ST Vitus

St Vitus – The Boy Saint

Before you read about ST Vitus Cathedral it’s worth telling you something about the legend of ST Vitus himself because although he is patron saint of Prague, he was not Czech. So let’s just agree on who he was and how a piece of him ended up here in Prague.

bronze detail on a st vitus cathedral door showing the relics of st vitus being carried to the new rotunda
A door on ST Vitus Cathedral shows the relics of ST Vitus being moved to the newly built Rotunda

There’s not much detail so I will have to dip in and out of what we know and take some educated guesses. What we know is that he was born in Sicily late in the 3rd Century possibly in the year 290. It’s never been properly explained why this next bit happens but as a boy aged somewhere between 10 and 12 he was taken to Rome where he helped exorcise a demon from the Emperor’s son. Possibly during this process is why he is associated with the ST Vitus Dance (Sydenham’s Chorea) and the “demon” could well have been epilepsy although again it was never stated if ST Vitus himself had epilepsy. Anyway, because this is “Pagan Rome” they expect him to sacrifice a goat or something to some pagan gods. Because he is Christian and doesn’t do that, he is tortured. In some unexplained way he makes it back to Sicily but dies of his injuries so it’s consistent that he was still a boy when he died maybe as young as 12.

Three days after he dies we get the vision revealed to a nun who follows the vision to the place where ST Vitus’s body lay and she buried him in that spot. This is noted as being the year AD303.

Now the story of the exorcism gets combined with the miracle of the vision and the veneration of ST Vitus begins as within a century of his death there is documented evidence of a shrine in Sicily in the 5th Century when he has already been canonized and later in the 7th Century he has been moved to a chapel in Rome. He was given the official feast day of June 15th in the Julian calendar (June 28th in the Gregorian calendar).

In year 756 we have a record of his “relics” being transferred to the Monastery of ST Denis in Paris so at this point it may or may not be a whole skeleton. Then in year 836 at least some of the parts are transferred to Corvey Monastery in Germany. Finally in year 925 we have King Henry the First of Germany presenting our Wenceslas, Duke of Bohemia with a relic of ST Vitus. Why wasn’t it presented to King Vratislav? It’s probably that Henry, gave this relic in his role as Duke of Saxony to a fellow Duke. So what to do with it? Now you should follow on by reading about ST Vitus Cathedral.

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