from Gaeta, easy reference point for the vocation of Raniero.

Analyzing the historical facts becomes the conviction that Raniero is part of our cultural roots. In the life of Raniero can already be found those problems and dilemmas that are present today


Who was this man that someone could afford to write: "As the sons of the prophets went to the prophet Elijah, so many went to him, to have part of his mind ... As a form of devout homage, kings, princes and prelates gave donations, for his needs, to alleviate his hard life ... "?

Raniero, dying, brings some mysteries.

At his death in 1207, Ugolino di Segni, bishop of Ostia, who was appointed cardinal by Pope Innocent III in 1198, then elevated to the papal throne under the name of Gregory IX, wrote a long letter to the abbots of monasteries and brothers Fossanova, Casamari and Salem.

Not having the time during the day, Ugolino wrote at night, a "lucubratiunculam", little night thoughts, his heart aching for the death of this man, "Patris et Domini fratris Raneri venerabilis memoriae”, Raniero, father and gentleman, that will always be our memory and our veneration.

Here is the first question. Ugolino di Segni is cultured and educated man, comes from an illustrious family and, as already mentioned, was appointed Cardinal, still young, by his uncle, Innocent III. He will become pope, a pope who will be linked to the figures of St. Francis, St. Clare, St. Dominic.

Why the death of this man, this monk almost unknown to us, affects him so deeply?

What are the reasons why in an environment in which there were certainly papal theologians and confessors, counselors, clergy, scholars of all kinds, Raniero's death is so shocking, so much as to say, later in the same "lucubratiunculam", that the sun fell from the sky?

It is not only personal sympathy and affection of Ugolino, because even the Pope, Innocent III, has woven endless praise to Raniero, overcoming the usual rhetorical patterns.

What accounted Raniero for the papal environment?

He was the bearer of tolerance in relations between men, even within marriage, a field in which, in correspondence with the mission to Spain and in the texts of the Fourth Lateran Council, you can see a contribution to easing the strict rules of that time.

But then, taking into account the missions undertaken by Raniero in the world, what is the reason why Ugolino should solicit the abbots of Casamari Fossanova and Salem, to participate in the mourning for the death of their brother?

What hostility gathered around him? Why history has forgotten her figure?

Father, where are your holy writings, decorated with flowers of virtue, which regenerate my spirit with the comfort of the scriptures?

So also writes Ugolino.

Where have all their writings and all his letters, which many historians have spoken?

Letter of Raniero da Ponza to Arnaud Aumaurix

Letter of Ugolino di Segni to the cistercian abbots

Raniero of Ponza

The first inquisitor

Libri di Mario Moiraghi