Patron Saint of Epidemics Has a Name That Will Throw You

Germany's Aachen Cathedral readies for showcase on—wait for it—St. Corona
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 26, 2020 12:49 PM CDT
Patron Saint of Epidemics Has a Name That Will Throw You
Aachen Cathedral, in Aachen, Germany.   (Getty Images/laraslk)

Whether it's true irony or Alanis Morissette-style irony (i.e., something closer to coincidence) may be debatable, but what can't be refuted is that a German cathedral is about to reintroduce to the world an oddly named saint for these times. As the coronavirus sweeps the globe, Reuters reports that the ninth-century Aachen Cathedral is prepping relics for a showcase tied to the obscure St. Corona, known as the patron of epidemics and pestilence. The cathedral had previously planned to hold an exhibit on gold craftsmanship over the summer, and St. Corona's shrine was intended to be a part of that exhibit, but as the virus pandemic grew, the cathedral decided to make the saint a featured attraction. "We have brought the shrine out a bit earlier than planned, and now we expect more interest due to the virus," a cathedral spokeswoman tells the news agency.

Per the Tablet, St. Corona was said to be just 16 when she was martyred in Syria in the second century for her Christian beliefs. Her death, per legend, was a brutal one: She was strapped to two palm trees bent to the ground, which tore her body apart when they were released. Due to that gruesome demise, Corona was made the patron of lumberjacks—becoming patron of epidemics was just a coincidence, Brigitte Falk, head of the cathedral's Treasure Chamber, tells Reuters. As for why the virus that causes COVID-19 has "corona" in its name, that's not linked to the saint: Under a microscope, each virus sphere has spikes with tiny globules on top, making it resemble a crown; the Latin word for crown is "corona." "Like many other saints, St. Corona may be a source of hope in these difficult times," Falk says. It's not clear when the exhibit will be held, due to continued bans on large gatherings. (Read more coronavirus stories.)

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