Those of us who have grown up Catholic tend to picture the saints as gentle martyrs with halos around their heads. We’re accustomed to stories of them having incorruptible corpses, visions of the future, stigmata, and healing powers. But have you ever heard of a saint toting his dismembered head around Paris? In honor of All Saints’ Day, we’ve put together a list of the most obscure saints with some seriously bizarre and bad-ass stories.
1. St. Lawrence of Rome
Lawrence is the patron saint of cooks, chefs, and comedians for rather gruesome reasons. As a deacon, he was in charge of distributing alms to the poor. When the Prefect of Rome demanded that the Church surrender all its treasure, St. Lawrence gave all of the Church’s funds to the poor and presented them to the prefect, saying, “This is the Church’s treasure!”
The prefect was so angry that he had St. Lawrence tied to a grill and roasted over an open fire. In spite of his ordeal, St. Lawrence joked, “I’m done on this side. Turn me over!” And just before he died, he added, “It’s cooked enough now,” and prayed that Rome would be converted and that Christianity would spread all over the world. Well, we all know how that went.
2. St. Drogo of Sebourg
St. Drogo is basically the original Daenerys Targaryen. After making nine pilgrimages to Rome, he developed an unsightly hernia and vowed to live as a hermit in a cell adjoining the parish church so that his fellow villagers wouldn’t have to suffer looking at him. Even when the church caught fire, he refused to break his vow and remained in his cell praying. After the entire structure had burned down, the villagers were astonished to find him completely unharmed.
And that’s not all—before he left on his pilgrimages, St. Drogo had the ability to bilocate. The people of Sebourg often saw him tending to his flock or his fields, and attending Sunday Mass at the same time. Today, he is the patron saint of ugly people, shepherds, and coffee—maybe because caffeine can almost give you enough energy to be in two places at once?
3. St. Denis of Paris
Apparently, getting up and carrying your head after you’ve been beheaded is such a common occurrence in Christianity that they’ve coined a term for it: cephalophores. The most famous of them all is St. Denis, who is also the first bishop of Paris. After he was executed from Montmartre, he picked up his head and walked six miles while preaching before he died. Today, he is the patron saint of Paris (goes without saying) and possessed people (what), and against frenzy, strife, rabies, and headaches (of course).
4. St. Nicasius of Rheims
Just like Denis, St. Nicasius wasn’t going to let a little thing like decapitation stop him from speaking. When the Huns (or the Vandals, depending on which account you read) attacked Rheims, he went to the city gates to hold them off and give his congregation time to escape. It’s said that he was killed in the middle of reciting Psalm 119 at the doors of the church. Just as he was saying “My soul cleaves to the dust,” the invaders lopped his head off, which rolled to the ground and continued praying, “Revive me according to Your word.” The Huns were so frightened by this miracle that they fled the city, and even left their loot behind.
5. St. Albinus of Angers
You wouldn’t want to mess with St. Albinus. A defender of the downtrodden, he was visiting Etheria, a woman who had been thrown into jail for failing to pay her debts. When a soldier drew his sword to strike her, all St. Albinus had to do was breathe on the man and he promptly fell dead.
On another occasion, he passed by a tower and, after hearing the cries of mistreated prisoners, implored the local magistrate to release them. When the magistrate refused, St. Albinus prayed in front of the tower until it was destroyed in a landslide. The prisoners emerged unhurt, and it’s said that many of them converted to Christianity and changed their ways. While St. Albinus' patronage is invoked to protect against pirate attacks (because he often used church funds to free hostages from pirates), he would make a pretty good patron saint of human rights, too.