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Remembering Saint Dymphna; the patroness saint against insanity

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By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
5/15/2014 (5 years ago)
Catholic Online (https://www.catholic.org)

Daughter of pagan king was slain along with priest

Sometimes referred to as Saint Dympna or Saint Dimpna, Saint Dymphna had been venerated for many years in a church at Gheel, in the province of Antwerp, Belgium. Saint Dymphna's story dates from the middle of the 13th century. Bishop Guy I of Cambrai (1238 - 47) wrote the "Vita" for this particular saint.

St. Dymphna is typically artistically represented with a sword in her hand and a fettered devil at her feet.

St. Dymphna is typically artistically represented with a sword in her hand and a fettered devil at her feet.

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By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
Catholic Online (https://www.catholic.org)
5/15/2014 (5 years ago)

Published in Christian Saints & Heroes

Keywords: Saint Dymphna, Patroness saint, insanity


LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Saint Dymphna's story dates largely from an oral tradition. The daughter of a pagan king of Ireland, she became a Christian in secret and was baptized.

Following the death of her mother, who was reportedly of extraordinary beauty, her father desired to marry his own daughter, said to be just as beautiful. Dymphna fled with the priest Gerebernus, landing in Antwerp.

Starvation never goes on vacation ...

Both arrived at the village of Gheel, where there was a chapel of St. Martin, where they took residence. Messengers sent from her father however discovered their whereabouts. Her father once again offered to take Dymphna's hand in marriage. 

Realizing this was not to be, the king commanded his servants to slay the priest, while he decapitated his own daughter. Both Dymphna and the priest were put in sarcophagi and entombed in a cave where they were found later. The body of St. Dymphna was buried in the church of Gheel, and the bones of St. Gerebernus were transferred to Xanten.

Dymphna's story is a variation of the story of the king who wanted to marry his own daughter, a motif which appears frequently in popular legends. Historians, therefore can't ascribe a lot of credence to this legend or to the time in which she lived.

The theory that Dymphna is identical with St. Damhnat of Ireland cannot be proved. There are at Gheel fragments of two simple ancient sarcophagi in which tradition says the bodies of Dymphna and Gerebernus were found.

There is also a quadrangular brick, said to have been found in one of the sarcophagi, bearing two lines of letters read as DYMPNA. The discovery of this sarcophagus with the corpse and the brick was perhaps the origin of the veneration.

St. Dymphna is typically artistically represented with a sword in her hand and a fettered devil at her feet. Her feast is celebrated on May 15th, under which date she is also found in the Roman martyrology.

Starvation never goes on vacation ...

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