EQUITIUS: An early leader of Western monasticism. Our knowledge of him is gained from Gregory the Great, who got his information from personal friends. Of his date the only thing known is that he lived in the beginning and middle of the sixth century. He was abbot of several monasteries in the province of Valeria, near the Lago di Fucino in the Sabine Mountains, and ruled also over certain nunneries. The monks busied themselves with agriculture and in copying ancient manuscripts. Although Equitius was a layman, he preached both in churches and in the streets of the towns and villages through which he made missionary journeys. His itinerant activity led to a conflict with the clergy, who induced the pope (Gregory does not name him) to summon Equitius to Rome; but he changed his mind, it is said, as the result of a terrifying vision--probably in reality through being convinced of the harmlessness of Equitius, who is honored as a saint on Mar. 7.
Bibliography: The single source is Pope Gregory I., Dialogorum libri quattuor, i., chap. 4, handiest in MPL, lxxvii. 147 sqq. Consult ASB, March, i. 649-651; C. Baronius, Annales eccl., ad annum 581, nos. 9-12, 12 vols., Rome, 1588-93; E. Spreitzenhofer, Die Entwicklung des alten Münchtums in Italien, Vienna, 1894.