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Inspirational Reads

Happy Saint Emygdius Day!

August 5, 2009

Nothing says "Lack of Creativity" like dipping into the hagiography, eh?

Today, among others, is the day set aside on the Catholic Calendar for the veneration and honor of Saint Emygdius (but, apparently, so is August 18th, but that's a Tuesday and we have a date to be blowing some shit up). Born a pagan sometime late in the third century, Emygdius converted to Christianity (obviously) and then, stricken with a wanderlust, he journeyed to Rome. There, he was staying with some cat named Gratianus, who happened to have a really hot yet paralytic daughter. I can only assume that she was hot because Emygdius laid hands on her and--BAM (oh wait, that's Saint Emerildius)--she was healed.

One morning, while walking about the Esquiline Hill in Rome, he came upon a blind man and decided to heal him, as well. Impressed, the Roman people thought certain that Emygdius was the son of Apollo. The citizenry then put Emygdius on their shoulders and carried him off as if he had just sacked the Georgia Tech quarterback on the last play of the game. The crowd then delivered Emygdius to the Temple of Aesculapius, the Roman version of the Greek god Asclepius, who was the god of medicine. In case you need a refresher, Asclepius was the son of Apollo, and his shrine on the Island of Cos is where Hippocrates (he of the Hippocratic Oath fame) started his career.

While at the Temple of Aesculapius on Tiber, Emygdius cured many people. Growing tired of constantly being compared to Aesculapius, Emygdius turned his healing hands to those of destruction. In a fit of rage most likely brought on by steroids, he tore down the temple and declared himself a Christian. Impressed with both his healing and his Hulk-like rage--"Emygdius smash!"--many of the witnesses converted to Christianity.

Deciding that he'd prefer Christian Hulk to be on his side, the Pope at the time, Marcellinius (Marcellus I) made him bishop of Ascoli Piceno (a city in Italy whose current mayor is named Guido Castles), despite the fact that he wasn't a priest. Happy to ply his trade elsewhere--and trying to escape the local authorities who were none too pleased that he had been smashing up their gods' temples--Emygdius set off at once for Ascoli, leaving many converts and miracles in his wake. Along the way, he decided that he needed to redirect the flow of water in some random location and thus struck a cliff with his staff, causing a font of water to gush forth.

Once in Ascoli, the local governor, Polymius, decided that he'd try to get Emygdius to worship Jupiter...despite the fact that the man had rent asunder the temple of Aesculapius. Apparently, he didn't think to check the online version of the Catholic Encyclopaedia to get the background story on Emygdius. In part of the wooing of Emygdius to Jupiter's side, Polymius offered up his daughter Polisia to Emygdius to sweeten the pagan-conversion deal. Polymius took her hand, led her to the Tronto River, and baptized her in the name of Christ.

As you might well imagine, Polymius was none-too-pleased with his would-be son-in-law. So, he did what any father would do while protecting his daughter: he decapitated Emygdius. Doing one better, he decided to lop off the heads of several of Emygdius' friends, whose names were Eupolus, Germanus and Valentius (not to be confused with our friend, Saint Valentine of the bird sex). Today the Saint Emidio Red Temple sits on the spot of his execution (Emidio is Italian for Emygdius).

Not to be deterred by a little thing like decapitation, Emygdius picked up his head and marched over to the spot on a nearby mountain where he had constructed an oratory. This particular act is known as "cephalophore", from the Greek for "head carrying". Here, at his oratory, he finally died, and a church--Saint Emidio alla Grotte--was erected on this site. Some 700 years later, his remains and the remains of his friends were found buried in Roman coffins in the crypt beneath the church.

Emygdius is the Patron Saint of Ascoli Piceno, Guardiagrele and a co-patron of Naples. He is also the Patron Saint of Earthquakes. Apparently, in 1703, a violent earthquake ripped across the Marche region of Italy, but the city of Ascoli Piceno was not affected, and it was thought that Emygdius protected the city against the earthquake. This is probably true, because after destroying the temple of Aesculapius and carrying his head to his burial spot after his own decapitation, the earth was afraid to piss off Emygdius. Due to having the good foresight of building missions in a zone prone to earthquakes, the early padres in California often prayed to Saint Emygdius, making him a sort of unofficial saint of California.

He is often depicted supporting the crumbling wall of a building and is sometimes symbolized by the palm--the leafy one, not the fingery one.


Del-V said...

I felt like I learned something today! Thank you.

Eric said...

I'll have to go check out the Saint Emidio Red Temple this fall. Thanks, this was great.
ps - as Emidio might say 'don't go losing your head' hahaa...

Rita said...

"He is also the Patron Saint of Earthquakes."

There is a Patron Saint for everything... Look up Saint Rita - Patron Saint of Impossible Causes.

Explains so much really.

otherworldlyone said...

I'm learning lots today...

And I like your hulk picture.

Happy Hour...Somewhere said...

This would make one great graphic novel or Quentin Tarantino movie what with all the head ripping off and all.

Jidai said...

Maybe it's years of mental scarring from the media, maybe I'm just a twisted person, but decapitations don't bother me anymore.

Now if he got mauled by kittens on the walk back. That would make my day.

Jules said...

You are amazingly full of knowledge!

JennyMac said...

Like the reference to GTech. And the Bazoombas? Hulk knows Bazoombas?

On a serious note, Emygdius performed many a miracle and I would love to see the Red Temple.

Margo said...

fascinating - thanks - I always wonder what all those depictions of saints mean. I can't wait to pull a little St. Emygdius out of my hat and wow the crowd next time I spot a leafy palm! I'd try to say something witty, but Eric already used the "don't go losing your head" line.

Nej said...

Knocking down buildings and carrying his own head around...I wouldn't want to mess with him either.

For some reason when reading this sentence..."One morning, while walking about the Esquiline Hill in Rome, he came upon a blind man and decided to heal him, as well."...I read "heal" as "steal." And for the next paragraph wondered why the dude would steal a blind man.

Is it Friday yet? :-)

the iNDefatigable mjenks said...

@ Del-V: Coming from an archaeology major, that's saying something!

@ Eric: Well, if he was tearing down pagan temples, he might have said "No lose head! Smash!"

@ Rita: Yup. That's part of the reason for this series.

Also, Saint Rita is kind of funny. She was in the church, praying, when--Wham-O!--a thorn flies off Jesus' crown and pegs in the forehead.

@ Otherworldlyone: Thanks. I like it, too. I figured there had to be someone who made a "Christian Hulk" series, and, as luck would have it, I came across that picture while searching for it.

@ Happy Hour: When I looked up the meaning of "cephalophore", I was amazed to find out how many saints walked around carrying their severed noggin. Well, apparently there were enough that they coined a term for it, so I guess I shouldn't be SO surprised, right?

@ Jidai: When I find a saint whose story ends with "and he was ruthlessly mauled by kittens", you'll be the first to know.

@ Jules: Well, I'm full of something. We'll leave it at that.

@ JennyMac: You get the GaTech reference, right?

@ Margo: I'm sure there's plenty of other head-based bad puns out there.

@ 小貓咪: Yes, you're right, I DO have a giant penis and a sexy, suave demeanor that the ladies just sort of eat up. Thank you for noticing.

@ Nej: Clearly, Christian Hulk needed a sidekick, and what better sidekick than a blind dude? See, it makes sense.

Sort of.

AND, it IS Friday. Now. At least.