Saint Pantaleon is one of those saints that has enjoyed huge recognition and then fallen away a bit. Allegedly, he was a physician to one of the late Roman emperors who co-ruled in the east – either Galerius or Maximian. This was when the empire was divided between two senior and two junior rulers – a system called the Tetrarchy. Diocletian, the emperor who devised this ingenious way of running the vast imperium, also launched the last and most determined persecution of the Christians.
We are led to believe that Pantaleon was convinced that faith was more important than medicine and he duly accepted a rather gruesome martyrdom. Many of the stories that circulate about martyrs under Diocletian are faintly ridiculous. They all have common themes about saints having their heads cut off or being boiled alive and yet somehow miraculously surviving, etc. Whoever told the story of Pantaleon got very carried away because he was pretty much subjected to every horrific mode of execution you could imagine and yet proved impossible to kill. Only when he himself consented to die, did the blade cut his head off – out of which, by the way, spouted a mixture of blood and milk.
This is a statue I found in Portugal but he also features in the stained glass windows of Chartres cathedral and his relics are scattered from Armenia to Italy. In the latter country, there is a belief that Saint Pantaleon will very obligingly come to you in your dreams and tell you the winning lottery numbers. He is presumably very selective about how many people he visits during their slumbers.