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Detail of C.325-1928 © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Pope St. Cornelius

Pope Cornelius’ short reign in the middle of the 3rd century (251 – 253) was consistent with the tradition of early Christian leaders being a generally unlucky bunch. Some of the age’s biggest cheeses were against him: two Roman Emperors and an Antipope.   Literary evidence suggests that Cornelius was not born to a wealthy family; extant […]

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Detail of A.135-1946, alabaster statue of St. Fiacre © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

St. Fiacre

Today marks the feast of Saint Fiacre (d.670). This semi-mythical 7th century Irish saint was a sort of nurse-cum-hermit who would tend to the ailments of all who visited his oratory so long as they met one condition: that they were a man. Women were cautioned to stay away from his retreat on pain of […]

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Detail of St. Louis of Toulouse © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

St. Louis of Toulouse

What do discarded crowns, Barcelona and Zac Efron all have in common? The answer is St. Louis of Toulouse (1274-1297). This former bishop was a holy man of impeccable saintly lineage, who could count King St. Louis IX of France, St. Elizabeth of Hungary and St. Margaret of Hungary among his hallowed family tree. He […]

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706-1890, gilt leather altar frontal showing SS. Roch (L) and Sebastian (R), © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

St. Roch

Many saints’ lives are dull affairs full of praying and fasting, proselytising and general do-gooding. St. Roch’s vita has all of these elements plus a good amount of gruesomeness, mysticism, and a faithful animal friend. Born near Montpellier around 1295, his chest was miraculously marked from birth with the sign of the cross. The infant […]

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1198-1893, medal showing Pope St. Sixtus II, Italy, 16th century (C) Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Pope St. Sixtus II

Here we have another medal with another pope on it. This familiar line continues when I tell you that Sixtus II was also the immediate successor to Pope Stephen, who we covered in the previous post, and that he was probably martyred in the same way, and as part of the very same crackdown by […]

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Pope St. Stephen I

Early Christian history can be a minefield of hyperbole and mysticism, of which the life of Pope St. Stephen I (reigned 254 – 257) is a very good example. Having your head cut off would be, in most cases, a fairly conclusive act. It has, however, never been clear whether or not Stephen was violently […]

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E.3853-1960, print showing St. Ignatius of Loyola, Wierix, (c) Victoria and Albert Museum, London

St. Ignatius of Loyola

Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556) is an important figure in world Catholicism, but appears little-known in Britain, probably due to the break of the English church from papal authority under Henry VIII. His life was not exactly a classic saint’s tale; he started out as a proud and vainglorious man but he later, when living in […]

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Detail of crozier showing St. Olaf, A.1-2002 © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

St. Olaf

Saint Olaf (Eng: Olave; b.995, d.1030), or to give him is full name, King Saint Olaf II Haraldsson, was King of Norway, 1015-1028. Unusually for a saint (but not necessarily for a medieval king, or a Viking for that matter) he was an extremely violent man. Missionary attempts that he conducted in remote parts of […]

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