Where’s Waldo? The Saint Who Lived in a Chestnut Tree

Blessed Waldo is remembered each year on Jan. 1.

“Hollow Tree”
“Hollow Tree” (photo: dference / Pixabay / CC0)

The dogs howled and growled, their low moans threatening as they circled the gnarled trunk of the old chestnut tree. Expecting to find a possum or a small mammal, the hunter hurried through the brush to claim his prize — but wait!

The dogs seemed focused, not on the branches of the tree, but on a gaping hole in its side. There, inside the hollowed trunk, was … a man at prayer? No, wait … he was dead! It was a dead man, kneeling as though at prayer inside the hollowed trunk.

The hunter had stumbled upon the remains of Blessed Waldo.

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As a young man, Waldo (also known as Vivaldo or Ubaldo) was a student of Father Bartolo, a saintly priest who patiently schooled him in the Catholic faith. When Father Bartolo fell ill to leprosy, Waldo accompanied his beloved tutor to the hospital. For 20 years he cared for the sick priest, until Father Bartolo died in A.D. 1300.

After the priest’s funeral, Waldo decided to withdraw from the world altogether, living his days as a hermit and focusing on prayer. While walking in a woods not far from his home, he came upon a large hollow chestnut tree deep in the forest. The hollowed tree was just large enough to permit him to enter and kneel; and Waldo stooped and entered the quiet space. That tree would become his hermitage for the next 20 years.

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In May 1320, the bells in a nearby town in northern Italy began to ring of their own accord. Townspeople rushed out into the streets, trying to understand why the bells were ringing. As the gathered citizens muttered and looked toward the bell tower, the hunter stepped out of the forest, telling his story about finding the deceased recluse inside the tree. Just as he finished his story, the bells stopped ringing.

The townspeople realized that Waldo was, indeed, a holy man. They followed the hunter back into the forest, where he showed them the hermitage in the chestnut tree, and the residents carried Waldo’s body back to the church, laying it to rest beneath the altar. Waldo’s former hermitage was converted into a chapel in honor of the Blessed Virgin.

Blessed Waldo is remembered each year on Jan. 1.

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