Saint Guinefort : Patron Saint Of Children

What a shock it must have been to the Roman Catholic Church to discover that Saint Guinefort was a greyhound that had belonged to a knight who lived in a castle near Lyon. One day, the knight went hunting, leaving his infant son in the care of Guinefort. When he returned, he found the nursery in chaos – the cot was overturned, the child was nowhere to be seen and Guinefort greeted his master with bloody jaws. Believing Guinefort to have devoured his son, the knight slew the dog. He then heard a child crying; he turned over the cot and found his son lying there, safe and sound, along with the body of a viper. Guinefort had killed the snake and saved the child…


patron-saint-of-childrenI thought Hinduism was the last of the religions that venerated every animal and stone (Please note I say Hinduism and not Hindus) as a manifestation of God. Miracles never surprise me; I expect them daily from all the creatures and plants surrounding me. I expect the wind to carry magic  and it often does. Christianity is so resolutely human oriented that it has lost its ability even to entertain the possibility that divinity may lie in an elephant or an ant or even a tree. But even they, by mistake  their Church insists  made a dog one of their saints.
And one of their most popular saints is dog headed. Saint Guinefort was the patron saint of children who could not walk properly. Miracles were reported at his grave and he was duly declared a Saint. In the 13th Century, the Church discovered that he was a dog. When I read this, I laughed out loud. What a shock it must have been to the Roman Catholic Church. Guinefort the greyhound belonged to a knight who lived in a castle near Lyon. One day, the knight went hunting, leaving his infant son in the care of Guinefort. When he returned, he found the nursery in chaos – the cot was overturned, the child was nowhere to be seen and Guinefort greeted his master with bloody jaws. Believing Guinefort to have devoured his son, the knight slew the dog. He then heard a child crying; he turned over the cot and found his son lying there, safe and sound, along with the body of a viper. Guinefort had killed the snake and saved the child. On realising the mistake the family placed the dog in a well, covered it with stones and planted trees around it, setting up a shrine for Guinefort. Guinefort became recognised by locals as a saint for the protection of infants. The local peasants began to visit the place and a cult grew up which recognised the dog as the protector of infants and a saint who helped heal children with walking problems.
An inquisitor of the Roman Catholic Church, Stephen of Bourbon (1180-1262) was travelling in the French countryside. During his travels, he began hearing accounts of devotion to a new Saint This saint was very popular and all the children of the region were taken to his shrine to be blessed. Having never heard of Saint Guinefort and hearing the many reports of physical healings that were said to have occurred at his shrine, Stephen of Bourbon decided to visit the shrine for himself and learn more about this holy man. When he arrived there however, he found that the saint was not a holy man at all. Saint Guinefort was, in fact, a dog!
Steven of Bourbon was outraged and called Saint Guinefort’s followers “pagan devil worshipers” and he had the shrine of Saint Guinefort destroyed. He didn’t stop there however. He ordered the remains of the dog Guinefort dug up and he had the sacred grove of trees cut down. Then he had everything burned to the ground. The Inquisitor secured the cooperation of the local authorities, who agreed to keep watch and to confiscate the possessions of anyone going near the shrine. He assumed that he had done away with this evil pagan idolatry and devil worship. Little did he know that Saint Guinefort would remain popular.
The Catholic Church was up in arms about people worshipping a dog, let alone calling him a Saint Catholic commentators declared that the locals sacrificed babies and threw them down the well, but this didn’t stick. The cult of Saint Guinefort the Greyhound continued for almost 700 years. Despite the best efforts of the church to stamp out all references to this beloved dog, Saint Guinefort remained popular until the 1940s. In 1987, Saint Guinefort was the subject of a French film. His Saint Day isAugust 22. There are ruins of a chapel dedicated to Saint Guinefort the Greyhound at Trevon in Brittany, France . We have much to learn from animals. The courage, faithfulness and loyalty shown by this martyred greyhound is a far better example of Christianity than was shown by Inquisitor Steven of Bourbon, who destroyed the bones and shrine of Guinefort and had all of Guinefort’s followers punished. The dog Guinefort’s example surpasses that of the Catholic Church, who initiated the rumour of children being killed at Guinefort’s shrine, and tried to wipe out all memory of this dog Saint One of the most popular saints in the Christian religion is Saint Christopher. An image of Saint Christopher is worn or is placed in a vehicle, for protection on journeys. He protects against lightning, pestilence; epilepsy, storms, toothache and sudden death. In England , there are more wall paintings of Saint Christopher than of any other Saint. The oddity is that he is dog faced. Saint Christopher was a Christian saint and martyr of the 4th Century and is said to have been a member of the North African tribe of Marmartae. According to the eleventh century Old English Passion of Saint Christopher, he came from a race of people that were half hound and had the face of a dog. Early Orthodox icons depicted him this way literally: as a dog-headed Saint.
Saint Christopher was said to have been a giant with enormous strength. He devoted himself to helping others. Among other things, he was said to have carried many travellers across a wide river, getting them safely to the other side. One day a small child asked him to carry him across. According to the legend, this Child felt extremely heavy and Saint Christopher used all his strength to cross the river. When they arrived safely on the other side, the child identified himself as Christ, and the heaviness was the weight of the world.
The giant was baptised and given the name “Christopher,” meaning “bearer of Christ. He was rewarded with a human appearance, whereupon he devoted his life to Christian services. Christopher became a martyr under a Roman Emperor. Christopher was first asked to renounce Christ. When he refused, he was beheaded at Antioch in Syria in 308 A.D. His festive day is May 9 and July 25. Christianity becomes more interesting when it includes non humans. I am sure if I dig further I will find a couple of cat and horse saints as well.

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