The Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches are chock-full of colorful saints. From the earliest days of Christianity to recently canonized saints, these holy people are the leading characters in fascinating stories. Though unquestionably devout in their spirituality, some of these men and women also took their devotion to extreme levels.
Ways saints tested themselves are as unbelievable as they are fascinating. Saints put themselves through a variety of trying circumstances. Some practiced mortification, purposely did bodily harm as a form of penance, or suffered gruesome deaths to become martyrs. Others forsook the world and pledged themselves to lives of solitude in remote and dangerous places.
Many of the saints on this list were ascetics, or men and women who practiced extreme self-denial. To them, abstaining from worldly pleasures and comforts was one of the noblest, purest acts of penance and devotion they could perform. Mortifying the flesh and denying pleasures was one way that their souls could transcend the lowly, temporal world.
Like any religion, Christianity has changed over time, and with it the public’s expectations about how holy people should behave. As noble as these ancient and medieval saints’ intentions may have been, the fact remains that, to modern eyes at least, many of these acts come across as crazy, gross, and more than a little bit entertaining.