Anton de Sermondi
Father (Francis) Franziskus Sermondi of Bormio
by Hans-Joachim Sehrbundt
Father (Francis) Franziskus Sermondi of Bormio was a man of God, an apostle in its time, in the true sense of the word.
The outstanding role of father Franz has been underlined in an excellent manner in a monograph of Dr. P. Magnus Künzle, O.M. Cap. From this unsurpassed representation we shall reproduce the entire first chapter named "Native country and youth" in our genealogical presentation.
The interpretations regarding the etymology of the family name “Sehrbundt” stated in this monograph match closely with our own genealogical research data.
The de Sermondi family seems to be a very old family, as it was already mentioned in 1315 in Bormio historical records.
Father Franz already stood in the reputation of the holiness during lifetime. Already in young age he was one of the most famous preachers in northern Italy, being at that time praised as a "new apostle". Already within earliest years he was appointed head of the capuchin order , later he was named provincial and then became missionary in Crete on his own request.
The Holy Father and the sacred archbishop of Milan, San Carlo Borromeo (Karl Borromäus), a close friend of father Sermondi perceived the reformation and its consequences as a great danger for the Roman Catholic faith, particularly in the Veltin region.
Father Sermondi unselfishly and completely supported the Counter-Reformation movement and tried to save the Veltin. In Vicenza (today Italy) father Franz was as a fasting preacher and an apostle of charity, there he also founded an orphanage.
Later, in January 1576, he was unanimously appointed provincial of the Milanese capuchin province. Altogether he founded three cloisters in Italy and later on another three in Switzerland.
During the time of the plague which broke out in July 1567 in Milan together with his intimate friend Saint Carlo Borromeo (Karl Borromäus) he unselfishly attended and cured the plague-stricken ones. The Holy Father -Gregor XIII-, Saint Karl Borromäus and father Franz were deeply worried by the terrible events of the plague time but firmly stood together in Christian charity facing together all challenges.
Later Father Franz was appointed "apostolic preacher" and further powers were assigned to him by the Holy Father in order to ease the administration of this beneficial mission.
Father Franz then was a companion of the papal nuncio in the Veltin and by his own papal visitator in the Chiavenna county.
His religious zeal and his love for Christ were so great that he had to endure also a lot of sorrow caused by the reformed people. The religious man accepted this, however, calmly. Later Franz was an advisor of the Saint Karl Borromäus and reformed the feminine convents in and around Milan.
After long-lasting negotiations father Franz was sent to the Swiss village of Altdorf in order to found a cloister there. This happened on explicit request and order of the Holy Father.
On May 12th, 1581 the general chapter of the capuchins met in Rome and father Franz was appointed Generalkustos, he became Generaldefinitor.
After that father Franz founded the already mentioned three cloisters in Switzerland. This wouldn't have been possible without the active support of Saint Karl Borromäus, cardinal and archbishop of Milan, and of the Holy Father.
The complete life of father Sermondi stood out due to his love of the Trinity, his virtue and discipline. He was a heaven-sent man in the right place at the right time and unselfishly and duly served his beloved church.
He died as he had lived, in great humility and devotedness foreseeing the day of his own death some days before. Father Franz died in the reputation of holiness, some miracles done by him are attested.
The religious man died in the cloister of Altdorf in Switzerland on April 23rd, 1583 provided with the mercy means of the sacred Roman Catholic church, while a father was reading the tale of Christ’s suffering to him. At the words: "Jesus clamavit voce magna" God received him in his empire.
Father Franz was an extraordinary man in every regard, he caused at least one attested miracle and predicted his death place, his funeral place and the day of his death.
Three cloister foundations in Italy and three cloister foundations in Switzerland are attributed to father Franz, the Swiss cloisters being at that time an important bulwark of the Roman Catholic faith in the restless years of the Counter-Reformation.
The virtuousness and steadfastness of father Franz could be exemplary in today's restless time, if only they were known to the public. As already mentioned, the Sermondi family was an old-established family in Bormio whose roots have been traced back until the year 1315. The question arises why a part of the Sermondis possibly set out to leave Switzerland.
The reformation, which found in Zwingli and Calvin uncompromising supporters, did not spare Switzerland. In 1523 reformation was introduced for a large part of Switzerland, so for example Zurich, Basel and Berne.
The second Kapeller war in 1531 was an expression of the religious confusion of that time.
Father Franz and his counter reformatory effort faced a considerable opposition both ideologically as well as physically, as his life was endangered more than once during his struggle.
Some Roman Catholic families possibly moved from their native village of Bormio to safer havens abroad.
According to reports the Sermondis must have been quite wealthy as they owned estates, possibly an inn and thermal spas.
So it is possible that under the pressure of reformation life became harder as time went by and some members of the Sermondi family decided to emigrate abroad with the revenue of their sold possessions.
After the 30-year war a new beginning (with an Episcopal letter of recommendation) could have taken place at Ober-Olm in the archbishopric of Mainz, nowadays in the palatinate region of Germany.
On the one hand, this could explain the appearance of the Sermondi family at the village of Ober-Olm, on the other hand one could understand their prosperity.
The oldest representative of the Ober-Olm branch seems to be Anton Sermond. Franz’ father too was baptized on the name “Anton”. This name apparently had a long family tradition. The name Anton is quite rare in church registers of Ober-Olm, whereas it was a common first name in the native region of Father Franz.
In 1717 Josef Sermond makes his appearance in the church register of Ober-Olm, only to be never again mentioned in any other document. As his native region the church book states “Italy” (obviously not to be interpreted as the political unit it nowadays represents, as Bormio became part of Italy only much later) and as a profession: “Murati” (mason).
This professional denomination could stand for both a street civil engineer as well as for a stonemason. In connection with this, we should also mention the gunsmith and bell-founder Franz Sermond from Basel who was born in Bormio (probably Franz ’ brother) and lots of other skilful handicraft Sermondi family members. Franz Sermond of Basel probably lived in Ober-Olm for some years as a guest of his local relatives before travelling on.
The different spellings of the family name such as Serbond, Serbont, Sermond, Sermont, Serbund and Serbunt seem to be a result of the confusion of that time as church registers have been partly incomplete and for some time have not been updated at all.
As Clergymen rapidly succeeded to each other, Ober-Olm was often administered by outside priests. Civilians in some of the following years kept the church registers. There is a beautiful monograph about that time.
It is definitely conceivable that the name Sermond-Sehrbundt is of longobardic or east Gothic origin. Further researches, however, are necessary to enlighten this question. The distribution of the "extended Serbundt family" indicates, however, that possibility as one can assume studying our distribution tables and name listings.
It is definitely possible that the (still living) Sehrbundts, Sermunds, Sermonds and Serbuns have a common origin.
Even this question, however, has to be answered by further and extended research.
Comparing the pictures of father Sermondi, particularly the old man picture, with old photos of the past Sehrbundts and the ones still living there seem to be considerable similarities. These might only be incidental, but there definitely seem to be some common anthropological traits.
On the other hand genealogy shall not only serve as a tool for “collecting”
ancestors, but in fact also represent a sublime device for the understanding
of history from within.
Our tradition lives with our history, tradition is a pilgrim journey through history.
Without traditions we become impoverished and the "fascination of the present" wipes away the fundaments of history
The virtues of father Franz are more up-to-date than ever in today's secular time.
Today one can notice a creeping negation of faith combined with an increasing unbelief.
The "wild wolves" which used to menace faith nowadays seem to be even more threatening.
Man tries to be God.
The tradition of the faith, the prayer and work have, however, survived the centuries as the prayer, the dialogue with God, is part of our everyday life.
This is "the way" which the founder of the opus Dei, saint José Maria Escriva, has drawn for mankind.
The sanctification of work.
Documents:Chapter 1 of Monographie by Dr. P. Magnus Künzle O.M.Cap. "Heimat und Jugend".