The process of becoming a saint has been defined over time, but in the days of the early Catholic Church, it had far less definition. Saints were prolific, essential to prayer, faith, and communication with the divine. Saints were martyrs, models for devotion, confessors, and intercessors, tasked with watching out for the lives of the Christian faithful.
Patron saints are even less structured and clear in how they come to exist, but numerous holy men and women have become associated with various activities, items, and attributes. Some of the most unusual patron saints - overseeing things you may not have even thought of - trace their origins to the Middle Ages.
Admittedly, several patron saints were born at the tail end of the Roman Empire, many of whom were martyred as Christianity developed. It's during the Middle Ages, however, that they really became part of society and faith, protecting and interceding on behalf of people from all walks of life. Some medieval saints have been adapted to contemporary needs and practices, now serving as patrons to everything from the internet to coffee to motorcyclists. Some of them you might want on your side, while others can leave you hoping you never need their help. Either way, they're out there, they're available, and they may just surprise you with what they're looking out for.
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Bibiana, The Patron Saint Of Hangovers
Martyred during the 4th century, Bibiana became the patron saint of hangovers for no other reason than her name derives from the Latin word for drinking, "bibulus."
Bibiana was tortured by Roman Emperor Julian the Apostate for refusing to renounce her belief in Christianity. Reportedly, she was:
Tied to a pillar, and whipped with scourges loaded with leaden plummets till she expired. Her body was left in the open air, that it might be a prey to beasts; but having lain exposed for two days, was buried in the night.
After her burial, herbs growing near her grave supposedly cured headaches - and hangovers.
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Julian The Hospitaller, The Patron Saint Of Murderers
Julian the Hospitaller was born during the 4th century in the waning days of the Roman Empire. Accounts of his role as a patron saint come largely from medieval texts dating to the 12th century, with extensive mention of his role in protecting travelers.
In his youth, however, Julian was allegedly a murderer. He killed his parents - something that had been prophesied at his birth - after the devil supposedly convinced him the people in his bed were his wife and another man, instead of his parents.
During years of penance, Julian dedicated himself to the service of others. He ultimately established a hospital and escorted weary travelers across a nearby river for the rest of his days. He's the patron saint of ferrymen, innkeepers, and murderers alike.
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Fiacre, The Patron Saint Of Hemorrhoids
Irish abbot Fiacre is the patron saint of gardening and herbalists, in large part because the 7th-century churchman reportedly grew vegetables and herbs at his monastery in France. He used many of them as remedies for medical ailments, perhaps part of the reason why Fiacre is also considered the patron saint of venereal diseases.
He was said to have curative powers just by laying his hands on individuals suffering from polyps, fevers, tumors, and fistulae. The latter had its own name, "le fic de S. Fiacre," believed to be akin to hemorrhoids. It's unclear if this has any connection to Saint Fiacre's role as the patron saint of cab drivers.
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Lidwina, The (Scented) Patron Saint Of Ice Skaters
When Lidwina fell and broke her rib while ice skating as a teenager, it left her with a debilitating wound that never healed. Her body slowly deteriorated afterward, but as she lay in her bed in the Netherlands, various miracles manifested themselves in her presence.
The odor from Lidwina's decaying body was so pleasant that it reportedly drew in outsiders. After her skin, bones, and intestines allegedly fell from her body, she had her family bury them for fear of attracting attention. Lidwina's scent was curative, evoked confessions, and accompanied visions she had until her death in 1433.
Lidwina is the patron saint of ice skaters, but her long-lasting illness and heroic suffering has also led to her serving as patron saint to the chronically ill.
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Drogo, The Patron Saint Of Homely People And Coffee
Saint Drogo was born in France during the 12th century, and during his adolescence began making regular pilgrimages to Rome. After experiencing an injury of some kind, he became deformed and unable to visit the Holy See. As a result, he spent his days shepherding animals while living in a small cell at a church in Sebourg, France.
Some believe Drogo suffered a hernia, which is why he's the patron saint of individuals with hernias. Other accounts have Drogo experiencing a body-deforming injury or disease that left him unattractive - hence, the patron saint of ugly people.
He is also the patron saint of shepherds. There's no clear reason why Drogo is the patron saint of coffee, but Father Bob Pagliari, a writer for Catholic New York, theorized it had to do with his diet of barley and warm water.
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Gummarus, The Patron Saint Of Difficult Marriages
After growing up in the service of Pepin the Short, King of the Franks, during the 8th century, Gummarus entered what was, by all accounts, an unhappy marriage. He and his wife Guinmarie fought constantly, and he endured years of abuse from her before accompanying King Pepin on an extended military campaign.
Upon return, Gummarus was forced to right all the wrongs his wife had undertaken in his absence. Once he made amends to his servants and others she'd mistreated, the couple separated. Gummarus then became a hermit and, in 775, died alone. Saint Gummarus's experiences led to his patronage of difficult marriages as well as childless couples. He and his wife never had children of their own.