November Saints Calendar (Part 2)

The best thing about splitting the saints calendar into two halves is that it gives me two opportunities to be late posting a calendar each month. So without further ado…

November 16 commemorates the death of St. Hugh of Lincoln–not to be confused with Little St. Hugh of Lincoln who Chaucer wrote about–a darn popular saint in England, but not really anywhere else. Since he lived in the late twelfth century, his Vita (saintly biography) is more concerned with his skill as an administrator than with anything interesting. Though, it should be noted, he did have an attack swan that guarded him as he slept. Pet swans that beat people up for you, you don’t see that every day–unless you’re St. Hugh of Lincoln, of course, but you’re not.

Bodleian Library MS Lat. liturg. d. 42, fol. 36rThe Feast of St. Edmund the Martyr rolls around* every November 20th. Lots of saints get the title “the Martyr” attached to their name, but St. Edmund clearly deserves it more than most. As King of the East Angles, Edmund was defeated and captured by Ivar the Boneless’s marauding Danes. When Edmund refused to renounce his faith, his captors first beat him soundly with cudgels. When this produced no change, they tied him to a tree and scourged him with a whip for the rest of the day. When Edmund still wouldn’t submit, they shot him with arrows until he bristled like a hedgehog, then had him beheaded and threw the head into the woods. After the Danes left, Edmund’s friends scoured the woods looking for his head, which called to them, saying “here I am”, until they found it nestled between the paws of a (wild but magically tamed) wolf. I’d like to believe that this was the medieval precursor to the modern game of Marco Polo.

For a while, Edmund was the patron saint of England, but he was eventually replaced by that glory hound St. George the dragonslayer.

November 23 is the Feast of Pope St. Clement of Rome, who was either the second, third, or fourth successor to the first Pope, St. Peter, depending on which unreliable list of early popes you consult. He was martyred by being tied to an anchor and thrown into the sea, which means as a saint he’s cursed to carry an anchor with him when he sits for portraits (like the one at the top of the page).

Bodleian Library MS Douce 12 fol. 214rSt. Catherine, whose feast is celebrated on November 25 is the medieval art historian’s favorite female saint, because she’s easy to spot. Just look for the woman with a smug look about her standing next to a wheel. According to legend, Emperor Maximinus ordered her put to death on a wheel, but when she touched said wheel, it broke. This didn’t get her off the hook, though; Maximinus just had her beheaded instead.

Catherine is the patron saint of damn near everybody with even a passing association with a wheel: potters, spinners, spinsters, milliners, knife sharpeners, mechanics, millers,wheelwrights, and so on. Seems a bit strange to me, people who need their wheels to work praying to a saint whose claim to fame is making wheels not work. Because she also had a habit of converting anyone sent to convince her of anything, she’s also the patron of those who spin words: lawyers, philosophers, secretaries, teachers, etc.

Feminist scholars love Catherine, because of another part of the legend that says she refused to marry a man unless he could prove himself her better in every way. Predictably, no one ever could, so she stayed chaste for the rest of her life.

St. Linus is listed by all the ancient Christian records as the first successor to St. Peter. Some calendars (including MS. Rawl. D. 939, the poorly illustrated calendar I’m following) put his feast on November 25th, though these days it’s celebrated in September. You’ll be excused if you celebrated it last month, but really do make an effort to keep to my calendar from here on out. Other than his name and his place as Pope #2, next to nothing is known about Linus. The Liber Pontificalis*** says he’s responsible for the now-ignored rule that says that women must cover their heads in church, and that’s about it.

St. Andrew‘s feast closes out the month on November 30. He’s sort of a big deal, being the first Apostle called by Christ and with his brother Peter one of the two fishermen asked to become “fishers of men.” According to medieval accounts, Andrew was sentenced to be crucified, but demanded that he be tied to the cross instead of nailed and also that the cross by X-shaped instead of T-shaped, because he thought himself unworthy to be crucified in exactly the same way as the Savior. Thus, you can usually recognize Andrew as the guy strapped to the big X, as in the picture at the top of this post. Because of his original job, Andrew is the patron of nautical men of all types. He’s also the patron saint of rope makers, because, apparently, rope makers always stop listening to the story of St. Andrew when he calls for the rope and just assume he must have used the rope to miraculously escape his captors and, possibly, to save Christmas.

Well, what do you know, that’s the end of the saints for this month. Check back in mid-to-late December for the saints of early December, and, heck, probably some time in January for the late-December saints.

*Like a severed head thrown into the woods. Confused?** Keep reading.
**Not confused? Stop waiting till the end to read all the footnotes so that I can properly confused you.
***In Latin: The Big Book of Saints.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • pilgrimchick

    I really enjoyed reading this list. You reminded me of Edmund–I haven't thought of him in a long time.

  • Sheryl

    Ha ha ha! As always, I love the way that you word things. And if that is a precursor to the modern Marco Polo, then I do not mind the very decided taming of that game over the years. And that is weird that one would pray for wheel assistance to one known for breaking wheels.

  • Judy

    Is that Cecelia tucked in beside Clement? Any connection?

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