69. Saint Vito (c.290 – c.303)

According to a Christian legend, S. Vito, born in Sicily, died as a martyr during the persecution of Christians by co-ruling Roman Emperors Diocletian and Maximian in 303. He is represented as a young man with a palm-leaf, in a cauldron, sometimes with a raven and a lion, his iconographic attribute because according to the legend he was thrown into a cauldron of boiling tar and molten lead, but miraculously escaped unscathed.

In the late Middle Ages, people in Germany and countries such as Latvia celebrated the feast of Saint Vito by dancing before his statue. This dancing became popular and the name “Saint Vitus Dance” was given to the neurological disorder Sydenham’s chorea. It also led to Vitus being considered the patron saint of dancers, entertainers and epileptics. He is also said to protect against lightning strikes, animal attacks and oversleeping. Saint Vito is the patron saint of the cities of Rijeka (Croatia), Ciminna (Sicily), Forio (Ischia), Winschoten (Netherlands), and St. Vith (Belgium).

In 756 AD, it is said that the relics of Saint Vito were brought to the monastery of St-Denis by Abbot Fulrad. They were later presented to Abbot Warin of Corvey in Germany, who solemnly transferred some of them to this abbey in 836. From Corvey the veneration of Saint Vito spread throughout Westphalia and in the districts of eastern and northern Germany. His cult grew in Prague, Bohemia when, in 925 A.D., king Henry I of Germany presented as a gift the bones of one hand of Saint Vito to Wenceslaus, Duke of Bohemia. This relic is since then a sacred treasure in the Saint Vito Cathedral in Prague.

The cult of Saint Vito became very popular in Slavic lands, where his name (Sveti Vid) may have replaced the old cult of the god of light Svantovid. The saint’s feast day is also the subject of a popular weather rhyme: “If Saint Vito’s Day be rainy weather, it shall rain for thirty days together”. Various places in Austria and Bavaria are named Sankt Veit in his honor.

Read More: Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vitus

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