Saints’ Names: Patrons of the Arts — Cecilia, Clare and Celestine
In the pantheon of Catholic patron saints, we find protectors of counties and cities, of living things ranging from caterpillars to wolves, not to mention those who guard against conditions from compulsive gambling to gout. What I’ve always found especially interesting are those associated with various occupations—in particular the ones relating to the creative arts–and the stories behind those patronages. Like how did a thirteenth century nun get to be the patron saint of TV?
So, if you’re a poet or a potter or a photographer, you just might find some naming inspiration here.
Catherine of Bologna is considered the principal patron saint of artists. An Italian cloistered nun, she was a painter herself, in fact, one of her surviving works, a 1456 depiction of St. Ursula, now hands in the Galleria Academia in Venice. Catherine of Alexandria protects potters and spinners.
Patron of musicians and poets. Why? It is said that as the musicians played bawdy songs at her wedding banquet, Cecilia sang in her heart hymns to Christ, her heavenly bridegroom. Her feast day — November 22 — has, since 1570, been an occasion for concerts and music festivals, inspiring poetry and music by Purcell, Handel, and others.
Pope Pius XII designated Saint Clare of Assisi patroness of television in 1958 when TV viewing was becoming popular. The reason? When this thirteenth-century Franciscan abbess was too ill to attend Mass, it is believed that the Holy Spirit would project the service onto the wall of her room so that she could watch from her bed.
Pelagia the Penitent was early in her life a glamorous and popular actress and dancer and so is the patron saint of actresses. After converting, she moved to Jerusalem, disguised as a male monk, and lived the rest of her life as a hermit in a cave on the Mount of Olives.
St. Veronica is the patron saint of photographers. According to tradition, this pious woman of Jerusalem gave her veil to Christ to wipe his face while he was on his way to Calvary and when he gave it back, the image of his face was magically imprinted on it.
Augustine of Hippo, whose brilliant writings are considered a cornerstone of Western civilization, is the patron saint of printers.
Pope St. Celestine, an avid reader, is one of the patron saints of bookbinders.
A sixth-century Irish monk, Saint Columba is the patron of poets, bookbinders, and book lovers. A priest who founded several monasteries, including that at Kells, where monks worked to copy the four Gospels of the Bible and drew elaborate illustrations to accompany the words–the famous Book of Kells.
St. Dunstan of Canterbury was many things — a hermit, a monk, an expert goldsmith, and harpist. Why, then, he is the patron saint of wind instrument musicians is a mystery.
St. Francis de Sales is the patron of journalists because of the tracts and books he wrote, while Francis of Assisi, known for his protection of animals, is also the patron of lace and tapestry workers.
St. Gabriel the Archangel serves as the patron saint of communication because of his role in delivering important messages from God to the people. This is taken to include journalists, broadcasters, and telecommunication workers.
St. Genesius of Rome was a comedian and actor who performed in a series of plays that mocked Christianity, but who one day had a conversion experience while on stage. Quite logically, he is the patron saint of actors, clowns, comedians, dancers, and musicians — as well as stenographers, epileptics, and torture victims.
The wealthy, well-educated Gregory, who sold all of his possessions and became a Benedictine monk and missionary, and the first monk to be elected Pope, was a male patron saint of music, predating Cecilia. Why? He collected the melodies and chants so associated with him that they are now known as Gregorian Chants
St. Luke, both an apostle and the first Christian physician on record, and, according to legend, also a painter, is—among other things—the patron saint of artists, bookbinders, glassmakers, goldsmiths, lacemakers, painters, and sculptors.
A twelfth-century Benedictine bishop, also called Theodinarus, Thiemo acquired fame as a painter, metalworker, and sculptor, before giving up his life rather than giving up his faith; he is a patron saint of sculptors and engravers.
Saint Thomas the Apostle (aka Doubting Thomas) is another patron saint of architecture. Why? According to the Golden Legend, he was sent as an architect to build a great palace for Gondoforus, the King of the Indies.
St. Vitus was a Christian saint from Sicily. In the late Middle Ages, people in Germany and elsewhere celebrated the feast of St. Vitus by dancing before his statue, which led to him being considered the patron saint of dancers, actors and comedians (and epileptics). Unfortunately, the name “Saint Vitus Dance ” was given to a neurological disorder.