These Headless Catholic Saints Are the Church's Creepiest Stories of Martyrdom


Famed saints of the Catholic Church are venerated for their various roles in spreading the faith, including their works of miracles. One particular type of miracle might cause the faithful to scream in terror if it were to occur today. Cephalophoric saints are holy people (often martyred by decapitation) depicted carrying their own head. The most famous of these saints is Saint Denis.

Saint Denis

Saint Denis was a third-century bishop of Paris. He is one of the Catholic Church’s most venerated saints, and honored as one of the Fourteen Helpers because of his particularly effective intercession. He is invoked against demonic possession and headaches.

During his time, Saint Denis was one of the most effective preachers, converting thousands of people to Christianity. This angered the Roman governor, who ordered his arrest and execution by beheading.

After his head was cut off on a hill, Saint Denis picked it up and walked several miles from the summit, preaching a sermon the entire way! The site where he eventually expired was marked and developed into what is now the Saint Denis Basilica, where his remains are kept to this day.

Saint Aphrodisius


Saint Aphrodisius was an Egyptian who was martyred in southern France in 65 AD. The story goes that, after learning of the miracles of Jesus from Egyptian Jews returning home from Jerusalem, Saint Aphrodisius traveled to Palestine to meet Christ. He eventually became his disciple.

Aphrodisius became the first bishop of Béziers. Like Saint Denis, he was executed because he was spreading Christianity. After his execution by beheading, his head was kicked into a well, but the water inside swelled and gushed out the saint’s head. The rest of his body walked toward the head, picked it up, and carried it around the city.

Saint Nicasius of Rheims


Saint Nicasius was the bishop of Rheims in France. He was martyred for the Catholic Church sometime in 407 AD. He is famous for prophesying the Vandals’ invasion of France. After he had a vision of the massive invasion, he immediately warned his people, telling them to prepare. The people asked him whether they should arm themselves, to which Saint Nicasius responded, “Let us abide the mercy of God and pray for our enemies. I am ready to give myself for my people.”

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When the Vandals were finally at the gates of the city, Saint Nicasius attempted to slow them down so that more of his people could flee. The Vandals caught him while he was reciting Psalm 119. When he reached the verse, “My soul is attached unto dust,” the enemy decapitated him, but his head still continued reciting the Psalm, repeating the verse “Revive me, Lord, with your words." The sight of the talking head of Saint Nicasius frightened the Vandals so much that they left the loot they had already gathered.

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Mario Alvaro Limos
Features Editor-at-Large
Mario Alvaro Limos is features editor-at-large at Esquire Philippines, and heads the Lifestyle and Esports content of as its section editor. Email him at [email protected] and [email protected]
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