Most popular Italian saints

Religious devotion is one of the main Italian national traits, even in today’s secular world. Although many Italians have a deep understanding of the Catholic faith, one particular aspect of this religion remains most prevalent: veneration of the saints. This aspect holds a special significance in Italy because it is linked with a sense of national pride. It so happens that Italy was home to some most illustrious saints. During the early centuries of Christianity, the Italian peninsula was the center of a great empire. This pagan state persecuted the new monotheistic religion, which resulted in many believers’ martyrdom. When the bishops of Rome established themselves as uncontested leaders of Western Christianity, Italy strengthened its position as a place of pilgrimage and monastic life. Relics of some saints have been transferred here for reasons of safety.

As it is often the case in Italy, regional sympathies can mean more than nationwide attitudes. Many cities and provinces have their own favorite saints. For instance, St. Nicholas of Myra is highly esteemed in Bari where his relics have remained since the 11th century (in that sense, St. Nicholas can be considered an Italian saint, despite the fact that he was born and lived all his life in Asia Minor). However, the renown of many Italian saints is truly universal.

SAINT LUCY

Have you ever heard the song Santa Lucia? This Neopolitan classic was born in the neighborhood where the church of St. Lucy is located. This woman of noble birth was martyred in the early 4th century. She resisted the advances of a Roman official, was tortured and executed. St. Lucy is a patron of writers and people suffering from diseases of the eyes. Her feast day is on December 13.

SAINT JANUARIUS

This patron saint of Naples was martyred at Pozzuoli around 305. He was first thrown into the pit with wild animals, but they did not hurt him. Januarius was then taken to the crater of an ancient volcano and beheaded. Three times a year, St. Januarius coagulated blood kept in a vial liquefies. Prayers to this saint supposedly are able to stop eruptions of Mt. Vesuvius.

SAINT VALENTINE

There are two St. Valentines known to the Catholic church. It is possible that both martyrs are actually one and the same person. The identification of St. Valentine as a patron saint of lovers can be traced back to the late 5th century.

SAINT JOSEPH OF CUPERTINO

This Franciscan friar was known in his lifetime for the ability to levitate. These flights were observed by many reliable witnesses, but some attributed St. Josephs miracles to witchcraft. As a result, he was placed under constant supervision and lived the life of extreme asceticism.

SAINT NICHOLAS OF BARI

This bishop of Myra, in southwestern Turkey, who lived in the early 4th century is the inspiration for the ever popular Santa Claus. The original St. Nicholas was known for his holy life and charitable deeds.

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