15 Unusual Patron Saints
On May 13, Pope Francis canonized the two most recent saints in the Catholic Church at a special ceremony in Portugal. Saint Francisco and Saint Jacinta Marto, a young brother and sister from the Portuguese parish of Fatima, are said to have witnessed an apparition of the Virgin Mary exactly 100 years ago this year, and Pope Francis’s canonization marked the centenary of their first miraculous vision.
Because the locals at the time first refused to believe the Marto siblings’ story—and because they both succumbed to the great flu epidemic that swept Europe just two years later—Saints Franciso and Jacinta of Fatima are already considered patron saints of the sick, of chronic bodily illnesses, and of those ridiculed for their piety. But what if you have other problems or interests that would require the divine assistance of an even more specific saint? Well …
1. ST. ADJUTOR
St. Adjutor is said to have either escaped Muslim captors during the First Crusade and escaped by swimming (according to various stories, he either swam to Crusader territory, swam all the way to France, or was recaptured and then transported back to France by Mary Magdalene), or else calmed a whirlpool that had emerged beside a boat he was traveling on. Either way, he’s now considered the patron saint of swimmers and those at danger from drowning.
2. ST. BALTHASAR
Medieval tradition held that the three kings who visited Jesus in the stable came from all corners of the Medieval world; Balthazar hailed from Africa—frequently Egypt. At the time, Romani card sharps and sideshow sleight-of-hand merchants were popular entertainers across Europe. Because it was mistakenly believed they came from Egypt (hence the name Gypsies) the Egyptian king—St. Balthasar—became the patron saint of playing card manufacturers.
3. ST. BERNARDINO OF SIENA
St. Bernardino of Siena was so well known for his crowd-pleasing public preaching in the early 15th century that he’s now considered the patron saint of advertising and public relations.
4. ST. COLUMBANUS
St. Columbanus spent much of the 6th and 7th century roaming around Europe—and that love of the open road has led to him being considered the patron saint of motorcyclists.
5. ST. DROGO
St. Drogo was so afflicted by a mystery ailment that made him physically repulsive that he’s now considered the patron saint of unattractive people. Entirely unrelatedly, he’s also the patron saint of coffeehouses.
6. ST. ERASMUS
St. Erasmus, Bishop of Formia in modern-day Italy, went through quite an ordeal during the Roman Empire’s persecution of the Christians in the 3rd and 4th centuries. Initially captured and imprisoned sometime in the late 200s, Erasmus is said to have been freed by an angel and fled to Turkey to continue his preaching. Arrested a second time, however, Erasmus’ undying faith so angered the Emperor Maximian that he had him beaten, whipped, placed in a barrel of spikes and rolled down a hill, covered in pitch and set alight, and finally—after he had somehow miraculously survived—his stomach cut open and his intestines wound around a winch. It’s for that latter torture that Erasmus is now considered the patron saint of stomach ailments, colic, and appendicitis.
7. ST. GILES
St. Giles is said to have lived as a hermit in the south of France in the later 7th century, nourishing himself only with the milk of a female deer. Because of that—as well as being the patron saint of the city of Edinburgh—St. Giles is also the patron saint of breastfeeding.
8. ST. GUMMARUS
St. Gummarus of Belgium was an 8th century figure whose wife, a local noblewoman named Guinmarie, was known for her shrewish and abusive behavior. Despite Gummarus’s attempts to salvage their relationship, they separated—and after he went on to found an abbey at Lier, he became the patron saint of difficult marriages.
9. ST. JANUARIUS
A vial of blood belonging to St. Januarius, a 3rd century Bishop of Naples, was saved after his death in 305. The blood is the subject of a longstanding miracle that claims, despite its age, that it liquefies on three dates in the year: September 19, December 16, and the Saturday before the first Sunday in May. For that reason, Januarius is the patron saint of blood banks.
10. ST. JULIAN THE HOSPITALLER
St. Julian the Hospitaller's name refers to the fact that he opened a hostel for travelers and dedicated his life to providing hospitality for the sick and needy—but only after he’d killed his parents in a twist on the story of Oedipus. For that reason, he’s the patron saint of murderers, should you ever need one.
11. ST. LIDWINA
St. Lidwina fell while ice skating at the age of 15 and never fully recovered from her injuries. After a life of piety, her grave became a site of pilgrimage; after her canonization, she became the patron saint of ice skaters.
12. ST. MÉDARD OF PICARDY
St. Médard of Picardy is the patron saint of protection against bad weather, supposedly due to the fact that when he was an infant an eagle flew above him during a storm to shelter him from the rain. According to folklore, whatever the weather on St. Médard’s Day—June 8—you can expect the weather to remain the same for the next 40 days.
13. ST. RITA
Despite wanting to be a nun, St. Rita's parents forced her to marry when she was 12. Through her husband she became embroiled in a bitter feud between two local families; the feud eventually led to her husband’s murder, and the deaths of both her sons. Because of her lifetime of disappointments, difficulty and setbacks, Rita is now considered the patron saint of the impossible.
14. ST. SERVATIUS
St. Servatius was a 4th century Armenian priest who died in Maastricht in the Netherlands of an infection to a leg wound in 384. Not only is Servatius now the patron saint of the city of Maastricht, he’s also responsible for foot and leg disorders, rheumatism, and protection against rats and mice.
15. ST. VEDAST
St. Vedast, or Vaast as he’s also known, is the patron saint of children who are late in learning to walk.