Þæt wæs god blog!
For the final episode of Medieval Avengers (a.k.a. the Fourteen Holy Helpers) I could come up with no clever theme with which to link the stories, although the title does sound rather like the start of a lame joke.
St Panteleimon, Medical Martyr
Panteleimon (a.k.a. Pantaleon) was from 3rd-century Nicomedia (present-day Turkey). The patron saint of physicians and midwives, he is invoked against headaches, TB, and cancer.
Pan (as I shall call him) was born to a wealthy pagan dad and a Christian mum. After years of studying medicine, Pan became the emperor’s own physician. When his mum died, Pan fell away from the Christian faith, but one day a bishop convinced him that the greatest physician of all is Christ and that faith should be trusted over medical advice (and perhaps it was a better bet than 3rd-century medicine…who knows).
Pan is most often seen with a martyr’s cross and a compartmented medicine box with a kind of long-handled spoon (probably for mixing remedies).
I wish the above image were higher res so we could better see the border miniatures depicting scenes from Pan’s life. When Pan was beheaded c. 305, blood and a white milky substance poured out of his body, and while I’m pretty sure he’s getting beheaded in the third scene from the left at the bottom, I can’t make out whether the artist included milk.
St Vitus, Miracle Child
Vitus (a.k.a. Guy) was from 4th-century Lucania (present-day Italy), although his veneration in the Middle Ages spread as far as Germany and Bohemia. He is usually depicted as a young boy in a cauldron, with a white rooster or a palm branch (symbolic of martyrdom).
Vitus could perform miracles from a young age. He miraculously cured the emperor’s son of epilepsy, but unfortunately this led people to accuse him of sorcery. As part of an anti-sorcery ritual, the people immersed the boy in a cauldron of boiling pitch along with an unlucky white rooster. Vitus emerged unharmed. (I am not sure what happened to the rooster, but it seems likely he survived because that makes a better story. Also, Vitus is known for protecting domestic animals, which isn’t as believable if his cauldron mate died.)
Vitus was martyred at a very young age (some say 7, others say 12 or 13) along with his tutors because he insisted upon being a Christian. His veneration in late medieval Germany and Latvia included a dance performed before his statue, which resulted in:
Vitus is invoked against all sorts of things, from epilepsy to snake bites and animal attacks, from lightning strikes to oversleeping.
Cyriacus, Philanthropic Exorcist
Last but not least we have Cyriacus (or just Cyriac), a 3rd-century Roman nobleman. Upon his conversion to Christianity in adulthood, Cyriacus gave away all his money and possessions to the poor and began ministering to the slaves who worked in the public baths.
Cyriacus is famous for exorcising demons from two young girls: Artemisia (a.k.a. Artemia), daughter of Emperor Diocletian, and Jobias, daughter of Shapur II the Great of Persia, tenth king of the Sasanian Empire. After Cyriacus chased the demon out of Artemisia, Artemisia’s mother Serena converted to Christianity, later becoming a saint. Jobias’s exorcism must have been even more impressive because King Shapur’s entire household converted.
It looked like things were going great for Cyriacus, but fate’s wheel turned and Diocletian left for the East, leaving his irritable co-emperor Maximian in charge, who immediately recommenced the persecution of Christians with gusto. Cyriacus and his friends were tortured and then beheaded.
An aside… It’s interesting to me that so many saints were beheaded who weren’t depicted in religious iconography as headless. How did people decide that a beheading should be one of a saint’s claims to fame? (See Medieval Avengers #4: Don’t Lose Your Head.)
Cyriacus appears as a deacon, usually equipped with a book of exorcism and sometimes accompanied by sidekick Artemisia. He is invoked against demonic possession (natch), eye disease, and temptation on the deathbed (don’t know the reasons for those last two). He is also for some reason the patron saint of viticulture, i.e. the scientific study of grapes and natural processes of the vineyard. (Maybe he liked wine?) I was unable to find a medieval image of Cyriacus, so please share if you’ve got one.
So ends the story of the Medieval Avengers…for now.