Let’s look at some strange saints!
Whether they’re carrying their head around under their arm or drinking bowls of fetid pus – saints can be very strange people. It’s hard to imagine what it would have been like to meet the pus-swilling Saint Catherine – who also dreamed of drinking Christ’s blood from his wounds.
Saint Lucy tears her own eyes out!
According to different versions of the story, Saint Lucy either tore out her own eyes and gave them to her husband or they were dug out by a Roman soldier with a fork! She is often shown, rather confusingly, with her eyes in her head but another pair on a plate. Here she is from one church I’ve visited in Europe. With four eyes!
Saint Denis carrying his own head around!
Saint Denis was martyred in the Roman era and was very popular at the time of the Templars. After being beheaded for his faith, he picked his head up and walked round for a while before dying. A statue of him can be seen in the Metropolitan Museum in New York which I enjoyed visiting earlier this year.
While the Templars were at the height of their power and influence in the late twelfth and early thirteenth century, Saint Francis of Assisi was founding a new order of friars – the Franciscans as they came to be known.
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In 1219 he went to Egypt at a time when the crusaders were attacking the city of Damietta and according to accounts from the period, hoped to be martyred. Instead, the story goes, Egypt’s Islamic rulers were so bowled over by Francis that they promised to convert at some unspecified date in the future.
Unfortunately, some of his Franciscan followers believed this story. They went over to Morocco, brimming with confidence, to convert the Muslims. But as you can see from this tableau below – it all went horribly wrong.
Of course the daddy of all Christian martyrs and a saint hugely revered by the Templars was John the Baptist. See my earlier post on the Johnannite heresy. The man who cleared a path for the Messiah and baptised him in adulthood. He was then beheaded and his head delivered to Salome, step-daughter of Herod, on a plate. Here he is – well his head anyway – on said plate.