Blessed John of Vercelli was 5’8″ tall. he had a pointed chin, blue eyes – standard Northern Italian features. Although he was lame, walking with a limp on his right side, he walked barefoot. He used a walking stick everywhere he went (it was his symbol). He took a vow not to ride any kind of transportation. If you laid every mile, end to end, that he walked during the last nine years of his life, he walked around Europe three times!
Bl. John entered the Order of Preachers in the 1230. He was the sixth Master General of the order. The preaching from Bl. Jordon of Saxony led him to the order and John received the habit from him. He studied in Bologna and was ordained there in 1229, becoming a noted preacher. In 1232 he established a priory in Vercelli.
He had a great gift of peace-making and was sent to reconcile various conflicts in his day, such as conflicts between Venice & Genoa and France & Castile. This was a very difficult period with many heresies and bands of robbers. It was during this time the great Saint Peter the Martyr (aka of Verona) was killed by heretics.
He was commissioned by the pope to draw up the Schema for the Second Ecumenical Council of Lyons in 1274. This council would lay the groundwork for the founding of the Holy Name Society still in existence! It was also at that council he met the future Pope Nicholas IV; they would later be called together using John’s great peace-keeping skills to help in a dispute involving King Philip III of France.
He personally knew many great saints & blesseds that were his contemporaries: St. Albert the Great, St. Thomas Aquinas, King St. Louis IX and Peter of Tarentaise (the future Pope Innocent V).
He became Master General of the Order in 1264 and remained so until his natural death in 1283. He made personal visits (on foot) to most of the Dominican houses encouraging them in their observance of the rule.
After the death of Pope Clement IV, Bl. John was almost elected pope. He was warned of the possibility, which frightened him, and he fled. Toward the end of his life he was offered the role of patriarch of Jerusalem, but declined.