INVOKING THE NAME
Saint Corona, Saint Against Pandemics?
Within the Roman Catholic culture there are patron saints of many medical ailments, illnesses, and dangers. In urology we find some wards of European urology departments were named after St. Liborius of Le Mans against colic (stone disease). St. Roch or St. Dionys were commonly invoked against sexually-transmitted diseases. Later one might encounter St. Blaise to cure bedwetting. St. Anna or St. Andreas are known for being “blessed with children” and consequently invoked against impotence and infertility.
In the times of the pandemic SARS-CoV-2 virus (COVID-19), called coronavirus, people invoke the name of St. Corona, in some sources connected with the pestilences and plagues of our ancestors.
When St. Victor was tortured by Roman judge (and Christian-hater) Sebastian for refusing to denounce his Christian faith, St. Corona (or Stephanie or Stefania or Stephana from Greek στέφᾰνος, stéphanos - "crown" - the Greek version of her Latin name, which also means "crown") comforted him. Hearing of Victor’s plight, his teenage sister-in-law (other texts identified her as Victor’s wife) Corona publicly announced her own Christianity and rushed to Victor's side. She knelt next to him and prayed, letting him know he was not alone. i,ii
Soon Corona faced her own punishment from Sebastian, who ordered her to be tortured. She was tied to the tops of two palm trees bent down to the ground, and, at Sebastian's command, the ropes holding the trees down were cut and the trees sprang back to their upright position. The force was so strong that Corona's body was ripped in half. Sebastian ordered Victor beheaded soon after.
Most sources state that Victor and Corona were killed in Syria during the reign of Marcus Aurelius (170s CE). However, various hagiographical texts disagree about the site of their martyrdom, with some stating that it was Damascus, while Coptic sources state that it was Antioch. Corona's memorial day is 24 November (11 November in the Orthodox church calendar). The feast day is 14 May. iii,iv,v
St. Corona is especially venerated in Bohemia, Austria and eastern Bavaria. She is invoked in connection with superstitions involving money, such as gambling and treasure hunting. Within one source she is venerated against pandemics. vi
St. Corona is particularly invoked as a parton saint in some areas:
- St. Corona am Wechsel, Lower Austria
- St. Corona am Schöfel, Austria
- Feltre, Castelfidardo, Grazzano Badoglio (province Asti), Italy
- Ennezat (Département Puy-de-Dôme), France
- Some small villages near Regensburg, Germany including:
- St. Corona at Altenkirchen near Frontenhausen
- St. Corona of Staudach near Eggenfelden or at Koppenwall /Pfeffenhausen near Landshut
Otto III (980-1002), around CE 997, brought Corona's relics with those of St. Leopardus to Aachen in western Germany. A shrine was built in 1911, when her relics were unearthed in 1910 during archaeologic research on the tomb of Charles the Great in Aachen.
Since 965 some relics of St. Corona were stored in the Bremen cathedral where some iron pilgrimage signs were unearthed. vii
Emperor Charles IV (1346–78) settled additional relics of St. Corona from Feltre/Italy in the Prague cathedral.
Saint Illustration and Symbolism
Each saint has a story and a reason why he or she led an exemplary life. Symbols have been used to tell these stories throughout the history of the church.
Since the 17th century, the martyrdom of St. Corona is typically illustrated with the saint hanging in between two palm trees (Fig. 1). viii
Another portrait (lacking the typical landscape) is found in this painting of Friedolin Leiber (1845-1912), famous for his guardian angel portraits at the end of the 19th century.
Another typical portrait of the saint shows her atop her church.
Within the culture of remembrance in urology, names of long-ago Christian saints, such as St. Liborius, are not forgotten. Saints of plagues such as STDs are not common as venereal diseases have negative connotation in religion. Invoking the name of St. Corona is also uncommon; only one source could be traced which connected her to pandemics.
Perhaps practicing good hand-washing techniques will do more to protect you against COVID-19, but you may be able to console yourself with the thought that staying home is INFINITELY better than being tied between two bent palm trees.
Friedrich Moll, MD
iSchwartz, Seymour, and Christopher Hoolihan (2011): Holystic Medicine. The Patron Saints of Medicine.
iiDillinger, Johannes (2011). Magical Treasure Hunting in Europe and North America. Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 89–90.
iiiMoll, F., Schwarzburger, M. – I (2020) St. Corona – Eine Fürsprecherin gegen Seuchen ? Eine Miszelle aus der Medizin - und Urologiegeschichte Urologe in Press
ivMARTYROLOGIUM ROMANUMGREGORII XIII JUSSU EDITUMURBANI VIII ET CLEMENTIS X AUCTORITATE RECOGNITUM AC DEINDE ANNO MDCCXLIX BENEDICTI XIV LABORE ET STUDIO AUCTUM ET CASTIGATU online: https://introibo.net/download/brevier/martyrologium_latein.pdf
vStadler, J. E. Heim F. J.. Ginal J. N (1882 Band 5) SS Viktor et Corona Vollständiges Heiligen-Lexikon oder Lebensgeschichten aller Heiligen, Seligen etc. etc. aller Orte und aller Jahrhunderte, deren Andenken in der katholischen Kirche gefeiert oder sonst geehrt wird, unter Bezugnahme auf das damit in Verbindung stehende Kritische, Alterthümliche, Liturgische und Symbolische, in alphabetischer Ordnung . B. Schmid'sche Verlagsbuchhandlung, Augsburg p 679
viNN (1856) Sonntagsblatt Serverinus -Vereine Wien Die St. Corona= Capelle zu Kirchberg am Wechsel 1 788 -790 esp. 789
viiWittstock, J. (1998) Der Bremer Pilgerzeichen- Fund Jakobus-Studien 9 85–107, esp. 104
viiiJacques Callot (1636) Les Images De Tous Les Saincts et Saintes de L'Année suivant le martyrologe Romain. Israeil Henriet, Paris