Saint Vitus

Saint Vitus, from the Nuremberg Chronicle, 1493
Martyr, Holy Helper
Born c. 290
Died c. 303 in Luciana, Italy
Lucania, modern-day Basilicata, Italy
Honored in Roman Catholic Church
Eastern Orthodox Church
Feast June 15
Attributes depicted in a cauldron, with a rooster or a lion
Patronage actors; comedians; Czechoslovakia; dancers; dogs; epilepsy; Mazara del Vallo, Sicily; Forio, Ischia; oversleeping; Prague, Czech Republic; rheumatic chorea (Saint Vitus Dance); snake bites; storms; Vacha, Germany; Zeven, Lower Saxony; E Clampus Vitus

Saint Vitus play /sɨnt ˈvtəs/ was a Christian saint from Sicily. He died as a martyr during the persecution of Christians by co-ruling Roman Emperors Diocletian and Maximian in 303. Vitus is counted as one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers of the Roman Catholic Church.

Saint Vitus' Day is celebrated on 15 June. In places where the Julian Calendar is used, this date coincides, in the 20th and 21st centuries, with 28 June on the Gregorian Calendar.

In the late Middle Ages, people in Germany and countries such as Latvia celebrated the feast of Vitus by dancing before his statue. This dancing became popular and the name "Saint Vitus Dance" was given to the neurological disorder Sydenham's chorea. It also led to Vitus being considered the patron saint of dancers and of entertainers in general.[1]

Vitus is considered the patron saint of actors, comedians, dancers, and epileptics. He is also said to protect against lightning strikes, animal attacks and oversleeping, and is the patron saint of Bohemia. Vitus is the patron saint of the city of Rijeka in Croatia, the towns of Ciminna in Sicily, Forio on the Island of Ischia, in Campania, Italy, the contrada of San Vito, in Torella dei Lombardi, in Avellino, Italy, the town of Winschoten in the Netherlands, and the town of St. Vith located in Belgium.

Various places in Austria and Bavaria are named Sankt Veit in his honour.


Martyrdom of Saints Vitus, Modestus and Crescentia

The martyrdom of Vitus, Modestus, and Crescentia. From a fourteenth century manuscript.

According to the legend, Vitus, Modestus and Crescentia were martyrs under Diocletian. The earliest testimony for their veneration is offered by the "Martyrologium Hieronymianum" (ed. G. B. de Rossi-Louis Duchesne, 78: "In Sicilia, Viti, Modesti et Crescentiae"). The fact that the note is in the three most important manuscripts indicates that it was also in the common exemplar of these, will appeared in the fifth century. The same Martyrologium has under the same day another mention of a Vitus at the head of a list of nine martyrs, with the statement of the place, in Eboli , "In Lucania", that is, in the Roman province of that name in Southern Italy between the Tuscan Sea and the Gulf of Taranto. It is easily possible that it is the same martyr Vitus in both cases.

According to J.P. Kirsch, the author of the article in the Catholic Encyclopedia from which the information in this section is drawn, the testimony to the public veneration of the three saints in the fifth century proves positively that they are historical martyrs. There are, nevertheless, no historical accounts of them, nor of the time or the details of their martyrdom.

During the sixth and seventh centuries a purely legendary narrative of their martyrdom appeared which appears to be based upon other legends, especially on the legend of Poitus, and ornamented with accounts of fantastic miracles. According to this legend, which has no apparent historical value, Vitus was a 7-year-old son of a senator of Lucania (some versions make him 12 years old). He resisted his father's attempts, which included various forms of torture, to make him apostatize. He fled with his tutor Modestus and Modestus's wife Crescentia, who was Vitus's nanny, to Lucania. He was taken from there to Rome to drive out a demon which had taken possession of a son of the Emperor Diocletian. This he did, and yet, because he remained steadfast in the Christian Faith, he was tortured together with his tutors. By a miracle an angel brought back the three to Lucania, where they died from the tortures they had endured. Three days later Vitus appeared to a distinguished matron named Florentia, who then found the bodies and buried them in the spot where they were. The author of the legend doubtless connected in his invention three saints who apparently suffered death in Lucania, and were first venerated there.


St. Vitus Cathedral is the main church of the former imperial capital, Prague.

The veneration of the martyrs spread rapidly in Southern Italy and Sicily, as is shown by the note in the "Martyrologium Hieronymianum". Pope Gregory the Great mentions a monastery dedicated to Vitus in Sicily ("Epist.", I, xlviii, P.L., LXXXVII, 511).

The veneration of St. Vitus, the chief saint of the group, also appeared very early at Rome. Pope Gelasius I (492-496) mentions a shrine dedicated to him (Jaffé, "Reg. Rom. Pont.", 2nd ed., I, 6 79), and at Rome in the seventh century the chapel of a deaconry was dedicated to him ("Liber Pont.", ed. Duchesne, I, 470 sq.).

In 756 AD it is said that the relics of St. Vitus were brought to the monastery of St-Denis by Abbot Fulrad. They were later presented to Abbot Warin of Corvey in Germany, who solemnly transferred some of them to this abbey in 836. From Corvey the veneration of St Vitus spread throughout Westphalia and in the districts of eastern and northern Germany. His cult grew in Prague, Bohemia when, in 925 A.D., king Henry I of Germany presented as a gift the bones of one hand of St Vitus to Wenceslaus, Duke of Bohemia. This relic is since then a sacred treasure in the St. Vitus Cathedral in Prague.

The cult of St. Vitus became very popular in Slavic lands, where his name (Sveti Vid = St. Vitus) replaced the old cult of the god of light Svantovid.[2] In Croatia alone, 123 churches are dedicated to St. Vitus.

Saint Vitus is invoked primarily against choreia, which is called "St. Vitus Dance", and he is one of the Fourteen Martyrs who give aid in times of trouble.

He is represented as a young man with a palm-leaf, in a cauldron, sometimes with a raven and a lion, his iconographic attribute because according to the legend he was thrown into a cauldron of boiling tar and molten lead, but miraculously escaped unscathed.

The names of Saints Modestus and Crescentia were added in the eleventh century to the Roman Calendar,[3] so that from then on all three names were celebrated together until 1969, when their feast was removed from the calendar of feasts proposed for celebration throughout the Roman Rite. Saint Vitus is still recognized as a saint of the Roman Catholic Church, being inscribed in the Roman Martyrology under June 15,[4] and Mass may be celebrated in his honor on that day wherever the Roman Rite is celebrated,[5] while the Saints Modestus and Crescentia who are associated with Saint Vitus in legend have been omitted, because they appear to be merely fictitious personages.[6] However, some traditionalist Catholics continue to observe pre-1970 versions of the General Roman Calendar.

The saint's feast day is also the subject of a popular weather rhyme: "If St. Vitus' Day be rainy weather, it shall rain for thirty days together." This rhyme often appears in such publications as almanacs; its origin is uncertain.

Vidovdan is Vitus' Day in Serbia among the Serb Orthodox Church.




  1. ^ Saint Vitus
  2. ^ SVIBOR - The Meaning and the Origin of the Word
  3. ^ "Calendarium Romanum" (Libreria Editrice Vaticana 1969), p. 126
  4. ^ "Martyrologium Romanum" (Libreria Editrice Vaticana 2001 ISBN 88-209-7210-7)
  5. ^ General Instruction of the Roman Missal, 355
  6. ^ "Calendarium Romanum" (Libreria Editrice Vaticana 1969), p. 126

See also

Sydenham's chorea, historically known as "Saint Vitus Dance"

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Vitus — steht für: ein lateinischer Vorname, eingedeutscht zu Veit Veit (Heiliger) († um 304), Märtyrer verschiedene nach Sankt Vitus benannte Kirchen, siehe Veitskirche Vitus (Film), Schweizer Film (2006) des Regisseurs Fredi M. Murer Saint Vitus, US… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Vitus —   [v ], deutsch Veit [f ], frühchristlicher Märtyrer, ✝ um 305 (?); stammte der Legende nach aus Sizilien und erlitt bereits als Kind zusammen mit seinem Erzieher Modestus und seiner Amme Crescentia in der Diokletianischen Verfolgung das… …   Universal-Lexikon

  • Vitus — from Svanto vit, name of a Slavic god worshipped with ecstatic dances on the Baltic island of Rügen, transferred by Christian missionaries to Saint Vitus. The Italian form of the name is Guido …   Etymology dictionary

  • Vitus — (Sankt Veit), Heiliger, s. Veit …   Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon

  • Vitus — Vitus, Heiliger, s. Veit …   Kleines Konversations-Lexikon

  • Vitus — m The name of a child saint martyred in Sicily at an unknown (but early) date, together with his nurse Crescentia and her husband Modestus. His name seems to derive from Latin vita life (cf. VITA (SEE Vita)), and his two companions bear… …   First names dictionary

  • Vitus — 1. Je näher bei Vît, desto besser die Spît (Flachs). (Arnsberg.) – Boebel, 30. 2. Nach Vit geht die Gerste quitt. (Pommern.) – Boebel, 29. Später darf Gerste nicht gesäet werden. 3. O heiliger Vit, o regne nicht, damit es nicht an Gerst (Gras)… …   Deutsches Sprichwörter-Lexikon

  • Vitus — Cette page d’homonymie répertorie les différents sujets et articles partageant un même nom. Saint Vitus, ou en français Saint Vit, martyr chrétien du IVe siècle, est plutôt désigné dans la liturgie francophone moderne comme Saint Guy. Vitus… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Vitus — (d. c. 303)    Saint and Martyr.    According to legend, Vitus was born into a pagan family in Lucania, Italy, and he was secretly brought up a Christian by his nurse. He was martyred in the Diocletian persecutions. He is famous for giving his… …   Who’s Who in Christianity

  • Vitus — n. (Latin) first name that means lively ; St. Vitus, Christian Sicilian martyr (died in the year 303) who was helper and supporter of those who suffer from epilepsy and nervous disorders …   English contemporary dictionary

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