Fascinating/Bizarre Saints Throughout History

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A few months ago, Pope Francis elevated former popes John XXIII and John Paul II to sainthood. What does that mean? While the word “saint” carries a baggage of different meanings today depending on the denomination it’s used in, generally speaking a saint is a holy individual (i.e. believer in Christ) who has earned the rewards of heaven after death. In the more Catholic sense, a saint is someone with whom Christ dwells, giving them an exceptional level of holiness as displayed through heroic and philanthropic deeds one earth. After their death, the Catholic Church comes to recognize and canonize some of these individuals who are now in heaven. [1]

While the Catholic Church recognizes a great number of individuals as saints, they by no means claim to have a complete or even a nearly complete list. How many have they canonized so far? The answer isn’t an easy one to find. Using official church sources it tallies close to 1,000. Elsewhere, it appears to exceed 10,000. That’s a lotta saints marching in. Note that these are numbers within the Roman Catholic religion. The numbers may be even higher among the Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox congregations, since their “canonization” process isn’t nearly as fixed. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that with so many saints to choose from there are a handful of individuals whose legends are worth reading about purely for entertainment in addition to historical interest. Never did I imagine how surprisingly bizarre they would turn out to be, aided especially by artwork which has strongly preserved their tradition. So without further ado, here’s my top eleven.

If you’d simply like to view their depictions in art, check out my gallery of each saint here.

 

  1. St. Catherine of Siena (1347 – 1380): The woman Christ married with his foreskin
  2. St. Bernard of Clairvaux (1090 – 1153): Breastfeed by the Virgin Mary
  3. St. Christopher (? — c. 251): A giant Cynocephalus (i.e. dog-headed man)
  4. St. Moses the Black (330–405): Former bandit leader and all-around badass
  5. St. Stephen (? — 34): Switched at birth for a changeling by Satan
  6. St. Margaret of Antioch (? — 304): Escaped the belly of a dragon
  7. St. Joseph of Cupertino (1603 – 1663): The Flying Friar
  8. Blessed Agostino Novello (1240 – 1309): Your friendly neighborhood monk
  9. St. Roch (c. 1328 – c. 1376): Saved from the plague by Lassie
  10. St. Gall (550 – 646): Acquired a pet bear
  11. St. Veronica (1st century AD): Obtained Jesus’ face on a cloth (Veil of Veronica)

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A not-so-happy Father’s Day

In celebration of Father’s Day I thought I’d share an interesting motif I noticed in Christian art throughout the centuries: step-dad Joseph’s gloomy emotion during the nativity. I learned that this is especially common in works of the Eastern Orthodox tradition which in-bedded the folk tradition that Joseph continued to have doubts regarding Mary’s virginity. Some artists believed that this is because Satan approached Joseph in disguise in an attempt to persuade him into doubt, as seen in the painting at the top right of my collage below where Satan comes resembling an old man. More than anything I love how consistent the portrayal of Joseph is, his head resting on his hand in exhaustive despair.

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