Saint Vitus the..
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Died c. 303. Unreliable legend has Vitus, the only son of Hylas, a
senator in Sicily, become a Christian when he was very young--
between the ages of seven and 12--by the influence of the servants
who tended him. His Christian tutor, Modestus, and his nurse,
Crescentia (wife of Modestus), accompanied him on his journeys
throughout Sicily. When his conversions and miracles became widely
known to the administrator of Sicily, Valerian, he had Vitus brought
before him to shake his faith. (Another version says that his
incensed father gave him up to Valerian.) He was unsuccessful, but
Vitus with his tutor and nurse fled to Lucania and then to Rome,
where he exorcised Emperor Diocletian's son of an evil spirit.
When Vitus would not sacrifice to the gods his cure was attributed to sorcery. He, Modestus, and Crescentia were subjected to various tortures, including a cauldron of molten lead, from which they emerged unscathed. For example, when throw into the den of a hungry lion, the beast merely licked Vitus affectionately. One version says that the tormentors gave up and freed the trio when during a storm temples were destroyed and an angel guided them back to Lucania, where they eventually died.
The facts are that their cultus is ancient. We are not really even certain about when they lived, although most place their martyrdom at the time of Diocletian. There is even some confusion about the site of their martyrdom. It appears that they may be two separate groups: Vitus alone in Lucania (whose cultus is the oldest), and Vitus, Modestus, and Crescentia in Sicily.
The Vitus who is alone is celebrated in the Gelasian Sacramentary and an early South Italian Book of the Gospels, which assigns to his feast a pericope of the cure from demonic possession and sickness. The Martyrology of Bede and the Old English Martyrology also list Vitus by himself. There is an ancient church dedicated to him on the Esquiline Hill of Rome. Vitus's relics were moved to Saint-Denis in Paris. A great devotion to Vitus developed in Germany when his relics were translated to Corvey Abbey in Saxony in 836. Most of the medieval abbeys in England celebrated Vitus and Modestus without Crescentia, but five who followed the Sarum Rite added her name.
Saint Vitus is one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers, who, as a group, are especially venerated in France and Germany. The Holy Helpers were believed to possess especially efficacious intercessory power. The relics of Vitus are said to possess many healing properties, especially when epileptics prayed before them (Attwater, Benedictines, Bentley, Delaney, Encyclopedia, Farmer, Husenbeth, Sheppard, White).
In art, Saint Vitus is depicted as a boy with a rooster and a cauldron. At times he may be shown (1) with his Modestus and Crescentia as they refuse to worship idols; (2) being put into an oven; (3) with a palm and cauldron; (4) with a palm and dog; (5) with a chalice and dog; (6) with sword and dog; (7) with a sword and rooster; (8) with a book and rooster; (9) with a wolf or lion; or (10) as a young prince with a palm and sceptre (Roeder).
Saint Vitus is the patron of Prague, dogs, domestic animals, young people, dancers, coppersmiths, actors, comedians, and mummers. He is invoked against epilepsy, lightning, poisoning by dog or snake bite, sleeplessness, snakebite, storm, and Saint Vitus Dance (Sydenham's chorea, a nervous disorder) (Bentley, Roeder).
Catholic Online Saints
Feastday: June 15
Unreliable legend has Vitus, the only son of a senator in Sicily, become a Christian when he was twelve. When his conversions and miracles became widely known to the administrator of Sicily, Valerian, he had Vitus brought before him, to shake his faith. He was unsuccessful, but Vitus with his tutor, Modestus, and servant, Crescentia, fled to Lucania and then to Rome, where he freed Emperor Diocletian's son of an evil spirit. When Vitus would not sacrifice to the gods, his cure was attributed to sorcery. He, Modestus, and Crescentia were subjected to various tortures from which they emerged unscathed, and were freed when during a storm, temples were destroyed and an angel guided them back to Lucania, where they eventually died. So much for the legend. What is fact is that their cult goes back centuries and that they were Christians who were martyred in Lucania. A great devotion to Vitus developed in Germany when his relics were translated to Saxony in 836. He is one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers and is the patron of epileptics, those afflicted with St. Vitus' Dance (named after him}, dancers, and actors, and is a protector against storms.
For obscure reasons, some 16th century Germans believed they could obtain a year's good health by dancing before the statue of Saint Vitus on his feast day. This dancing developed almost into a mania, and was confused with chorea, the nervous condition later known as Saint Vitus' dance, the saint being invoked against it.
I'm told there are two other patron saints of dance, Genesius and Philemon (Philamus):
This is from the Catholic Encyclopedia
(1) Genesius (of Rome)
A comedian at Rome, martyred under Diocletian in 286 or 303. Feast, 25 August. He is invoked against epilepsy, and is honoured as patron of theatrical performers and of musicians. The legend (Acta SS., Aug., V, 119) relates: Genesius, the leader of a theatrical troupe in Rome, performing one day before the Emperor Diocletian, and wishing to expose Christian rites to the ridicule of his audience, pretended to receive the Sacrament of Baptism. When the water had been poured upon him he proclaimed himself a Christian. Diocletian at first enjoyed the realistic play, but, finding Genesius to be in earnest, ordered him to be tortured and then beheaded. He was buried on the Via Tiburtina. His relics are said to be partly in San Giovanni della Pigna, partly in S. Susanna di Termini and in the chapel of St. Lawrence. The legend was dramatized in the fifteenth century; embodied in later years in the oratorio "Polus Atella" of Löwe (d. 1869), and still more recently in a work by Weingartner (Berlinn 1892).
The historic value of the Acts, dating from the seventh century, is very doubtful, though defended by Tillemont (Mémoires, IV s.v. Genesius). The very existence of Genesius is called into question, and he is held to be a Roman counterpart of St. Gelasius (or Gelasinus) of Hierapolis (d. 297). He was venerated, however, at Rorne in the fourth century: a church was built in his honour very early, and was repaired and beautified by Gregory III in 741.
|Saint Vitus Cathedral is a cathedral in Prague, seat of the archbishop, within Prague Castle. It is named for Saint Vitus the patron saint of Bohemia. Containing the tombs of Czech kings, this cathedral is an excellent example of gothic architecture. Construction began in 1344, at first according to designs of Matthias of Arras, and after his death in 1352 it was taken over by Peter Parler. He completed only the choir and part of a southern transept. The cathedral wasn't finished until the 19th century century, when the nave and western twin-tower facade were built.||
Cathedral from the South